Another Kind of Commitment

Community-based Social Marketing strategies rely heavily on securing commitment. The idea is to get someone to make a verbal, written or public commitment to undertake a preferred behaviour. Behavioural science tells us, and our own experience proves it, that someone who makes a commitment to adopt a behaviour is much more likely to do so than someone who does not.Vegetables growing on farm (http://www NULL.beyondattitude NULL.jpg)

What we know is that a written commitment is more powerful than a verbal commitment, and that a public one is stronger yet. For this reason, when designing campaigns, we often work to publish (with permission) the names of people who commit to a new behaviour. For instance, we have taken out local newspaper ads to publish the names of people who have committed to backyard composting.

There is, however, another type of commitment, one that can be more powerful still. It is the binding commitment.

As a personal example, I have quite recently become more conscious of buying local food, for environmental reasons, and to support local farmers. For a long time I have been checking vegetable and fruit bags for the source and buying accordingly. But often they do not come in bags and it is difficult to determine where they are from. And if you are in a hurry or not attentive, it is easy to miss local offerings and buy something shipped in from afar.

So, I decided the best approach for me is to buy shares in a local Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) operation. CSAs sell shares in a farm’s harvest to consumers who pay in advance for the food to come. The farmer benefits by having a secure cash flow and committed purchase, and does not have to wait until harvest time for revenue. The consumer knows what he/she is getting, supports the local farmer and community, and reduces the carbon impact by not buying food that is trucked in from a long way away.

Where the binding commitment comes in is that I committed to purchase a years worth of produce, delivered in 52 weekly portions, from TapRoot Farms (http://www NULL.taprootfarms in Nova Scotia. I have written the check, the deal has been made, I just have to remember to pick it up at the collection point down the road each week. So I am all in. A binding commitment was made when I wrote that check. (By the way, so far, I am a very satisfied customer.)

I can think of a few examples of where binding commitments work, or could work. Can you? If so, please leave a comment.