But as I noted in an earlier post, there is another way of looking at the problems using practice theory where individuals s just part of a broader story involving materials, skills and meanings, and relationships with other practices. So, as an example, people may use hot water when using their washing machine because they attach meanings of cleanliness to hot water. In turn, those meanings of cleanliness may be set by other relationships, such as with family and friends.
Complex, right? Difficult, right?
Yes, but also possibly exciting when thinking about how to engage people and what to engage them about. In delivering behaviour change programs, we tend to have a thing (e.g. solar power, a worm farm, a recycling bin) that we ‘sell’ to individuals. My research suggests taking a different approach where we might still do that but also think about what our audiences do in terms of the practices they carry out.
For example, when we think about segmenting audiences to target communications, we might be better to shift away from identifying people’s environmental values and instead think about how individuals actually live their lives, taking into account influences such as stage of life, income and household structure. This thinking could lead to interventions that, because they are not limited to a specific valued-based group, may be capable of spreading rapidly throughout the broader population.
As a first step, I’m currently developing a customer management database for local government, based upon this idea, designed to support sustainability practitioners in their engagement work. More in the next post, but let me know what you would find useful in such a tool.