Archive for April, 2010

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

Jeff French writes: Short-cuts are not just a lesson in geography!

April 20, 2010

I have written that we often act without a command of all the facts. This is quite natural. Our ancestors on the African savanna may have had to make split second decisions simply to survive. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution mean that nowadays even in more sedate places with more time to consider things we will still use mental short-cuts.

Thus short-cuts are not just a physical thing to save us time when travelling. They also apply to how our brains process information.

Why is this important?

It’s because any short-cut is likely to lead to some type of bias. As a result we need to understand how they occur so we can take them into account when designing change programmes. They may even save us time in securing change if we know enough about how they apply in a specific context.

These short cuts divide up into a number of types. Understanding them is thus important to understanding why people behave the way they do.

Anchoring. People start with a ‘known’ anchor and adjust in the direction they think is appropriate and are influenced by what they are familiar with. In other words people from a big town or those from a small town are likely to make different judgment calls as to the estimated population of a mid size town. What are the practical implications? Often those organisations like an emergency relief charity might create a range of donation options, so that the higher the starting point the more will be given from the middle ranges. This explains why a big sum to donate will always appear on the list of options

Availability. People assess risks by how readily examples come to mind. Recent events have a bigger impact on behaviour than thing in the past or the potential risks from the future. Thus a direct natural disaster such as flooding is likely to have more of an impact than just the talking about the threat of climate change.

Representativeness. We categorise people events and risks according to similar things. For example we are likely to assume a tall man is more likely to be a basket ball player than a short one. This constant searching for categories and patterns, whilst an incredibly powerful thing, also means we can bias towards spotting patterns, when the do not exist. In the second world war the mapped assessment of V1 Doodlebug explosions in London initially was thought to be down to complicated guidance systems and targeting, until mathematicians demonstrated that the patterns that people thought they saw were down to a random distribution and patterns inherent in the maps that were used.

Value Attribution. We also tend to imbue someone or something with qualities and values that they may not hold. This then influences and alters the way we then perceive them and how we receive subsequent information about them. Once we have made such a categorisation, it makes it more difficult to change our mind even when in the face of objective evidence to the contrary. For example the virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell, will not be seen by most people not in the know as a virtuoso when he also plays on the subway prior to a concert!

As can be seen short-cuts are inevitable. They save us vast amounts of time processing information. They may have saved our ancestors lives against predators, but they also now help us process the vast amounts information we receive in a complex modern society.

The biases they create impact on our behaviour, but they also mean we can use them to change or reinforce behaviour too. I will explore this in more detail in a future posting

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

The battle for the 80’s – a battle of values?

April 12, 2010

Do you think Gene Hunt of Ashes to Ashes is a hero or villain? Political Parties seem to think that if you can remember the 1980’s you will have a clear view and even if were too young, you will have an opinion.

In the last few months we have seen a Conservative poster campaign “I’ve never voted Tory” that seems to be seeking to establish a social norm for people in the 35-55 age group who as young people broadly voted against Mrs Thatcher in the 1980’s, that it is now acceptable to voter Conservative.

In response Labour commissioned a crowd-sourced poster that was eventually won by a design from a 24 year old making a comparison between Gene Hunt and David Cameron. The poster was widely seen as backfiring as it misjudged the way Gene Hunt is seen by some people. The Conservatives having been put on the backfoot over their two previous poster campaigns involving an “airbrushed” David Cameron and a “tombstone”, were able to counter attack with a humourous poster of their own that was able to convey their change message more effectively that some of their past efforts.

Much of this was down to the values of the people commissioning the work. This can be dangerous if a message is commissioned by people of similar values and not tested on those who might hold different values. Pat Dade of our partners, Cultural Dynamics has written an excellent article on this here.

As Pat shows only 12% of the population self-identify through their political convictions. Most of that is concentrated with people who have inner directed or intrinsic needs. Thus there is a danger that those who hold those values will fail to engage with the values of those who needs are driven differently.

The lessons of the current online poster wars  is that crowdsourcing may be a good idea, but that it needs a reality check through message testing across values. At the same time online rapid rebuttal is proving very effective, whether it is Labour or Conservatives doing it.

As well as writing about the poster war Pat has also analysed the current values heartlands of each of the political parties and the data on this is here. The contraction in the number of outer-directed voters and the increase in those more focused on security and survival values, means a more polarised electorate, which could have serious implications for whichever government is elected after May 6th.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

Jeff French writes: Two Brains are not just for Politicians

April 8, 2010

Last time I wrote about our bounded rationality. In just a few weeks, somewhere between three or four out of every five people are likely to take the trouble to cast their vote the forthcoming General Election. Both rationality and emotions are likely to feature in the landscape of that election. Fear, hope, rumours and facts will fight it out in influencing people to vote.

Politicians may at this election, much more than before, talk a lot of about behaviour and how government can take action on it or argue over the limits to what it can achieve and what should be done. James Purnell has recently talked about inequality and capability and David “two brains” Willetts showed a lot of interest in behavioural economics and Nudges.

And its about our brains I want to talk about this time.

Perhaps we should all be described as “two brains”?

Sometimes this is described as left and right hand brain. But the reality is actually more complex than that. Whilst brain hemispheres may show differences of operation in what they process, the more important two brains we all have are what are described as our automatic and reflective brains. How do they differ?

Automatic Brain

Uncontrolled

Effortless

Associative

Fast

Unconscious

Skilled

Reflective Brain

Controlled

Effortful

Deductive

Slow

Conscious

Rule based

There is not space here to go into the detailed neuroscience, but our automatic brain will often overestimate the advantage of immediate gains and discount later gains. It also does not understanding things such as fixed term interest rates, units of alcohol or the number of calories we consume.

Broadly understanding these two types of brain function is important to targeting actions. In the end we cannot simply appeal to reason. We need to take both types of brain along with us.

Behaviour change is very often therefore a process not an event.

We may require several attempts before we change, and we often don’t change for ever.. We can slip back into a previous behaviours very easily. Good examples of this are giving up smoking or weight loss. Usually this requires a pre-existing desire to change. However a desire to change is often not enough, especially when there might be many countervailing influences; for example close friends or others in the household still smoking.

What actions might support that process I describe?

1. Understand people not just the problem. This includes existing behaviours, values and attitudes. We need to know as much as possible about the potential how and why of any change?

2. Focus attention on the need for a change and why it is important. Awareness raising is a key starting point.

3. Design change programmes, based on what has been learned. They need to be a clear pathway to a change with steps and milestones so progress can be measured.

4. Anticipate that people will slip back into old behaviour. Have mechanisms that catch the ones that fall bring them back, rather than allow them to simply stop and fall.

These are some of the core elements of behaviour change. In future postings I will examine the process in more detail.

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