Using a dual approach to public engagement: the old and the new

  • Two recent campaigns have had a proven effect on consumer behaviour, but they draw on completely different mechanisms.
  • The first (an online game) offered points to University students who snapped unique shots of their campus. Results showed that over the competition period, students went well out of their way to grab unique shots and gain points to compete with their peers.
  • Tailored to encourage environmental behaviour, future games could allow friends to compete on their cycling: driving mile ratio and could reduce car use overnight.
  • The second approach was adopted by General Electric, who used Chinese folklore and characters from an ancient novel to communicate the importance of“working harmoniously with nature”.
  • General Electric’s campaign demonstrated a clear cultural connection and sensitivity which local people could relate to. They hope that their “future folklores” will encourage positive environmental thinking in the future.

The success of these two distinct approaches reminds us that while technology offers many useful communication tools, embedding messages into deeply rooted cultural stories or norms is also a powerful tool which we can use to more effectively engage people with the environmental agenda. Moving forward, a dual approach may have greater effect in encouraging society to adapt behaviour, with positive environmental benefit.

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About Hayley Shaw

Knowledge Exchange Manager at Cranfield University's Centre for Environmental Risks and Futures (CERF). Sharing the latest news from Cranfield, and insights from across the industry. All things risk, environment, and the future.
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