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Waste Reduction

How to Craft Your Behavior Change Framework


The use of behavioral design is widely used in companies in the private industry to enhance the experience of customers. The use of targeted interventions has proved effective and simple and have produced impressive outcomes. What happened when I had to oversee the transformation of behavior starting from scratch as part of the process of creating public services on a municipal level?

In this post I’ll discuss my experiences in implementing behavior change for Delterra’s Rethinking Recycling program in an average-sized Argentinian city. Here, we are aiming to help the community improve their waste and recycling system to benefit both the environment and citizens. I’ll highlight the four lessons I’ve gained along the way in a general “how to” format in case it will help others who are on the same journey.

As I began to work on this task, the sad fact I encountered was that I didn’t have a solid framework that could serve my goals. As these disciplines continue change the tools and methods they employ can be sloppy and uninformed. When designing the behaviors that will sustain new public services that are emerging at the municipal scale, these fundamental issues, constraints and debates inevitably surfaced throughout the design process. Many times.In order to be efficient in designing the behavior associated with public services, the techniques used for private-sector use have to be carefully adapted. This is partly due to the difficulty and uncertainty of shifting economic environments however, it is also caused by fundamental differences within decisions-making process and the culture. Don’t overlook these differences and risk being in danger.

Step 1: Accept That Nudges Won’t Cut It

Then, I realised that I had to go beyond nudging to design whole-systems that would flourish in a world of complex environments where the political landscape is constantly changing. I had to develop transformational and guided journeys to transform residents into recyclers. Additionally, I needed to create an appropriate value proposition to give citizens a positive experience.

Step 2: Don’t Rely Too Much on Data

The second reason was that I had to stop relying too much on previous information that was not always sufficient on a municipal scale, and which could not accurately predict what the next steps are in these changing and uncertain scenarios. What’s true today is also true for one particular day. In the event that I had to alter the rules completely, data from the past have helped me until an extent, but after that I was left to navigate by myself.

Third Step: Prioritize Long-Term Performance over Short-Term Indicators

Thirdly, measuring the short-term impact is not the most effective way to determine the true effectiveness of the interventions. Sometimes, tactical successes resulted in strategic blunders. In the present, I struggle to find methods and tools to keep track of the development of routes as the results change over the course of time, and the system’s dynamics change in surprising ways. The oversimplified definition of success has hindered me from predicting larger and more systemic outcomes.

Step 4: Engage, Engage, Engage

A fourth point I’ve discovered was that engaging with citizens is the basis of the design of actions that impact the public’s life. It starts with their own lived experience and their empathy. This approach requires a particular set of abilities. Human-centered behavior design is about the understanding and reconfiguring of people’s behaviors infrastructures, habits, and resources to improving their user experience and, ultimately, the overall wellbeing of the entire community. In this regard I had to be able to take into consideration the many and deeply embedded personal experiences and desires that influenced people’s choices and choices in their homes. By itself, I realized that a the behavioral design approach was not able to address the deep-rooted cultural issues.


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Jane S. King

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