Know how to influence
There are a few golden rules to follow to maximize the impact of your engagement:
Create a sense of empowerment among the people you're engaging. Be clear and direct to make sure they know what you want them to do, how to do it and the resources they have available to help them. Work to make the new behavior's status desirable wherever possible, keeping it personal and relevant.
The Sister Classrooms project found that you achieve far more if you actively engage with students rather than passively lecturing at them. In one Brazilian school, students initiated a weekly morning radio show that was broadcast throughout the school. Students created the material themselves from topical local issues related to lifecycle analysis, environmental awareness and global citizenship.
Cultivate a sense of optimism and opportunity around the changes you are trying to create. Make the actions as simple as possible, whilst also being positive and attractive. Give feedback and thanks where appropriate for actions people have taken and the successes they have achieved. This optimistic approach will encourage further success and affirm positive behaviors.
YouthXchange made all their messages optimistic and positive to appeal to their young audience. This made them able to build an energetic network of young people across the areas
Raise awareness of people's potential to improve their immediate surroundings and the global environment. This needs to be seen in the context of the bigger picture so they can appreciate how their actions make a real difference. The Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles showed that people are aware of the big picture, but they don't always realize the power they have to make a difference and change things.
The Global Survey on Sustainable Lifestyles collected visions from people around the world, showing common desires and aspirations. It also showed that people are aware of the big picture but they don't always realize the power they have to make a difference and change things. People must be shown that creating sustainable lifestyles in their local areas can make a big difference to their quality of life.
"It is somewhat easy, the way it is right now. Why would someone care about damages that would happen in a far away future?" (Lebanon, GSSL 2010)
We need to make sustainable lifestyles feel normal and give people a sense of being part of a worldwide movement. It is this notion of ‘positive conformity' that helps generate support for initiatives. Creative Communities enabled connections and showed people that others, in various parts of the world, are taking action to solve similar challenges.
Drop the jargon:
Scientific words tend not to be understood by the public e.g. biodiversity or renewable energy, using them risks losing the attention of your listener. Terms like climate change are more readily understood by the public, but they're not provoking enough to inspire action. Use words, phrases or images that people relate to.
For more information on developing positive messages read Communicating Sustainability, another Task Force project: http://www.unep.fr/shared/publications/pdf/DTIx0679xPA-CommunicatingEN.pdf