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Lessons learned from Civic Response Team


Changes in behavior are on the center of international discussion as never before, yet remains elusive in reality. Innovative strategies developed in emerging economies settings, such as The Civic Response Teams approach to managing waste in India have the potential of helping communities across the world.

In the past, a lot of organizations took approaches to behavior change from countries with high incomes and attempted to transfer them to countries with low and middle incomes. In recent years these days, NGOs in emerging economies are developing their behavior changes that are precisely specific to the populations they are serving and achieving extraordinary results while using only less funding and resources than wealthy countries invest in similar initiatives. This year, several countries like Ghana and Vietnam were recognized as world-class cases of successful mitigation of COVID-19. They have used new methods such as drones for transporting test samples from remote areas and crowdsourcing “event-based” surveillance to concentrate on tracing contacts. These examples can instruct the world community on implementing effective methods and tools for changing behavior, particularly in complex social and economic contexts.

When we started Rethinking Recycling in the beginning of 2018, we began to research how we can learn from the community-driven behaviour change initiatives worldwide. One of the most impressive organizations that stood out was the Civic Response Team (CRT) in India. That is part of a larger social impact company, including EcoSattva Environmental Solutions, Centre for Applied Research and People’s Engagement (CARPE), and EcoSattva Environmental Solutions. CRT has seen lasting improvements in recycling habits in various municipalities (urban local bodies, also known as ULBs) throughout Maharashtra. The knowledge CRT has communicated about its process has informed Rethinking Recycling’s program to change behaviors currently in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Bali, Indonesia. CRT’s strategy provides valuable lessons for anyone who wants to implement efficient rapid change in behavior on a large scale to make a difference in society.

How do you explain the reason for CRT’s success? We found that CRT’s success has changed its focus on the information on information to motivation and putting the individual experiences of being part of recycling efforts at the center of each aspect of the program. The following examples demonstrate how CRT has incorporated this motivation-over-all concept into every aspect of its programs, ranging From the “why” to the “how” and the “who” of community waste management.

1.) Find an enticing “why”: invest in the emotional involvement of residents to recycle.

A resident shows off her correctly separated waste: dry recyclables and wet organic matter.

Many recycling programs wrongly believe that educating people and giving details is enough to alter how people behave. In reality, people required to begin getting rid of waste at home face several reasons to avoid adopting this new habit, even if they know what is directed at them. Even though penalties for not complying, such as fines, might work in other regions globally, those retaliatory measures aren’t viable in India, where CRT is based. “The only way to engage with residents is to make them feel a sense of ownership,” explain CRT co-founders Natasha Zarine and Gauri Mirashi.

CRT’s view is that although some obstacles to change in behavior are a matter of practicality (for instance, inadequate space in the home), the most important aspect is social. When people see a majority of people who are willing to support an upcoming behavior within their community and believe that it will be positive for their identity as a social person and their identity, they devise innovative ways to overcome the other barriers.

In this regard, CRT works with each community and its governance body to ensure that its campaigns to change behavior are a hit with the locals and help create a sense of joint commitment. Recycling is often seen as considered to be a “hidden” behavior that people do in the private spaces of their homes. CRT aims to bring recycling into public spaces and popular media, for instance, by using high school and college students to hold high-energy rallies or flash mobs. Locally-inspired phrases help reinforce recycling’s message and help recycling become an integral part of everyday life. They are a part of local festivals and events and jingles on local radio stations and mobile singsongs. Many of these initiatives target young people still learning the habits they’ll continue to carry throughout their lives to create an inspiring and positive identity about recycling.


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Jane S. King

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