Archive for July, 2011

Guest Blog by Mark Wall: Running Interference

July 28, 2011

American football can seem a little odd. On first glance, it looks like lots of fat men bumping into each other and falling over.  And then after a while Diana Ross or Lady Gaga gets up and sings.

In fact, it is quite a tactical game.  The basic aim is clear:  you must get the ball across the opposition’s goal line.  The main player in a team is the quarterback.  He holds the ball and tries to get as far up the field towards the goal line as possible.  And the quarterback can make it look very easy, eating up the yards with no one getting near him.

But the key players are the ones in front of the quarterback.  These are the guys who play what is called “running interference”.  Their job is to keep the opposition at bay; to stop their quarterback being harassed, to give him the time and space he needs to do his job.  If they run interference well, you don’t actually notice them but the quarterback looks good.

The fans worship the quarterback; his is the picture on the bedroom wall.  But the guys running interference make a huge contribution to every single goal.

The NHS has got lots of highly skilled quarterbacks.  They are essential and in my experience provide an excellent service to patients.  But the NHS also has lots and lots of people who run interference.  They do the work behind the scenes; maybe not the sexy things, but the necessary things to make things happen.  They can create the space for the quarterbacks to do their thing.  You don’t often see them, and patients often won’t even know that they’re there, but they are a crucial part of the modern NHS.

No one can doubt the basic premise of the current NHS reform proposals:  we need to save money, and we need more clinical involvement in decision making.  All good and sensible policy objectives.  But let’s not ignore those running interference.

One of the stated aims is to cut management costs by at least 30%.  This will not be without impact.  The danger is that without those running interference, the quarterbacks will not get the same support, will have less options to reach the goal and are far more at risk of being got at.

And the quarterbacks are quarterbacks for a reason.  They don’t want to run interference.  A survey in Pulse magazine last week, highlighted in the excellent Roy Lilley’s NHSManagers.net blog, shows that 60% of GPs do not want to be involved in commissioning.  They want someone else to run interference for them.

I think the NHS is still the crowning achievement of our society.  And it is packed full of deeply committed people doing all they can to give patients they very best they can.  But I want to wave a flag for the managers, the supporters, the back office staff, the people who may never have their picture on a bedroom wall.  Yes, we need the quarterbacks, but we need someone to run interference too.

Mark Wall is Director of Mark Wall Communications and an Associate at The Campaign Company and can be followed on Twitter @markwallcomms. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

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“Something for Something” – Is reciprocity now the key public policy debate?

July 26, 2011

TCC‘s research into community cohesion has led us to better understand community perceptions and narratives of ‘unfairness’ within communities with low levels of cohesion. One of the problems we identified is a values gap where public sector organisations often hold values where they might see fairness to be one of big picture social justice concepts, when the communities they serve are looking to see visible and tangible forms of fairness before they are prepared to trust those in charge.

A few weeks prior to recent News International phone hacking furore, Times columnist Danny Finkelstein wrote on the issue of differing perceptions of fairness, which I think is relevant to a wide range of public policy debates such as pensions, social care (on this issue, for example, read the blog and comments here) and welfare reform, through to political issues such as the philosophical debate around Blue Labour and Red Tory concepts. As Finkelstein comments both David Cameron and Ed Miliband have talked in recent weeks about public expectations over fairness and responsibility.

Finkelstein locates fairness in the social psychology concept of reciprocity and talks about the need for social policy to address ‘something for something’, which perhaps can also be expressed as ‘rights in exchange for responsibility’. In the early 90’s this was sometimes expressed as Communitarianism. For much of the past ‘rights’ had to be fought hard for in order for them to be secured for the vast majority of people. But with so much achieved in terms of ‘rights’, perhaps in a modern, complex developed western society, are some of these now taken for granted? As I blogged recently, those in the ‘squeezed middle’ of low to middle incomes, may measure their status not by looking at those within the top 1% of earners, but by observing those they see around them. The same may also apply in terms of their perception of rights and responsibilities and benefits received and given? There is a perception that past forms of reciprocity may have broken down and that this is seen as unfair by some – especially in those communities which have been most impacted by globalising economic forces. Thus addressing the implications of this is a significant public policy issue for organisations delivering services in an era of tighter budgets.

Finkelstein refers to Ben Wattenberg, who wrote the book Values Matter Most.

A liberal Jew from the Bronx, Wattenberg had been a speechwriter for President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, and had begun to appreciate something other liberal Democrats were missing. His party was losing touch with the values of the people who voted for it. Together with another Johnson adviser, Richard Scammon, in 1970 he published a bestselling book, called The Real Majority, which sought to explain how this had happened.

The Democrats, Wattenberg argued, were able to address the economic concerns of working Americans. But they had missed entirely the rise of social concerns — crime, order, drugs, morality. On these they had no language, no policy, yet these concerns, as least as much as the economy, now drove voting behaviour. They were a large part of the reason why the Republican Richard Nixon, who understood the voters’ fears only too well, had succeeded Johnson as President in 1968.

Finkelstein recounts a conversation that Wattenberg had with Bill Clinton in 1995 after the Democrats had lost to Newt Gingrich’s Republican’s Contract with America and Clinton was seeking a new strategy:

Here’s what the President had to say. He had read Values Matter Most and he realised that its central argument was right. Within its covers lay the explanation for his heavy defeat in the midterm elections of 1994. On becoming President, he had grappled with the budget deficit, employment and interest rates, but he had “lost the language” that had made him a new kind of Democrat and president. He was no longer showing hard-working, law-abiding people that he was on their side on social issues, that he shared their values.

And so came a new Clinton agenda. Toughening up on crime, welfare reform, school discipline. It helped to produce his victorious re-election campaign in 1996.

I recall this strategy from the time and it was seen as a shift to small-scale issues that voters could directly relate to fitting in with Clinton’s homespun southern governor style and helped make up for policy failures of his first two years around issues such as healthcare reform.

Finkelstein argues that an understanding of values is applicable to current public policy debates and says research means we can look at this in more sophisticated ways, which I agree with:

Since Wattenberg wrote Values Matter Most, we’ve gained, from many different pieces of scientific work, a much better understanding of what drives attitudes to social issues. Yet all this work — the papers on reciprocal altruism, the books on the mathematics of co-operation — are brilliantly summarised in an old Clinton slogan: “No more something for nothing.”

Social relations are underpinned by the idea that you put something in and get something back. And we are constantly anxious, suspicious — or even plain certain — that we are putting something in and getting too little back and that other people are getting something for nothing. What are the hottest social issues? Welfare fraud, crime, illegal immigration, public sector waste, MPs’ expenses, banking bonuses. Each involves somebody receiving a benefit without having, to many people, made a contribution that justifies it. This feeling is sometimes unjustified, and often ungenerous, but it is a strong political fact nevertheless.

Finkelstein then covers the future political impact of this for the Government around crime and the NHS reforms. He also refers to the challenges faced by the opposition around immigration and welfare reform and its impact on how it will in future define equality in a modern complex society when the issue is one of relative and not absolute poverty. Current efforts to define what is now meant by inequality may require a better understanding of public perceptions of fairness and reciprocity as well as addressing motivation and self-efficacy on top of traditional public service interventions around improving people’s ability. I won’t go into those political debates here, but want to just pick up on his concluding sentence.

However level of reciprocation itself may vary by the values described above. For some it is about tangible and material things, for others the reciprocation may come in less tangible forms

I think this is an important point. We know from our research the different values that exist and can now be mapped more widely as the World Values Survey also shows. Those values will mean some people want to see direct and tangible demonstration of fairness, whilst others will be satisfied in it in a more conceptual way. As TCC have often shown through our research and recommendations,  the challenge for public policy is to communicate to all the various concepts of fairness that exist within the community.

If you did want to see the full Danny Finklestein article you would need to pay the Times paywall. Clearly they want something for something!

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

RSA Civic Pulse: New Model and Survey for Active Citizenship

July 22, 2011

In May 2011, the RSA published Power Lines, which continued the tradition of understanding social networks but particularly discussed networks of power and influence with an emphasis on problems of isolation.  In this report the authors argue that connectedness leads to a greater sense of empowerment and that social networks are a vital part in change and influence, making the point that those who are least connected face disadvantages in terms of employment, influence and other activities.

TCC blogged about that report and the interplay between Social Networks and Values at the time and is currently conducting research in an English local authority to explore that interplay in much greater detail.

Given the observations made by the RSA in Power Lines, they published a follow-up in July 2011 titled The Civic Pulse: Measuring Active Citizenship in a Cold Climate which presents the Civic Pulse Model and the Civic Pulse Survey.  The purpose of Sam McLean and Benedict Dellot’s article is to explain the dynamics behind this tool which broadly intends to understand, measure, and improve active citizenship.  The concern with active citizenship, a method for measurement and a strategy for implementation relate to the RSA’s previous reports because they intend to analyse and increase effectiveness in regards to social networks.  By establishing a purpose, summary, methodology, context, counterexamples and usage the authors explain what this new model is, why it was developed and how it can help active citizenship and communities.

To briefly describe the Civic Pulse model, McLean and Dellot explain that it is “a new approach to understanding, identifying, and measuring the underlying drivers of active citizenship within communities”.  Through four stages; theory, framework, survey and intervention the model will provide policymakers with vital information that allows them to recognise deficiencies and successes in communities and services.  The model itself measures the drivers of active citizenship in four domains: know-how (knowledge and skills), attitudes (feelings and identity), relations (social networks) and institutions (specifically the availability of institutions).  According to the authors, this method is more conducive to data collection and is more comprehensive, thus it is claimed to exceed four other contemporary models (Wellbeing and Resilience Measure, the Vitality Index, Clear Model, and the Citizen Audit).

Perhaps the most provocative part of the paper was a section titled “The Foundations” in which the authors presented a new concept of citizenship called republican liberalism.  This part challenges the traditional view of citizenship by being more demanding of the individual.  Civic virtue, distributive justice and public reason are the components of republican liberalism, and together they paint a picture of citizenship that is active, egalitarian and citizen-oriented.  This more demanding view of citizenship is the result of a growing confidence in the effectiveness of active citizenship.  Contextually, republican liberalism fits with the rhetoric of the Big Society and the age of austerity within the midst of insecurity amid financial woes and coalition government.

With the model established, the terms defined and the expectations stated, the authors move on to explain the five-part process known as the Civic Pulse Survey.  This procedure begins with the actual survey where the data is then used to create a Civic Pulse Profile which is translated into new initiatives and changes of which are evaluated then finally shared with other interested parties.  This new Civic Pulse Profile prides itself in the projected impact it will have on identifying communities in need and re-engineering existing services to help these communities and benefit active citizenship.

The Civic Pulse model along with the Civic Pulse Survey attempt to create a new standard and definition for measuring active citizenship that is believed to inform policymakers and benefit communities.  With a new model and a new survey, the RSA looks to tackle the problems of isolation outlined in Power Lines and in general desire to increase the effectiveness of social networks.

Brian Schroeder studies at Augustana College, Illinois and is currently working as an Intern for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

Just saying “Nudges are not enough”…is not enough! The Lords and Behaviour Change

July 21, 2011

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has this week published its report on Behaviour Change. A video of the Chair of the Committee talking about the report is also available.  TCC was pleased to have been able to make a submission, which is listed on page 79. The report is important as it sets out the clear purpose for this sort of Government activity:

The aim of much government policy is to bring about changes in people’s behaviour and so a government’s success will often depend on their ability to implement effective behaviour change interventions whilst, at the same time, avoiding significant harmful side effects.

Governments can use a variety of different types of policy interventions to change the behaviour of the population. These range from providing information or undertaking campaigns of persuasion that promote certain behaviour, to taxation and legislation.

News coverage of the report in the Guardian and the BBC focused on their broad point in the report that behavioural Nudges are not enough:

The currently influential book Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocates a range of non-regulatory interventions that seek to influence behaviour by altering the context or environment in which people choose, and seek to influence behaviour in ways which people often do not notice. This approach differs from more traditional government attempts to change behaviour, which have either used regulatory interventions or relied on overt persuasion. The current Government have taken a considerable interest in the use of “nudge interventions”. Consequently, one aim of this inquiry was to assess the evidence-base for the effectiveness of “nudges”. However, we also examined evidence for the effectiveness of other types of policy intervention, regulatory and non-regulatory, and asked whether the Government make good use of the full range of available evidence when seeking to change behaviour.

Is this a great surprise nowadays? The Nudge blog itself recognises that the definition of Nudges made by the Lords is not a magic bullet and says:

To an applied behavioral scientist, nudging is part of a broader application of behavioral science principles, which can be understood as an engagement with how a boundedly rational decision maker with a heterogeneous set of material and non-material preferences interacts with the world around them.

TCC have also made the same point in this blog: here and also here.

If it is accepted that Nudges need to be seen in context, then what other elements need to be addressed? The Lords clearly recognised there was a need for a lot more population-level research in order to test what worked and develop practical approaches that can more easily translate into deliverable interventions:

We heard evidence that, although much was understood about human behaviour from basic research, there was relatively little evidence about how this understanding could be applied in practice to change the behaviour of populations (“applied research at a population level”). We make some recommendations to address this issue.

Although we acknowledge that further applied research at a population level is needed, we also found that the available evidence supports a number of conclusions. Our central finding is that non-regulatory measures used in isolation, including “nudges”, are less likely to be effective. Effective policies often use a range of interventions.

We concluded that it is important to consider the whole range of possible interventions when policy interventions are designed. We place particular emphasis on this conclusion because the evidence we received indicated that the Government’s preference for non-regulatory interventions has encouraged officials to exclude consideration of regulatory measures when thinking about behaviour change. Though there is a lack of applied research on changing behaviour at a population level, there is other available evidence that the Government need to use to better effect. We were therefore disappointed to find that, although we received some examples of evidence-based policies, such as policies on energy-efficient products and smoking cessation services, we were also given many examples of policies that had not taken account of available evidence, including policies on food labelling and alcohol pricing.

The Lords were also good at recognising much more work needed to be done around effective evaluations, better measurement of outcomes and better co-ordination across government:

We also found that a lot more could, and should, be done to improve the evaluation of interventions. This is not only good practice but would help to build a body of research that could inform effective policies targeting population-level behaviour change.

Understanding behaviour and behaviour change are necessary for developing effective and efficient policies in all areas. Although this report draws on case studies that focus on the Department of Health and the Department for Transport, our conclusions and recommendations are directed to all Government departments.

However it was surprising how little they covered issues such as Social Marketing, which has a long pedigree and larger evidence base. Social Marketing has always recognised the mix of “operational” or “downstream” (non-regulatory) and “strategic” or “upstream” (regulatory) approaches to an effective behavioural intervention. It therefore looks as if the Committee were quite narrowly focusing on the political position of the Coalition Government over lighter regulation towards behavioural intervention rather than addressing behaviour change as a whole.

In addition the report did not consider in more detail issues such as developing learning around an effective mix of segmentation approaches. TCC has done a lot of work in the field of segmentation that goes beyond traditional geodemographics which covers the how and what of behaviour to also look at the why in terms of needs, motivations and values that drive it.

Thus perhaps the first thing we  should do is move away from the simple “Nudges are not enough” framing of the debate and look at what additional approaches are additionally required to deliver effective behavioural intervention.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

Guest Blog by Mark Wall: What does the Apprentice say about us?

July 19, 2011

The Apprentice is undoubtedly good telly, and my Wednesday nights have been blocked out for the last couple of months.  But as the hopefuls have been whittled down to the contenders, it has become increasingly depressing.  Is this really the best that we have to offer as a society?  Do these people represent us?  Or even worse, do they represent our future?  Are Jim, Helen, Sue and Tom going to be running the country, or providing us all with jobs, in the next decade?  This is worrying.

So I tuned into the final excited, but with a heavy heart.  In a way, perhaps the four contestants are a group everyman.  We are all like one or the other.

Are we like Jim the cliché king?  Unable to talk without resorting to a hallmark inspired or fortune cookie led pearl of wisdom.  He can blue sky think outside the box and has some windows we can double-click on.  Or whatever.

But like it or not, phrases have become clichés for a very good reason – they work and people understand them.  We mustn’t be Jim like and overuse them, but if we are trying to explain something, surely using language people understand, like and use themselves makes sense?

Or are we like Susie.  Obsessively confident, her self-belief was overwhelming and slightly scary.  Like the American preachers of the last 20 years she knew that if she wanted something enough, then it would come to pass.  And so the sense of joy in unbelievers when it didn’t was palpable.

And yet don’t we all slightly envy her?  And wouldn’t our communication work so much better if we actually believed it, rather than just parroting it?

And then there are the Helen followers.  Boasting about their lack of a social life and excessive work hours, they check and double-check, cross-reference and re calculate to make sure everything is just so.  They are the ones who point out our grammatical errors when they don’t really matter, and send us examples of when we had fewer, not less, mistakes.  The apostrophe police; they have a role, but not as communication leaders.

So I am genuinely thrilled that Tom won.  Tom who couldn’t project manage his way out of a paper bag, even if it there was a trail of crumbs for him to follow.  Tom who lost 8 tasks when winning was the whole, if not the only, point of the contest.  Tom who seemed unable to make a decision that people went along with and had the sweet yet sad habit of putting his hand up if he had something to say; only to be roundly ignored by the cliché filled, self-believing checkers.

I like to think Tom won because Lord Sugar knew that in the end it was Tom who would get through to people; Tom who people would actually respect and listen to; Tom who would ultimately make the difference.  The same Lord Sugar who brought Klinsmann back to White Hart Lane as a crowd pleaser when he was well past his best, knew that Tom is the one we’d want to go for a beer with, even if he would spend the evening showing us his latest nail filing back saving chair.  And he’s right.

So what does the Apprentice tell us?  Maybe that ideas work; that nice guys can win; that you don’t have to be aggressive to be a success; and that when all is said and done, good communication works.

See, I feel better already.

Mark Wall is Director of Mark Wall Communications and an Associate at The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

The Guardian reports on the increasing relevance of Values Segmentation

July 15, 2011

Allegra Stratton has written in the Guardian about the issue of Values segmentation in the context of the recent events involving News International and alleged phone hacking. This is the second article they have written on values segmentation. George Monbiot also referred to the WWF Common Cause Values research in an article in October 2010, which I have reviewed here and which shows the interesting debates within the Values research community.

The important point to make is this research is not just for politicians, but also for public bodies to better understand their communities and to address, for example, public health, behaviour change and community cohesion challenges. Yesterday the government confirmed local government’s important new public health role. Many Councils will end up inheriting duplicated local geodemographic segmentation based on both MOSAIC and Health ACORN, when what is now needed is to understand values too. Their existing geodemographics will tell them where key target groups are and how they behave, when what they need next is to understand the why in more detail and the needs and motivations that drive people to act the way they do. Addressing issues around supporting and improving ability is just not enough in a complex modern society.

Previous postings in this blog set out many of the uses of Values segmentation. What the Guardian report shows is that this is an increasingly important way of understanding communities from a public policy perspective.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

Young People and Status Dogs – TCC research leads the way

July 14, 2011

TCC has recently been conducting research for the RSPCA on young people and Status Dogs – the growing trend amongst some young people of owning a dog that is perceived to be rough or tough looking in order to improve their owner’s social status. This work has now been more widely published by Cardiff University in its own research report Status dogs, young people and criminalisation: towards a preventative strategy by Professor Gordon Hughes, Dr Jenny Maher and Claire Lawson. They say on pages 6 and 64:

Alongside this original body of qualitative evidence, a comparison is made with other qualitative research and in particular with the
only existing cross-sectional survey to date of young people and status dogs which was undertaken by The Campaign Company in London…

…Given the concerns over the limited size of the sample of young people interviewed in our fieldwork, it is important to refer to the TCC report as the only other project to date which accesses the first hand accounts of young people involved with status dogs. The following findings from the TCC project lend support to the first-hand accounts of young people uncovered in our interviews and to the interpretation as social scientists we have placed upon them.

The RSPCA commissioned TCC to conduct an initial small-scale research project into the behaviour values and motivations of young people who own status dogs. The aim of the project was to identify a ‘direction of travel’ that could inform ‘behaviour change interventions’ targeting young people on a range of issues relating to status dog ownership. These included ownership patterns, training and obedience, breeding as well as organised or informal fighting, and the welfare of status dogs. TCC research, which on this project was led by TCC MD David Evans, used the following methods:

  • A Focus group of 14 Croydon College Students;
  • Survey using PowerQ handsets in three workshops at Croydon College covering 45 students;
  • Interviews with professionals from a number of organisations;
  • 5 in-depth interviews with status dog owners.

Pages 64-67 of the Cardiff University Report summarise the key points from the TCC research. A slightly edited version of it is also set out below:

1. Terminology

  • ‘The groups were initially asked whether they understood the terminology when reference was made to status dogs and though the majority did, there was a sizeable minority that required clarification.’

2. Dog Ownership:

Access

  • Access was predominantly through friends, relatives, ad-hoc breeders & easy access on the internet: ‘One had been given a two-year old staffie by his mate because it “was a bit out of control”. In turn, ‘Only five of our thirty-two participants had obtained their dog from a rescue centre, breeder or pet shop. Almost all dogs had been obtained through informal family and friend networks – often as presents’.
  • Family members played a significant role in allowing access to dogs and looking after them financially: ‘Participants demonstrated low levels of awareness about the true costs of responsible dog ownership even those that owned dogs All of the young people appeared to live at home and relied on goodwill and funding of other family members to help feed and care for their dog’.
  • Access is too easy and has influenced desire for dogs: ‘the supply of dogs is clearly a contributory factor (for motivation). Any behaviour change programme should seek to tackle the supply issue as part of a holistic approach.’

Ownership – issues identified

  • The majority of dog owners owned a bull-breed.
  • Youths were upset and angry about being viewed negatively by public: ‘I spoke out in the conference but I felt bad about it coz everyone thinks now that all pit owners are the same. Every time I walk down the street I get funny looks or people cross over, I don’t want that, I just want to be protected’.
  • People had misconceptions of their dog due to the prevailing media stereotype: ‘What I was thinking was if they could have watched that film but then seen my dog and how she’s soft as a brush, they would have thought differently.’
  • Some of these youths also reported victimisation at the hands of other dog owners: ‘…several participants recounted tales of when they or their families have felt intimidated by dogs that have been unleashed and had been running at them.’

Motivations for and Influences on Ownership

  • There are various reasons for dog ownership – including status among some young people: ‘This means that people own dogs for a variety of reasons, however there is a dominance of ‘prospector’ outer directed values. The result of this is that the dominant narrative in areas of high status dog ownership is that many people often behave in a way that seeks to enhance their status within their community. Their behaviour, and underpinning perceptions, opinions and attitudes, reflects their need for the esteem of others. This will be key when designing any behaviour change strategy.’
  • Protection is a key motivation for ownership, and this is not necessarily a bad thing: ‘Settler (sustenance, safety and security values) dog owners: people who own dogs because it provides a real sense of security for them personally and their family… The dog therefore fulfils the sustenance need for order in addition to that of physical safety.’
  • There is still a need for basic needs – e.g. companionship, security as motivation for ownership: ‘Those with inner directed Pioneers values living in deprived communities where there is a prevalence of status dogs and sense of insecurity will still have basic sustenance needs to fulfil and these may be met by dog ownership.’
  • The youths recognise the fact that other youths are not ‘good’ owners, but neglectful and out of control. And that those involved in the research disassociated themselves from this stereotype of youth dog owner However each one said they knew others who used their dogs to either ‘look hard’ or ‘act hard’.
  • Ownership is motivated primarily by companionship, socialising and protection – identified as ‘the need for security and sustenance needs and esteem issues’.

The Role of Dogs

  • Young people feel victimised/negatively portrayed by their community. ‘Those with ‘Settler’ sustenance driven values who are not dog owners: people who see dog ownership as undermining security for them, their family and the community they live in. This group tends to view the dog owners unfavourably.’ & ‘outer directed ‘Prospectors’ who are not dog owners: people who think dog ownership within the community undermines their own wider status. This group tends to view dog ownership unfavourably even when they live in close proximity to status dogs’.
  • There is a distinction between having a dog for status and actually using it in an offence (seldom happens): ‘They believed that young men mostly use status dogs to look tough rather than engaging in criminal activity’.
  • Protection is re-active rather than proactive – it empowers young people: ‘Young men feel not only safer walking with their dog but feel more secure and empowered by its presence.’

3. Problematic Forms of Behaviour among Dog Owners

Breeding

  • Young people are involved in accidental breeding and were unprepared for this: ‘Several participants had bred their dogs and others had been closely involved in the breeding of dogs by close family or friends. Often breeding would be accidental and with the owner not having any formal training or even basic information about the welfare of the mother or puppies’.

Training

  • The prevailing use of punitive measures to train dogs and lack of training skills: ‘Given that we also found an almost universal belief that to train a dog using play and reward for good behaviour would result in failure, any behaviour change strategy may need to focus on individuals gaining control through treating their dog better.’ Furthermore, ‘The prevailing view was that control and obedience would be achieved through administering punishment for bad behaviour.’
  • There is a lack of formal training – mostly through peers and often not very good advice: ‘we also identified that the information most owners have about how to train or care for their dogs is word of mouth and often provided or influenced by role models who are at best misinformed, and at worst malign. Given the two previous key findings, this is a significant opportunity to design interventions that work better for dog owners to meet their underlying values’.
  • Youths predominantly trained their dogs themselves and felt they had good control over them: ‘They all said that they had trained their dogs themselves: “I understand what they were saying, and that, but we shouldn’t all be labelled as bad. I trained my dog and she obeys my every word no matter where we are or what we are doing”’
  • Young people believed their training methods were appropriate – problem with definition, rather than desire to be cruel: ‘The line between what constitutes mistreatment and abuse and corrective (and therefore acceptable) punishment is somewhat blurred. But there was universal acceptance of punishment to control and train dogs across values modes groups’.

The Link to Criminality

  • There is a link to ad-hoc and accidental dog fighting rather than organised due to variety of reasons – lack of control or understanding and cultural norm: ‘No-one we spoke to admitted to having been present at a formal dog fight. But there were anecdotes about formal fights taking place in the area or nearby. Accidental or informal fights were mentioned as occurring. The reasons for this ranged from behavioural issues – simply an owner being unable to control a dog, to rather more ritualised behaviour.’
  • There are some young people who engage in purposeful criminal behaviour with dogs, however, this is not the majority: ‘there is a relatively small but destructive group of young status dog owners who use their dogs as weapons to assist in criminal activities and to fight other dogs in formal and informal settings. They provide the stereotype of the urban status dog owner. It is likely that these owners will have trained their dogs to be aggressive by using unlawful training techniques.’

4. Responding to Status Dogs

Education

  • The reluctance of young people to engage with training: ‘This reluctance is compounded by a belief that any advice or training would not be appropriate for them as it would be “too regimented”.’
  • The need for FREE dog training classes, but delivery/deliverer was important: ‘police should train ‘scouts’/community leaders in how to train young people to control their dogs and teach dog welfare programmes. These could take place in open spaces or community centres close to home. Again – it was felt that people would not attend if costs were involved.’ In turn ‘the Police were not considered to be an acceptable training provider’.
  • The need for engaging key dog owners (gatekeepers) in the community to communicate with youths: ‘Engaging existing dog owners within communities to become formal and informal trainers and reference points for the appropriate training for status dogs. This should be proactive explicitly designed to support dog owners achieve their personal goals whilst communicating important messaging about dog ownership. Empowering trainers and those who they train to gain an enhanced status position within their local community through reward and community recognition. This could include messaging in community media and events including those specifically directed at young people’. ‘Working with appropriate agencies we would develop a community-focused localised ‘Effective Street Dog Training’ programme targeted at status dog owners. This training would not only educate, but would support the behaviour change necessary to move people to providing higher standards of welfare appropriate to their dog and their circumstances. We believe we have already identified several status dog owners who would make effective participants in a pilot programme.’
  • The  need for early education in schools: ‘The design and delivery of a programme in schools using dog owners working with expert agencies.’

Impact of the  Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) and Enforcement

  • The use of services is limited by fear of seizure, but used RSPCA and other welfare agencies somewhat when needed most: ‘However, we believe that there is evidence to suggest that a minority of status dog owners are prepared to engage with formal agencies about the welfare of their and other animals (indeed several mentioned contacting the RSCPA out of concern for the mistreatment of other animals), but a majority were uncomfortable about seeking advice or assistance due to concern about having their dog seized’.
  • The focus on breeds, and ad-hoc breeding may result in bigger more dangerous breeds: ‘predict a growth in the ownership of bigger and more powerful dogs going forward which will create an even greater climate of fear and risk of instability within communities’.

This is pioneering research in an area where behaviour may have to be modified in a positive direction over a sustained period. This may also have to be communicated to young people for very different motivational reasons than many public bodies and their staff necessarily would adopt. Much of the focus will be shifting the achievement of self-esteem in more pro-social ways. This research is not just relevant to the RSPCA but also to the Police and Local Government. The latter might, for example, be able to link improved dog training to engaging over health and well-being with young men under their future public health responsibilities.

TCC have blogged before that a generic values based segmentation approach enables one to make the linkages between different areas of public policy such as community cohesion, public health, the Big Society and Status Dogs.  This is in contrast to the continuous creation of separate forms of segmentation for each public policy challenge which is often the approach in many other research projects.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company. I would also like to thank TCC MD David Evans for his suggestions regarding this blog posting. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

Guest Blog by Mark Wall: The Death of Spin

July 13, 2011

I hope I’m not being unfair when I say that it’s hard to get excited by the Swiss.   I have nothing against them.  In fact I do not know anyone who has, but they have few real supporters.  There are not many who will lead the charge to support them. Not many people declare themselves Swissophiles over the cheese at dinner parties.

Until now: now I am a convert.  The Times reports today that a new Swiss political party has been set up – The Anti Power Point Party.  And it already has 1000 members.  Their leader, Matthias Poehm, claims that £308bn could be saved globally by ending soporific presentations.  His aim – which he claims is completely serious – is to garner 100,000 signatures to trigger a referendum to ban PowerPoint.  In that phrase so beloved of sub editors Microsoft: “declined to comment”.

We have all suffered “death by PowerPoint” – and to be fair many of us have clicked the mouse that made the kill.  The simple fact is that powerpoint is easy.  It’s the Ready Brek of presentational tools. We pour hot words on a screen, we make it spin around a bit – and if we are brave and have been on a course or two we add some clip art and colour things in.  The uber-geeks add video.

And we think we have communicated.  When in fact we have done nothing of the sort.

We may have broadcast some thoughts.  We may have put some concepts out for a response.  We have probably saved ourselves the hassle of making prompt-cards, because we’ve shared them with everyone in three foot text on a glowing wall. We may even have said something worth hearing, although it was very possibly sucked into the vortex of spinning text.  But we have not communicated.

We only really communicate when we engage.  We communicate when we understand our listeners and make the effort to see what values we share – or disagree on.  We communicate when we listen, understand and respond.  We communicate when we start and then drive a conversation, not being absolutely sure where it will lead us or what conclusions we will arrive at. It’s a dialectic of listening and responding, that leads us into places we didn’t plan to travel to.

Of course, this is not just about PowerPoint.  Like other communication tools (email and the CC button spring to mind) they can be very useful, but if we are not careful we can just end up hiding behind them.

Good communicators are people who work dialectically. They engage.  And in engaging they learn, adjust, develop and change.  They use PowerPoint, but they do not allow PowerPoint to use them.

So I am not sure whether Mr  Poehm will succeed.  But his crusade should make us all dump the spinning text and work harder to really communicate and produce values driven, audience designed, engaged communication.

Although after some consideration, I could get quite passionate about Emmenthal.

Mark Wall is Director of Mark Wall Communications and an Associate at The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

New Campaigns: Print Media held to account by Social Media?

July 8, 2011

The closure of the News of the World by News International is being signaled as a major victory for social media over traditional print media. Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, echoing a famous political Sun headline from 1992 tweeted:

John Prescott
The News of the World is closing. It’s Twitter Wot Won It! But this won’t stop us Murdoch. #NOTW

Twitter was seen as an important mode of communication in the “Arab Spring“. It also seems to have been important in what might now be dubbed the British “Media Summer”.
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So what new did we see new in this campaign? The most interesting was the rapid Twitter bombardment of advertisers asking them to disinvest from the paper. It came in three phases:

1. A #NOTW hashtag that brought all those with an initial concern together. This enabled both those involved and those commenting to express their view, self-organise and collaborate. This was reinforced by websites like Mumsnet also organising online discussions.
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2. Once it was clear that advertisers were to be the main target of people’s immediate anger, a Twitterer developed this page to automate the process of tweeting a message to the companies. When companies did not respond fast enough it was followed by this site, complete with a spreadsheet containing the names and e-mail addresses of the chief executives at firms said to advertise with the News of the World.
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3. The #NOTW hashtag was also used to advertise the campaign by the “people-power web movement Avaaz to submit objections to Ofcom over the News International takeover of the remaining 61% of BSkyB shares. As a result over 150,000 people submitted these and this is likely to cause delay to the decision as the Minister and regulator will have to demonstrate they have read the objections. Avaaz showed their level of organisation and resources by funding their own opinion poll on public perceptions to the takeover.

The speed of this was breathtaking. However let’s also recognise that not everyone was directly part of this campaign. Indeed a poll showed that 23% of New of the World readers, through behavioural habit, loyalty, or perhaps in reaction to what they might have seen as synthetic anger from what they perceived as the ‘liberal media’, still intended to buy prior to the closure announcement. If the News of the World had continued, how would these people have felt this Sunday if they had been criticised for a purchase? Whatever views we might hold, how much do we consider how people feel who did see the News of the World as an institution they trusted over support for victims of crime or our armed forces and, according to the most recent polls, did want to see continue? Many of them will also feel let down too, but for very different motivational reasons than those who just disliked Rupert Murdoch, his executives and his news organisation. People’s values do count here. Perhaps, as the Observer newspaper suggested, the increasing public demand for outer-directed celebrity news stories encouraged the culture that has been exposed in the News of the World?

How far do we reach out beyond the inner directed who tend to dominate this sort of online campaigning activity. Richard Wilson of Izwe  in his new column in the Guardian  has some suggestions for widening involvement and these are the sort of things TCC would also recommend.
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There are lessons here for public organisations too. If a local authority social services department or hospital comes under substantial online criticism for a significantly bad action or decision, it may well be reformed as a result, but unlike a newspaper, it is too important to the people it serves to be simply shut down overnight. Public organisations in those situations would need to rebuild their reputation if they face a strong social media campaign. This requires both online and offline engagement.

After these recent events, is the future more personalised short-termist online media which works off the reputation of its owner for the period of time that they are perceived as relevant. This week we have seen the launch of Huffington Post UK and Dale and Co as new media outlets. Such organisations will only survive if the reputation of their proprietor and operators is good. The role of ethics in media reporting is thus likely to rise whatever regulatory bodies are established to replace the Press Complaints Commission.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.

Can groups and social networks cure social Ills?

July 6, 2011

Tina Rosenberg, has written a book Join the Club which gives insight into groups and the influence of peer pressure. It is being published in the UK in August, though the US version is available online. It was recently reviewed by the economist Jeffrey Sachs.

The book is a series of case studies that demonstrate the case for using group power to change communities and neighbourhoods, which may then have a wider societal impact. Rosenberg argues that from problems as serious as AIDS, alcoholism and crime to loneliness and weight loss, groups can solve the problems created by the decline in some types of community and can also be used to change both personal and political behaviour.

Sachs is right to question how impact can be maintained in the long-term as often the research does not go on for long enough periods. However there is a great benefit in personal well-being in belonging to a community and that too is a worthy goal. David Brooks in his book The Social Animal says, “Research over the past thirty years makes it clear that what the inner mind really wants is connection…Joining a group that meets just once a month produces the same increase in happiness as doubling your income.” 

TCC would argue that as well as understanding the power of groups, one also needs to understand the more informal social networks and their values that exist alongside more formal groups. These all contribute together to create social norms, social proof and peer pressure. We have blogged about that here, saying:

We would argue from our work in similar communities – especially around community cohesion issues – that understanding social networks is not enough on its own and one has to understand the values within a community which impact on people’s attitudes towards connection with others.

Let me give some examples. Those with sustenance, safety and security values may see very small closely social networks creating bonding social capital as reassuring, whilst those with inner directed values enjoy the weak links of widely distributed social networks generating bridging social capital and see networking as fundamental to what they do in life.

The RSA has done some pioneering work mapping social networks, but more insight is clearly needed. TCC is now taking this research further and is currently working with a local authority in the north of England on mapping social networks and understanding how values work within them. We will report further on our findings.

Understanding the power of groups, social networks and values should provide a wider set of policy tools for public, private and voluntary bodies to engage with and promote pro-social behaviours with a wide range of communities in an increasingly diverse and complex society.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.