Planning for Behaviour

We are frequently hired to develop CBSM strategies to improve participation in existing programs. The client wants those who are not participating to begin, or wants to get people who are using the program to participate properly (for instance, to reduce contamination in the recycling stream).

Unfortunately, we often find that the barriers to participation are within the program itself, having been designed into it. Perhaps using the system is inconvenient or difficult (like long distances to the nearest recycling depot). Maybe the cost of participating is greater than the perceived benefit (such as the cost of hiring a private hauler for curbside recycling). Or the activity is illegal (such as turning your engine off in a no-parking zone).

In each of these cases, the significant barrier could have been eliminated at the time the program was designed by simply doing the barriers and benefits research that is integral to CBSM programs. The research could have demonstrated that people would not travel to depots but wanted curbside recycling collection. It could have found that most people would not hire a private recycling collection company, but favoured municipal collection and were willing to have the costs on their tax bill. And it may have determined that the traffic department would have to change the no parking signs to no idling signs at the kiss-and-ride.

The time to address behaviour is at the beginning of program design. If you want people to use your program, you must make sure that it does not include barriers that will make participation difficult or unacceptable. Unfortunately, too often an analysis of barriers and benefits is only considered in trying to find out why a program has had disappointing results. Ands sometimes, that is too late.