Archive for March, 2010

Fear and loathing….and public policy

March 29, 2010

The first major debate of the coming election was held tonight between the Chancellor of Exchequer and the opposition spokespersons.

One of the issues is how much the forthcoming election campaigns will play on fear – whether it is of change or of the status quo?

This is not just an issue for politicians. Often in public policy health campaigns may play on fear of ill-health to make a strong point.

However politicians and public health professionals need to think in nuanced ways about this.

Recent research that has just been reported by the British Psychological Society indicates that people’s level of fear may vary.

This again illustrates the need to segment the population through in-depth insight. Often this segmentation is done on the basis of how people have already behaved, which is of course useful. At the same time one can also now segment people through their values and attitudes to look at why they might behave the way they do.

Levels of pessimism as well as varying levels of fear may reflect differing views over fatalism as a result of differing values and outlooks on life.

This is something that politicians as well as public health professionals might therefore wish to look at in more depth, before committing themselves to any course of action.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer of 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

Reputation, value and trust – avoiding a disaster?

March 24, 2010

Local Government Reputation is important. How a local authority handles an emergency planning issue, such as a fire at a block of flats it owns, can impact on public perception for a long time. Communication is an important aspect of managing any disaster. A social service’s bad news story can also crystallise public perceptions of a local Council. It’s not just about the performance of local politicians; public perceptions can vastly impact on staff morale and the ability to recruit staff to help improve future performance.

As if that is not a tough enough agenda to drive forward in the good times, local authorities now face severe challenges in an era when budgets will be a lot tighter.

Today’s Budget may see the announcement of a tough spending round, with the possibility of a second budget in two months with even tougher proposals, whoever is in power at national level after the General Election.

PR Week reports on recent LGA research showing that 66% of Council comms heads are calling for a refreshed LGA Reputations Campaign to focus on value for money. This makes sense as, due to the economic constraints, the next few years will be the first time in more than a decade that local authorities will, individually and collectively, need to communicate to the public the fact that services will have to be funded according to strict prioritisation. There will also, however, be positive opportunities to develop new ways of working through VFM programmes such as Total Place. All of this will cause uncertainty to both staff and members of the public.

People are, in the main, often risk averse and resistant to change: they will value keeping what they have over the possibility of gaining more. The recent Cabinet Office Mindspace study on behaviour discusses this. However, due to various levels of motivation and self-efficacy, different people will see the coming changes very differently, perceiving opportunities, threats or a mixture. It will not be possible, as it might have been in the past, for local authorities to rely on consensus and an ‘average’ view when seeking to communicate challenges to communities.

Reputation management entails far more than a ‘one size fits all’ communications process. The decline of the local news media and the rise of new media, including but not limited to internet-based media, leads to a multiplicity of information, as intimidating to some as it is stimulating to others. Though some people are very well informed, more and more people are seeking information and corroboration of their opinions from trusted sources like their friends and neighbours – not necessarily the people who appear on the Council press officer’s mailing list!

Against this background, there are new solutions emerging. We can now segment the public more effectively, not only to show how people behave, but also why they behave the way they do as a result of their underlying values.

For example, a Council wishing to communicate value for money issues – and perhaps suggesting that the community might be able to do their bit through forms of co-production and choice – needs to know that different segments of the community will potentially have widely divergent responses to this message according to their values and worldview. 30% of the people might be broadly supportive because of the potential for improved quality and value of services. 40% may be broadly indifferent to the new approach, feeling that they have the tools to involve themselves should they wish to. The final 30% of thee community may be anchored in values that lead them to see the proposals as a threat and may look to scapegoat “others” for any perceived unfairness. Thus, what might be a well-communicated campaign on value for money and reputation may lead to further challenges on the community cohesion front if it is not communicated in a nuanced way.

Building trust is the cornerstone to improved reputation, and is increasingly achieved through:

  • Segmented messaging to ensure all segments in the population actually hear what the Council is saying without dismissing it out of hand
  • Recognising the vital role of staff in communicating reputation and trust through empathetic “effective conversations” training
  • Building engagement with trusted sources in the community through “community communicator” schemes: forging a relationship between the Council and communities that may have strong views on unfairness, have the greatest disaffection and the lowest levels of trust.

Whether it is managing the aftermath of an emergency planning disaster, communicating value for money, or building long-term reputation: if the local authority is prepared to put in the work to earn authentic local trust, it can work with its local community to overcome those challenges.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company.

Sending the right message to the “worried well”?

March 19, 2010

Reports that the “worried well” could account for up to almost a fifth of GP appointments costing up to £2 billion annually, may lead to some debate as to what might need to be done.

There are a number of approaches that could be adopted:

1. A behavioural economics approach might be to look for the right mix incentives to discourage. For example some form of charge or even a “fine” could be levied to discourage people? However, whilst this might work well for a less sensitive issue, when it comes to tax-funded public goods like health, there is a problem that such a system could lead to widening health inequalities as some people who genuinely need more support for minor ailments are put off from attending a surgery.

2. The other approach, based more on social psychology might be more about a social redesign of the nature of the GPs surgery to create a social norm within similar communities. Thus the GP might have a system that more visibly identifies the worried well within reception area to have their case dealt with by a practice nurse or even reception staff. This would then create the social norm that perhaps discouraged some unnecessary attendance. Getting the community to police themselves might be a better solution in a health context as this is more likely to be perceived to be fair by everyone whichever values they might hold?

A good social marketing campaign on the issue of the “worried well” could thus be the solution to this issue as it would require in-depth insight work as well as identifying how various segments in the population might react to changes.  There will be various views depending on people’s values and it is thus important that those involved in public policy understand this before making any changes.

Charlie Mansell is the Research and Development Office of The Campaign Company

Electoral Registration is not the only challenge

March 4, 2010

A recently published Electoral Commission report on the accuracy of the electoral register indicates a significant under under-representation of people:

  • There are 3.5 million people missing from the register in 2000
  • Between 1988 and 2008registtration fell from 97% to 91%.
  • More than 50% of 18 – 24 year olds are not registered to vote.
  • In 41% of areas there is inadequate promotion of the electoral register
  • 49% of tenants in the private sector and 31% of BME residents are not registered to vote.
  • There has been a 40 year decline in registration.

The report makes a number of practical proposals to improve registration including moving the date of the annual canvass to the beginning of the year.

This level of under representation does not just mean local people are potentially denied a vote. It is also indicative of other challenges:

  • Levels of Council Tax Collection might be lower than expected due to a higher level of single person discount?
  • The accuracy of the 2011 census could be compromised thus potentially reducing funds for some local authorities?

With a General Election due in two months, it is right that electoral registration is the key focus at present, however developing an approach to other under-registration challenges is something we will return to  in order to consider how the census can be both delivered and marketed more effectively, when enumeration starts next year.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer of the Campaign Company

Gladwell recommends “Drive”

March 4, 2010

A book we have been reading a lot recently is the author Dan Pink’s new book Drive. Indeed ‘Tipping Point’ author Malcolm Gladwell has himself recently endorsed the book.

In it Pink examines what motivates us. Whilst for the intended audience of the book he focused on what intrinsically motivates us to be innovative, what fascinated us at TCC was the entire motivational structure that he in effect described in Maslowian terms:

  • Motivation 1.0Security and Survival motivations
  • Motivation 2.0Extrinsic motivations
  • Motivation 3.0Intrinsic motivations

For a good summary of Pink’s arguments why not go to his recent lecture at the RSA, where I asked him a question about its impact on the public sector and where afterwards we both agreed on the useful information at the World Values Survey which he mentioned in his other book A Whole New Mind.

He has also given a talk as part of the TED series of lectures.

And even spoke to Google at the Googleplex!

We think understanding what motivates us and what our varying needs might be at different parts of our life is really important to public policy. Not everyone is the same at all times through their life and often there is a challenge of demotivation within communities which can impact on resilience and weaken local social capital. That is why TCC is collaborating with Cultural Dynamics to develop Values Modes segmentation systems to understand the levels of demotivation within communities so that they and the public bodies that serve them, can work together to tackle it more effectively.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer of the Campaign Company.

Talking a language people understand

March 3, 2010

Times journalist, Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times today, writes about how politicians are failing to get their message across. However this is not just a problem for politicians. It is also a problem for public bodies in how they communicate. As Finkelstein observes in the second half of his article:

Just as bad is that politics is seen as irrelevant. Voters are angry that there aren’t any bollards that prevent the fishmonger’s delivery van from ruining their lawn. Or that their next door neighbour cooks smelly food. Or that they can’t get their child into the school that they want. Or that the nursing staff on ward 7E are rude.

The issue is not that politicians or public bodies can fix these issues straight away, but that they actually show some interest in them, listen to people’s concerns and talk about them to show recognition that these issues are very important to some segments of the public . It is the failure to do this over a number of years that has led to a decline in trust in institutions, that is well known nationally, but also has an impact locally as the 2008 local authority Place Survey showed. And Finkelstein also makes this clear:

Most of politics and most political coverage proceeds as if there was still a reasonable degree of trust. As if the messages were still getting through, still being listened to, still being weighed up. I suppose it would be hard to carry on if the truth were faced.

However there is an alternative that is developing around:

  • Understanding the local narrative and effective values based segmentation of message.
  • Empowering local staff to act as positive advocates of the organisations they work for and able to listen and converse with local people’s concerns
  • Developing local peer to peer communications and advocacy – especially in those communities where word of mouth and locally trusted sources is a powerful medium.

Danny Finkelstein writes about national politicians, but his arguments equally apply to the communications of all public bodies.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

Professor Jeff French to write for TCC

March 3, 2010

We are pleased to report that Professor Jeff French will writing a number of postings for this Blog in the coming months. He will be covering a wide range of behavioural change issues in a series of postings that will combine both theory and practical application. We think they will contribute to the debate on how behaviour change strategies can  make a difference in public policy in an era when budgets may be more constrained.

Jeff is a recognised global leader in behaviour intervention and social marketing approaches. He is a professor at Brunel University and a Fellow at Kings College University of London and teaches a many other UK Universities including Northumbria, Brighton, City University. Jeff has extensive networks across the fields of behaviour change, health promotion, public sector communications and social marketing in the public sector in the UK and internationally.

He led the UK Government commissioned 2 year independent review into behavioural intervention and social marketing approaches that produced the ‘It’s Our Health!’ report in 2006. The recommendations from which were subsequently accepted by the Government and directly informed adoption of a strategic social marketing approach across England. He also founded and established the National Social Marketing Centre in England from 2006 through to 2009.

Currently he is chief executive of Strategic Social Marketing Ltd and he also acts as the principle advisor to the National Social Marketing Centre, the Department of Health, the National Council for Palliative Care Coalition and he is also leading preparations for the 2nd World Non-profit and Social Marketing conference in Dublin in 2011.

Jeff’s postings will show that there a vast range of approaches to achieving change and that much of the resources to achieve this are all around in the existing human and physical resources of most public bodies.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the The Campaign Company

Early Intervention for a NEET solution

March 1, 2010

A new report from the think-tank Demos makes the important point that: “almost one in seven young people aged 16-18 are NEET. The personal and social costs are enormous- the costs to society are estimated to be in the region of £4.6bn a year”.

And the report recognises the challenge is not at 16 but starts at a much younger age:

“Our analysis reveals that just over one in ten children – 11.5 per cent – are starting school with behavioural issues that impact on their ability to concentrate and to form relationships with their friends and teachers – and to get the most out of school. And in some deprived areas, up to half of children are starting school without the speech and communication skills they need. Later on, 8 in 100 children leave primary school with literacy and/or numeracy skills below those of an average 7 year old.

In terms of recommendations the report proposes a series of measures such as radical reform in supporting children with special educational needs, and the system of exclusion from school for children with poor behaviour. It also recommends a ‘toddler pupil premium’ for Sure Start centres and nursery education – which would mean higher levels of funding for children from poor background.
However, perhaps of most interest is its recommendation regarding screening, where it says:
In the early years, too many children’s needs go undetected despite the fact there are very simple screening tools that could be used to direct the children and families to the extra support services that they need, like speech and language therapy, mental health services and parenting services. We therefore recommend universal, light touch screening of all children in the years before school.

This proposal deserves a lot further discussion as it implies the development of a universal parental advice and support service with targeted interventions. There is also scope to use peer to peer approaches which are more likely to create wider social norms to support improved parenting skills in less resilient communities.

Whilst there is need to support the NEET’s of today, a preventative strategy seems eminently sensible to tackle the challenges of the NEET’s of tomorrow and there is increasing consensus across the mainstream political spectrum to address this.

We cannot abandon 16-18s but we desperately need more resources for the under 10’s, which is why projects like Total Place are important, not just for protecting current frontline services, but also freeing the resources to develop today, those services we will need to prevent some of the potential problems of tomorrow.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company