Individual Mobilisation Through Community

Studying whether ’communities’ can change behaviour and the implications for communicating climate change

Project duration: December 2006 to February 2007

CSE was asked to examine whether communities are well placed to mobilise individuals to change their behaviour, and if there are lessons from successful initiatives which may be applied to the issue of climate change.

The project was undertaken between December 2006 and February 2007. It was divided into three phases, a literature review, interviews with community initiatives and a stakeholder consultation.

A brief literature review was undertaken to consider the published research and analysis which examines the role of communities in stimulating changes in individual behaviour and more broadly in raising consciousness and understanding of issues and shifting social norms on acceptable and desirable behaviours.

Twenty-one semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with community initiatives across the country. These were then followed by a day-long workshop with experts and stakeholders from the community development and sustainable energy fields to discuss the interim findings of the research.

Whilst there is a broad range of research which underpins the hypothesis that communities are well placed to influence individual behaviour, there is a lack of robust empirical evidence to support or to contradict this.

The terms ‘behavioural change’ and ‘behavioural measures’ tend to be less meaningful to community groups than in the sustainable energy field and in government policy making.

When asked what lessons acquired from their own project might be applied to the issue of climate change, many responded in terms of specific project outcomes rather than identifying behaviour changes related to their project which might be fully transferred. This suggests that the ‘language barrier’ may need to be addressed if learning from community initiatives is to be successfully applied to the issue of climate change.

Developing trust within a community is very important to establishing and maintaining the engagement of individuals. This is not a short-term process and may take a number of years. Adequate and sustained funding is a core component of this.

There is a need to find a new framing for the climate change issue which not only clearly communicates a sense of collective agency that resonates for individuals and communities, and moves them from the inaction of ‘I will if you will to the dynamism of ‘We have now you’, but is also consistent with national policy.

For further information contact:

Simon Roberts OBE | 0117 934 1441

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