Our approach has been to teach these principles to local residents and help them apply them to the behaviours that underlie local environmental problems. We think that giving community activists the knowledge and support to â€œnudgeâ€ their neighbours could be a better way of encouraging behaviour change. NationalÂ attempts to apply these principlesÂ could leave people feeling preached at, or alienate people by taking covert approaches.
Instead, we think thatÂ training community activists with the knowledge they need to nudge their neighbours can harness their local knowledge, their â€œone-of-usâ€ status, and their existing trusted relationships with their community.
Towards the end of last year we tested this approach in a two-day workshop. Twenty-five enthusiastic residents learned about the effects of personal, social and infrastructural factors on human behaviour, then worked together to apply this knowledge to Peterborough specific problems. After a pitch to a panel of judges, two ideas were selected for seed-funding and non-financial support to allow them to become pilot projects.
One of the pilots will encourage a wider segment of the community to manage local plots of unused land. TheÂ group behind this project plan to map unused land in their neighbourhood and throughout Peterborough, then run small interventions to encourage local people to take an active role in stewarding the land.
The other pilot will encourage residents living near an area of ancient woodland to take an active forest management role. Currently neglected and the scene of anti-social behaviour, the community decided to create a woodland walk to make walking through the forest a normal activity for local residents.
Part of this approach to local nudging was informed by a paper â€“ The Ecology of Innovation – that we published just before Christmas. It presents a few simple principles that could be used to encourage and support local people in gettingÂ projects off the ground. These principles include ensuring that local community organisations are able to participate in contributing their ideas, and supporting their ideas with financial and non-financial support so that they can be tested. You can read the paper online or download it here.
In 2011, weâ€™re looking forward to getting these ideas off the ground, and also holding more workshops to encourage and support more ideas that could make Peterborough into an even greener place to live!