Getting closer to Jo Citizen

By Hazel Fletcher, September 2017

Those of us who have been around a while will remember the Government Information Film of old…..

Fireworks, Carbon Monoxide poisoning, Electricity, Road Safety, Drugs, Smoking – they all got the same treatment – scare the living daylights out of us and hopefully we will take note and behave differently in future. But times have changed and with it our understanding of the complexity of human decision making and behaviour.  And the issues over which Government is trying to have an influence are perhaps more complex; obesity, binge drinking, domestic violence, mobile phone use while driving. Government campaigns have become more nuanced – pulling on a range of levers to influence how we behave – drawing upon more sophisticated models of behaviour change than those available in previous decades. The ‘This is Abuse’ campaign run by The Home Office in 2010 aimed to raise awareness of relationship abuse amongst young people.  It portrayed instances of relationship abuse between young people and used the technique of having an alternative version of the abuser or person being abused observe what is going on and then try to stop themselves perpetrating the abuse or allowing the abuse to happen by talking to their abusing or abused self.  It was a clever and effective campaign – leveraging the power of shame, tapping into personal responsibility and choice, raising awareness of emotional abuse alongside physical. And the very recent ‘Think! Make the glove compartment the phone compartment’ campaign was launched to raise awareness of the doubling of the penalties for using a mobile phone while driving and did the following:

The lever was not fear of dire consequences – which we never think will happen to us of course – but the threat of more immediate unwelcome consequences – financial loss, a threat to the personal freedom a car enables. And most recently in the research we do with Government we see another development – that of Government and citizen coming together to generate solutions to the challenges of behaviour change.  Increasingly we are receiving briefs that call for a two-stage programme of research; an initial exploratory stage to identify the themes and issues surrounding a particular topic, followed by a stage of co-creation where the client and the respondent work together to try to address the challenges unearthed at stage1.  So far this has proved popular and effective – clients love it and the solutions generated are certainly not those that might come out of a more conventional approach. Will this result in even more sophisticated and nuanced campaigns in the future? Who knows, but is going to be interesting finding out.

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