Archive for the ‘Inequalities’ Category

The Big Society – falling on deaf ears?

September 8, 2010

One of the things TCC have stressed in recent years is that if you are communicating to the general public, an unsegmented message increasingly means you reach some people, but not others. In these more stringent times, that simply will not do! My TCC colleague Charlie Mansell, for example, recently blogged about the dangers of unsegmented messages around the current issue of financial reductions.

That weakness might be something that could be partly excused if it were different groups of people missed out each time and organisations at least got to everyone in the end. However the research we have conducted for a number of local authorities and other public and civic organisations, leads us to believe that far too often it is the same group of people. Some of the latest research was debated at a recent conference where Phillip Blond, the Director of the Think-Tank ResPublica was the keynote speaker and who warmly commented on the findings.

Readers of this blog will be aware that we have in recent years argued that values based segmentation is proving increasingly useful in seeking to understand what actually drives and motivates people to act the way they do. In other words it adds depth to  traditional geo-demographic segmentation, which might simply tell where certain positive or negative social behaviours occur more frequently.

We would argue that one of the key reasons those same people fail to be heard is that they hold values around security and safety when the organisation delivering the message is often either speaking in the outer directed values of “choice” or perhaps more inner directed values of “participation and engagement”.

Thus the challenge we identify  is not simply a technical one around people being “hard to reach”; it is much more about wrongly communicating to some people quite regularly. No wonder they might feel disaffected or distrustful of institutions. It is thus far more a “hard to engage” problem.

As well as the issue of finances we increasingly believe there could be a significant communications challenge over the issue of the Big Society, which the government sees as helping a wider range of stakeholders: individuals and communities to take on responsibilities formerly just the preserve of the state. As the coalition agreement on the Big Society states:

“We want to give citizens, communities and local government the power and information they need to come together, solve the problems they face and build the Britain they want. We want society – the families, networks, neighbourhoods and communities that form the fabric of so much of our everyday lives – to be bigger and stronger than ever before. Only when people and communities are given more power and take more responsibility can we achieve fairness and opportunity for all.

“Building this Big Society isn’t just the responsibility of just one or two departments. It is the responsibility of every department of Government, and the responsibility of every citizen too. Government on its own cannot fix every problem. We are all in this together. We need to draw on the skills and expertise of people across the country as we respond to the social, political and economic challenges Britain faces.”

The Government, and particularly Civil Society Minister Greg Clark, is beginning to recognise the need to have to communicate the Big Society to a wider audience than just think-tankers and journalists.  Nevertheless, as Ben Toombs at the RSA has recently commented there is still much more to do.

There has been some progress in this area as a result of Greg Clark’s recent speech on the subject which was recently blogged in detail by my colleague Charlie Mansell here. However it is still very much unclear as to whether this message will be effectively communicated to a wider range of values sets as well as at all levels, especially a local one.

Over the coming weeks, I will be looking at the issue of communicating the Big Society in much more detail and suggesting ways in which messages and the messengers that may appeal to one audience with more sympathetic values could be made more relevant to those with other values.

Jonathan Upton is Chairman of the Campaign Company.

Does Social Mobility also need Social Marketing?

August 23, 2010

The recent appointment of former Labour Minster Alan Milburn to be an independent expert reviewer on government progress over social mobility is welcome as it creates the opportunity to build on the report he published under the previous government. Social mobility is an inter-generational issue that requires long-term commitment from governments, so the greater the consensus the more likelihood of some change occurring.

At the same time it also needs to be recognised that the financial situation means it will be more difficult to deliver expensive changes at least in the short-term, whatever the level of consensus.

Is there another approach that could be piloted as part of the review into this?

Behaviour Change theory often stresses the importance of the need to address issues around both personal “ability” and “motivation”. Naturally the focus in public policy in the last century or more has been on providing support to help people develop their “ability” (eg universal education) and of course there may be more that still needs to be done in this field as books such as the Spirit Level would argue. The Capabilities Approach of Amartya Sen also quite naturally focuses on tackling the inequalities around how the state or society contributes to ability.

However increasingly the other half of the behaviour change equation, “motivation”, is moving out of a past cul-de-sac of American business management and self-help books and is beginning to be recognised as a collective action problem for society to address. The argument is quite simple, and makes a practical use of the current understanding of how the brain works and the two independent systems within it: the emotional side and the rational reflective or conscious system. If we just invest in supporting abilities we do much to support the part of us that is the rational, however we then do not address the issues around our emotional selves.

Behaviour Change campaigns in areas like public health and the environment already recognise the importance of addressing both aspects of human behaviour.  However in other areas of public policy there is still the danger that however much we invest in improving “ability”, if we do not address the challenge of demotivation then the gap in a range of inequalities (from health to social mobility) could continue to widen.

Much of the early debate in this field has been around the Happiness agenda of Richard Layard, which has already led to much more resources being invested in support for talking therapies in mental health provision. Government’s have also increased the number of “personal advisors” and advocates in a number of fields from education to employment, but there has been no joined up approach to this across Government. The current financial situation may hold back further significant development here for the next few years.

How might one develop new approaches to supporting social mobility in the short-term?

One approach for future pilots might be to draw from the specific field of social marketing within behaviour change. Before one can develop new proposals for intervention, there needs to be a gathering of insight using newer forms of segmentation that give a greater understanding of levels of motivation and self-efficacy within the community. Only then can more targeted interventions be delivered to the right people, to enable motivations to be supported that then make the important continuing investment into developing ability all the more effective.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

Should one “Nudge”, “Think” or “Steer”? It’s a lot more than that!

August 16, 2010

Former New Statesman editor Peter Wilby writing in the Guardian yesterday, produced a critical piece on the use of Nudges in public policy. He described authors Thaler and Sustein’s “libertarian paternalism”  as bearing “the same theological relationship to Friedmanite economics (Milton Friedman was also a Chicago professor) as intelligent design does to creationism”.

The danger with this critique is that Nudges, which are a tool to change the “choice architecture“(eg change the order of the food counter to emphasise salads over sweets) are then characterised as being purely something related to a single political philosophy (ie Libertarian Paternalism). Perceiving a behavioural tool in partisan terms could lead to it being discounted by the other side in any political debate.

This would be a tragedy as the opportunity to secure positive social outcomes in areas where there is wide political agreement (reducing poor health or education outcomes) could be weakened. Hopefully the debate around the forthcoming Public Health White Paper and the outcome of Graham Allen’s Early Intervention Commission could lead to a recognition of sustained long-term action through a range of approaches including the use of Nudges.

Nudges are an approach where we are spared the cognitive effort of thinking too hard about the behaviour in question. As well as the political debate above,  others argue that behavioural approaches that make us debate or think more can also be effective. Matthew Taylor of the RSA now champions “Steer” and Professor Gerry Stoker says the alternative is to “Think“.

Who is right in this part of the debate?

The answer is that there is no magic bullet, just a wide choice in ammunition.

Context is also king and the social network that you are in really counts. What people around you do has a vast impact as Mark Earls, the author of Herd has recently written praising the work of Nicholas Christakis and his recent book Connected.

The recent Cabinet Office Mindspace report also shows the vast range of tools one can use in behavioural interventions.

The most important lesson from this research is to gather the deep information to ensure one uses the right mix of tools to deliver an effective intervention through a clear understanding of the context that existing behaviour operates within. So before deploying Nudge, Think, Steer and all the other one word behaviour change solutions that are on offer, the fundamental prior action is also one word – “Insight”!

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

Public sector challenges are Europe-wide

June 11, 2010

TCC Company Chair Jonathan Upton has been abroad recently talking to those working in public administration in both Croatia and Romania about some of the common challenges that organisations face. These common challenges include:

  • Public service reform and reputation in an era of deficit reduction
  • Community cohesion in era of large-scale internal and external migration in Europe
  • Engaging young people in an era when there are high levels of cynicism
  • Public health in an era when some improved health outcomes are leading to wider health inequalities

In Croatia Jonathan met with senior representatives of the Zagreb and Rijeka city administrations to talk about initiatives such as the successful Young Mayor Scheme

In Romania Jonathan attended the 9th International Congress of the International Association on Public and Non-Profit Marketing to present interim reports on social marketing in the public health and community cohesion sectors.

Here, as well as in Croatia, there was a strong recognition that it is important to share learning and best-practice across frontiers. TCC is exploring how the following approaches to engagement could have wider application across Europe:

  • Values based segmentation
  • Understanding world views
  • Designing appropriate communications and messages
  • Peer to peer communications and interventions

International collaboration in all these fields is just as important as it has been to tackle financial issues at a Europe-wide level.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

How well does your organisation talk to Mrs Duffy?

May 24, 2010

Now that the elections are over we can look in more detail at one of the most controversial events of the campaign, for the lessons it might teach us about how to communicate with people who are concerned about unfairness. I refer of course to Gordon Brown’s conversation with Mrs Duffy in Rochdale, and the events that followed.

Much attention has been focused on the Prime Ministerial faux pas involving the Sky TV microphone. However far more interesting is the conversation itself and the immediate reaction.

Mrs Duffy raised a number of concerns relating to the level of the national debt and her fears that her relatives would find it more difficult to access good education than she had. Gordon Brown did listen intently and, as a politician, gave her the facts about what was being done. Mrs Duffy expressed her feeling that she was often not allowed to say what she really thought and, when allowed to continue on these lines, mentioned levels of immigration.

Anyone watching could see that her reference to it was made in a similar spirit to a person saying that bad weather had prevented them from doing something. It was almost an automatic turn of phrase, rather than any unreasonable rant against specific individuals. However, as subsequent events showed, this reference was clearly picked up by the Prime Minister as the key issue from the encounter, when it was not the biggest issue for Mrs Duffy.

During the filmed media interview with Mrs Duffy immediately after Gordon Brown left, she focuses on debt and education, not immigration. Indeed, even though she and he had disagreed, she said she felt she had been listened to and was still intent on supporting the Prime Minister’s party in the elections.

A short while later, when the recording was played back to her, she was then asked for her reaction and replied that what she was most angry about was not being called a bigot, but being called “that woman”. For her, the issue was not about her specific views but the fact that she had been belittled as a human being.

Why is all this important?

Organisations are always happy to give people like Mrs Duffy “the facts”. But what she and many, many others want, first and foremost, is to be listened to and treated like a human being.

The danger of the Mrs Duffy episode is that it will be used as an example of how one should manage communication in terms of avoiding some technical mistake with a microphone, when the real lesson is about how one actually talks to Mrs Duffy and engages in an ongoing conversation with her.

From TCC research into the values and attitudes of people in low cohesion communities, references to immigration are often used as a shorthand for a wider sense of unfair treatment. Focusing on immigration is a way of making sense of a more complex world and the impact of globalisation. We also increasingly believe that it is this shorthand language within such communities that enables people to identify others who hold similar values and might have similar perceptions of unfairness around how they sometimes feel they are treated. In vulnerable communities, identifying people who share similar values makes a lot of sense in a world where external forces are likely to be seen as threatening.

Too often, organisations speak a completely different language built only around facts and rationality rather than warmth and emotion. Moreover, they often use a communications medium that does not connect with people like Mrs Duffy. We know from our work that a comment in a press release from a politician or a senior officer in an organisation is, on its own, no substitute for an empathetic conversation with a well trained and known member of a frontline service, or a conversation with a trusted local person in Mrs Duffy’s own community.

Politicians and public bodies are now debating the need to address the failure to debate immigration issues openly. This is a good thing to do in order to show people like Mrs Duffy that they are seriously being listened to. Class is an important issue here, potentially setting those who can afford to use the services of cheap migrant labour, and do so to save money, against those who feel a sense of fear and unfairness having seen their wages held down through competition with cheaper migrant labour.

Though acknowledging this is a great step forward, there is more. From our primary research and from studying a wide range of indicators of cohesion – some demographic and some political – even some relatively affluent areas indicate similar views regarding unfairness. A detailed socio-economic analysis of communities clearly provides yet more facts, when what is needed in addition is an understanding of values – understanding the why as well as the how of people’s behaviour. Only by understanding values can organisations communicate the warmth and empathy that Mrs Duffy was clearly and rightly expecting when she went out for a loaf of bread and had her unexpected but fateful encounter with a Prime Minister.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

Community Cohesion matters more than ever

May 10, 2010

What does the General Election tell us about community cohesion? The failure of most smaller parties to win elections might indicate mainstream political debate is completely in the ascendant. However with a post-war record of 12% of voters voting for a range of parties other than the main three, do some communities really feel more cohesive after the elections, despite the actual results this time?

It’s important to recognise that election results are just a snapshot of people’s opinion at the time and that the causes of disaffection and anger that lead to low cohesion are more deep-rooted than the issues raised by politicians seeking votes. In the end those are the symptoms, not the real causes of local disaffection. More crucially some elections may lead to some people now feeling the are completely unrepresented and become even more disengaged. How do those working in public policy tackle that?

The election turnout was also very high at over 65%. Many people voted who would only vote once every five years. An average local election turnout is often in the 30-40% range.  If there are a substantial number of disaffected people, will their disaffection manifest itself far more at local level rather than in a General Election?

In other words if the recent General Election leads you to believe a significant number of people are still disaffected and disengaged, this is not something that can be left for later. It requires early engagement now, through greater insight, better language and more involvement of frontline staff and lay people in communicating emotionally resonant cohesion messages.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

Community Cohesion – developing a new approach

April 26, 2010

TCC is very proud of the work it has done in the field of community cohesion. In the last three years it has worked with many local authorities to tackle the issue of poor communication and weak local engagement which leads to perceptions of unfairness and disaffection in some communities. It is clearly up to the politicians to respond to some of the symptoms of this disaffection, however a lot can be done to tackle the real underlying causes that lead to poor community cohesion in the first place.

The approach that we have developed is now very much in the mainstream. It involves deep insight, emotionally resonant communications and the recognition that staff and local residents have a key role to play in communicating authentic local messages to a wide range of people in their own community. Rather than repeat it in detail here,  a succinct summary of the approach was recently set out by outgoing Barking and Dagenham Chief Executive Rob Whiteman in Municipal Journal.

Cohesion can be impacted by a number of factors, but at its core there is often a sense of unfairness combined with a lack of trust. In the coming years smaller budgets and the need for service transformation as a result of Total Place programmes will mean that community cohesion could be put under even more pressure.  One of the key advantages of the programme described by Rob Whiteman is that it is not about vast revenue costs or bricks and mortar investment but about making better use of the important local resources to hand – namely hard-working local staff and the people networked up at all levels within the local community.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

Social Care – getting good value out of personalisation?

April 25, 2010

An area that was hotly debated before the election but so far has not been seriously addressed through the campaign is the issue of social care.

The lack of consensus as to whether there will be a National Care Service perhaps does not address the reasons why social care is the poor relation of the National Health Service and whether it might be perceived in a better light if it were commissioned as part of the NHS.

What has contributed to social care being a very poor relation of health?

Many would argue that is it because the state has been able to continue to rely on an army of unpaid carers to shoulder this burden – you can’t do this in the same way with education or medicine.

Others might argue there is a weaker producer lobby and that health is a much more exciting area to work in as professionals are solving problems clinically. This is easier to measure in terms of the quality of life for care service users and also more satisfying politically. The infrastructure of ambulances and big hospitals also makes health much more visible and most of us may have cause to visit A&E’s on a few occasions.

Other reasons that people advance include:

  • It is run by local government and thus competes with a range of local priorities.It is usually the second largest amount of expenditure for upper tier or unitaries after education
  • There has been a shift from institutional care (local authority old people’s homes) too a more domiciliary based service operated through mainly private contracts or spot purchasing. This is almost like a continuation of CCT though quality control has improved as  result of the Best Value regime. High intensity in-house home care services still exist in some places but this is very much rationed.
  • Resistance from some elements of the traditional voluntary sector to radical change
  • Health providers do still provide some recuperation services, Though fines have reduced bed-blocking, consultants may still keep older people in longer than might be required.
  • The social care profession is generally under-valued and thus is often filled with a significant proportion of short-term agency staff. Interestingly where social care has been taken over by health providers, staff  have said they get greater professional recognition
  • The vast amount of capital owned by non-poor elderly incentivises family members to retain this and to deliver more care at home. Carer’s allowances and benefits may also encourage this. Arguably this is good and a form or co-production, but means that the role of relatives is different when compared to their role in health, where they may have a more passive role.
  • The health regimes for some older people (eg. take 8 tablets a day and self-medicate) and the improved management of administrating this through phone lines mean that chronic disease management is a lot better
  • Alarm systems worn round the neck mean much of the work of social can be run through call centres and then the use of emergency services
  • The substantial tightening in eligibility criteria over the last decade. Belatedly the National Care Service may in 5 years tackle this if it is agreed. In the end this will set a cap on personal expenditure in whichever form it emerges.

Hopefully the general move from a focus on acute care to one on primary care automatically shifts the debate in a way that opens up the possibility of a better balance in the relationship between health and social care.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

UK Public Health Forum – wish you were here!

March 29, 2010

TCC were represented last week at the UK Public Health Association (UKPHA) Forum held by the seaside in Bournemouth last week.

TCC in conversation at the UKPHA

The Marmot Review, the General Election, and the Economic and Ecological crises were on the agenda

TCC took its “Engagement Kitchen” – a space specially designed to show how our health insight work is designed to make people feel comfortable in having a conversation. Conference attendees could bring over a coffee and have a chat with our experienced staff.

On the first day we asked people what they thought the biggest challenges facing the NHS in 2010.

On the second day we asked people what the Government’s Budget – announced the previous day – meant for them both professionally and personally.

There was also a TCC showreel of vox pops from previous health insight projects

And as a special treat TCC Project Officer Sophia Papadopoulos even demonstrated a few magic tricks!

TCC staff and those delegates attending thought the conference worthwhile and the TCC stall showed some good practice in the field of social marketing

Jeff French writes….. How we behave – is it more “Doh” than “Do”?

March 25, 2010

I am grateful for the opportunity to write a regular Guest Blog for TCC. Over the coming weeks and months, I want to have a look at some of the drivers that make us behave the way we do and how this insight might help those working on the subject in the public policy arena.

This is important as behaviour change is rising up the policy agenda. In the last two years Government departments, including Cabinet Office, COI, DEFRA and the DH have issued a lot of guidance. Why might it be that this has become increasingly important to understand?

Much public policy has operated on the basis we are all logical people, who by and large make sensible decisions. Is this a correct assumption?

I would have to say no. But this is something that policy-makers are also recognising that they have to respond to.

Increasingly the evidence shows, how in order to make sense of the world, we use vast numbers of short-cuts and are seldom fully ‘logical’ in a scientific sense of that word.

We know that in many cases people make poor decisions to behave in ways that they would not if they:

  • Paid full attention
  • Possessed full information
  • Used unlimited cognitive ability
  • Had complete self-control

We also know that the chances of achieving the opposite of this at any stage are quite slim.

In other words the assumption in the past has been one of defining a mythical being called Homo Economicus, who acts completely rationally, when the reality is much more Homer Simpsonicus!

Over the coming weeks I will explore a whole series of these short-cuts. In the meantime I will leave you with an initial example, which I think you will surprisingly enjoy reading when you take more than a cursory glance:

Acnocridg to rsceearch at anh English uisnervtiy it deosn’t mttaer in waht odrer the ltteer in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt thnig is taht the fisrt and lsat ltteers are in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is becuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by ieltsf but the wrod as a wlohe.

Professor Jeff French is a non-executive Director of The Campaign Company, a professor at Brunel University and a Fellow at Kings College University of London. He founded and established the National Social Marketing Centre in England and currently is chief executive of Strategic Social Marketing Ltd. He will be a keynote speaker at the 2nd World Social Marketing Conference in 2011 in Dublin


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