How the Framework model can be an effective tool for designing, conducting and evaluating environmental campaigns and sustainable interventions

Dr Pamela Rackow, Lecturer in Psychology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling

Dr Eike von Lindern, Dialog N, Switzerland

Changing our behaviour will be critical to achieving net-zero. In the final bite-size lecture of our COP26 series, Pamela Rackow and Eike von Lindern discuss how a framework approach – developed for the Swiss Federal Government – can support effective campaigns, driving lasting change to make a meaningful difference. Watch their lecture above or read the transcript below.

Welcome to today’s bite sized lecture, we’re talking about a framework model to promote environmentally friendly behaviour. 

I’m Pamela Rackow, a lecturer at the University of Stirling. I work in the Health Psychology Research Group, and I’m particularly interested in behaviour change not only in relation to health, but also, in relation to the environment or to environmentally friendly behaviour. With me today is Dr Eike von Lindern.  

Hello, I’m Eike von Lindern, co-founder of Dialog N, research and communication for people, environment and nature. We are a Swiss based research institute and do research and intervention planning regarding promoting sustainable behaviour, promoting health, and contributing to a sustainable development of our world.  

Very good. I think Eike you are going to talk a little bit about the background of our framework model. 

Sure, so why have we been putting together the framework model? What is it all about? So first, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment approached us because they wanted to have an evaluation of all their communication campaigns. In undertaking this project, the main result was that there was a complete mix of different approaches and theories, and that a lot of projects were not comparable to each other. In a workshop we came up with the idea to put together a framework model where we can design environmental communication campaigns from a common basis, from a common ground, so that they can be comparable in their effects and their evaluation and their development. 

It was primarily designed for the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. But of course, we want the model we have developed to be applicable to all communication projects, from NGOs to other federal institutions. It should be suitable for planning, conducting and evaluating environmental communication campaigns in order to further develop those campaigns so that they become more impactful. It should be a theoretical foundation and provide guidelines for practise, so it’s not only for people working in administrative tasks, but also for people who just want to apply environmental communication. The whole project throughout the project phases was supervised in its development by a scientific expert panel.  

The project consisted of four stages of development: application evaluation and revision of the model, and then finalising. At the moment, we will talk about the development of the model and cases of application. 

The aims for the framework model were that we want to support practitioners working in the field of designing campaigns that target environmentally friendly behaviour. We wanted to bridge the gap between practitioners and researchers because having a framework model formulated in a way that everybody understands, supports transdisciplinary exchange, and that is what is really needed in this field; that scientists, administrative people and practitioners talk the same language and understand each other. 

The next question was how can the framework model support the design, delivery and evaluation of campaigns? It should help to identify the current state of any environmental campaign. It defines testable campaign aims and goals, which is a crucial part of evaluating campaigns and allows campaigns to be developed further. It identifies measures and steps to support goal attainment, assists in evaluating campaigns and helps to formulate future measures to improve the effectiveness of campaigns. 

Very good. In general, the question is how should interventions that aim at promoting sustainable development and sustainable behaviour look like? When we started a project, we saw that most projects and campaigns that target sustainable behaviour are not at all only loosely connected to theory. We’ve seen that constructs from theory are operationalised in a very different way, and that makes it impossible to relate results from different campaigns to each other, which is very important, for example, to compare campaigns, but also to learn from previous campaigns in the sense of what went well, what didn’t go quite so well. Then, in general, the lack of theory makes it also hard to evaluate and therefore evolve campaigns or interventions. 

We’ve also seen that there is a communication gap between practise and research. Theories are often not suitable or documented for practitioners, and practitioners seldomly use scientific methods to evaluate campaigns and do not feed information back into research, but also sometimes don’t feed information back into practise either. Therefore, our aim was to provide a theory driven framework model for designing and evaluating environmental campaigns and interventions to promote sustainable development and behaviour, which is very much needed.  

So, talking about theory of you might think it’s a very dry topic, but of course you want also to communicate, why do we actually need theories? By using theories, we have a lot of advantages. 

One is that using theories reduces the possibility of influences and mechanisms that explain behaviour: we can identify mediators, moderators and criteria for certain behaviour. It really helps us to identify what why is something working? What can we do to improve interventions? Working with theories facilitates the research process and the application of research results into practise, providing explanations to why interventions or measures are effective or even more importantly why are they not effective. What can we do to change that so that they become more effective? Theories help to explain causal processes. They provide guidance for focussing the most important and likely influencing factors for application and practise.  

Theories offer a shared language and methodology so that studies and results become comparable. We can learn from other campaigns if we know the theoretical background they were based on. This enables us to accumulate results and to draw conclusions systematically, which is really needed if everybody is doing his or her own campaigns as we don’t know what is working or why. Only if we have a shared a common ground can we learn from each other and further develop our approaches to promote sustainable lifestyles. Theories are a useful tool for designing, conducting and evaluating campaigns and interventions. 

In the framework model we have a lot of theories put together for you:  the health action process approach; the self-determination theory, a theory about habits, intervention mapping approach, social cognitive theory, theory of plant behaviour; theories from the field of communication and identity research. And of course, many more. We have more than 11 theories put together and extracted the key aspects of those theories and put them together in a meaningful way so that we can start designing a communication, to apply and evaluate it and to further develop this using old constructs from these theories. 

This is already a little bit of a glimpse of the model that’s going to come in the next slide. One thing we started thinking about when designing the model was milestones. What are important milestones when adapting a behaviour? The first milestone that we came up with is you do a campaign and then you realise your target group does not show your target behaviour at all and it is also not in a relevant way to reach the goal state. So, you need to think about or you can think about what are the antecedent conditions to this first milestone? 

And then the second milestone would be the target group shows at least acceptance for the target behaviour, they might not show the behaviour already, but show some way of accepting the new behaviour. 

The third milestone would be your target group shows to target behaviour, which is already really good, but unfortunately this is what we’ve learnt from behaviour change in general – we can’t stop here. We need to go further to the next milestone where we need to work on the target group showing the target behaviour permanently. What you can also see here in the slides is that not only are the milestones important, but also the processes that help individuals, help campaign planners to bring the individual, to bring the target group from one milestone to the next milestone.  

This is our full model here where you can see once again the four different milestones we’ve already talked about in the previous slide. You can see that it’s important when you start a campaign to identify your problem, your target group and not only your target group, but also other relevant actors within the whole realm of your behaviour – there also might be work already been carried out, and a shared goal. You have the first milestone called non-performance. where your target group doesn’t show the behaviour. We then recommend using different types of measures to check if the milestone has been reached or what’s happening in milestone one. 

As I said before, in the previous slide, to advance from milestone one to milestone two where milestone two is accepting the behaviour, we have suggested a couple of tools to help mainly campaign planners in advancing from factor one to factor two something like shared vision, finding a shared language, was a new behaviour worthwhile. 

If your target group is accepting the behaviour, we then again have formulated transition factors that help to go from milestone two, which is acceptance, to milestone three, which is a short-term performance of the behaviour. These transition factors can be called short term goal attainment, so you can support the target group to show the behaviour by analysing barriers and facilitators, for example, and by analysing old and new behaviours. 

Finally, to bring your target group from a short-term behaviour performance to a long-term behaviour performance, we are suggesting other transition factors that help long term goal attainment. For example, making the new behaviour the easiest choice, can the new behaviour be linked to need satisfaction and self-esteem, and how to show appreciation for the new behaviour? Finally, when your campaign is over and when you can, for example demonstrate that there is some change or some long-term behaviour change, then you need to evaluate your campaign so that your campaign has predefined credible criteria about how to measure if the new behaviour is stable. You can also have follow-up projects. This is a very short and very quick overview of the framework model. It’s a little bit more complicated, but I hope that this graph helps you a little bit to see how the model looks. 

So far it has been quite theoretical. Now the question could be, well, that sounds nice, but does it work in practise? And yes, it does. We have several projects where we have tested the framework model to see if it really promotes campaign planning and increases the effectiveness of campaigns. We have pilot projects about combating invasive alien species, reducing emissions, promoting local seasonal food, recycling, using one-way bags, supporting bumblebees and insect friendly gardens, reducing meat consumption, designing bike-friendly cities and so on. These were not only campaigns that we did ourselves, but also NGOs or other agencies did them, and they relied on the framework model when designing and evaluating those campaigns. 

The feedback we received from them was that the model was really helpful in designing the campaigns, applying the campaigns and in evaluating the outcomes. Despite being a theoretical framework model, it is designed in the way that really helps real-life practitioners to implement and evaluate environmentally friendly campaigns that aim to promote a more sustainable lifestyle and more sustainable development. That basically covers everything about the model as it stands now. 

What are the next steps? Currently, several campaigns are being undertaken to understand how the framework model works in the real world -you have heard about a few examples already set out in the slide. So far results are promising: practitioners find the model easy and helpful to work with. They are not bound to the model and do not have to do every step that is described but practitioners can use the checklist integrated into the model to identify the next steps, see what they are doing currently, consider if they have thought about everything from a theoretical and scientific point of view needed for a successful campaign. Then translate it into practise and into real work life, real world work. 

The framework model has been evaluated by scientific reviewers, and they found it very helpful to design campaigns. Currently we are working on a revision of the framework model we showed you here based on all the evaluations we received from practitioners, from real world applications of the framework model. In the next three to four months, we are looking to come up with a redesigned, revised model that will help practitioners in real world even more to design effective environmental campaigns. 

Thank you very much. That was it about our framework model to promote environmentally friendly behaviour. If you’re interested in discussing the model or if you have questions, please do get in touch with both of us, we are very happy to discuss the model further. Goodbye. Thank you. 

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