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A couple weeks back, we completed the first step in a branding process for NWEI.  What we found out in talking with our stakeholders was both reaffirming and somewhat disappointing.  We sure felt great when some 90 percent of respondents said they would “Definitely” recommend us to others, or when 94 percent rated quality as “Excellent” or “Good” (72 percent said Excellent).  When asked to describe us, some familiar phrases came out such as “Challenging people to be better environmental stewards.” Or “Increasing knowledge regarding our relationship to the earth.”  Perhaps we should just be done with this branding process and rest on our laurels with a touch of smugness.

Satisfied we are not!  What we didn’t see as much of as we would have liked were the words and descriptions of an “action” outcome.  We know it happens.  Our Impact Evaluation survey completed by participants each quarter tells us the NWEI process drives awareness, a sense of personal responsibility and new and strengthened actions from eating habits, to curbing consumption, energy use and civic action.  However we were disappointed that “action” wasn’t more top of mind in the descriptors people used to describe us.

So what is the process that drives this action?  We decided to go to the masters, you know, the folks that encourage us to consume ever more stuff, especially the stuff we don’t need, but think it would be cool to have.  The masters?  Who spends more on research to understand how you think about products and what it takes to get you to switch brands?  The marketing community.  So here’s the formula we adapted from the pros:  C=(DxVxFSxS)>RA.  Hold on, it ain’t some funky form of algebra.  It is however a process with an outcome and barrier for bookends.  Here’s how it works.

C – Change to a new or expanded set of desired behaviors.

D – Dissatisfaction. Without a problem or need to address, little effort will be expended in changing behaviors.  You know the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Unfortunately, we in the environmental community used the dissatisfaction frame almost exclusively for years to spur change.  The foundation for change may have been laid, but little action on the citizen front resulted.  Dissatisfaction is a start, but more is needed.

V – Vision. The more recent sustainability effort has provided a positive vision for going forward, offering hope and empowerment for citizens, business and the many other communities who have up till now stood on the sidelines.  It’s not perfect and not fully developed yet, but what is clear is that an emerging vision is framed much more around what we should start doing rather than a focus on what we should stop doing – subtle, but key.

FS – First Steps. Make it easy to start.  You don’t train for a marathon by starting at 26 miles.  First a jog around the block, then run a couple miles and progressively add distance and speed.  Start with what’s achievable.  We all need some immediate wins to spur the larger more difficult efforts to follow.

S – Support. The most effective behavior change programs (drug and alcohol, beginning exercise, weight loss, etc.) involve a supportive network.  Even a “Snuggie” comes in a two person version to keep warm with. Supportive networks help normalize new behaviors, provide accountability and positive reinforcement. How many New Year’s resolutions have you followed through on and only shared with yourself?

RA – Resistance to Action. To succeed in the change process, the steps taking place within the parenthesis must be “Greater Than” our hardwired response to resist a change in behaviors.

Over the next half year or so, we are going to bust our tails to assure our slate of programs does an even better job of driving action on both the personal and organizational fronts.  A healthy human population and planet depend on our doing so.

We want to know what amazing things you’re doing to encourage action-oriented outcomes in the way of affecting positive behavior change!

What have you been dedicating your time to?

What’s your next move?

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