Community-Based Social Marketing offers strategies to change society, one mind at a time
This June, several CEE staffers attended a two-day workshop in St. Paul about Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM). Designed as an introduction to this increasingly popular social change approach, the workshop’s concepts immediately resonated with many aspects of CEE’s work. With fresh perspectives from what we learned, below are a few specific applications we’re bringing home to our own programs.
As background, the CBSM approach asserts that individual behavior change is the key to broad and sustainable social change — you can’t change the world without changing the actions of people living in it. Makes sense, but tackling individual behavior on a grand scale is a complex task, requiring deep understanding of the mind frames behind our actions. From the CBSM website: “Community-based social marketing draws heavily on research in social psychology, which indicates that initiatives to promote behavior change are often most effective when they are carried out at the community level and involve direct contact with people.”
Through presentations and discussions facilitated by CBSM authority Doug McKenzie-Mohr, we (and dozens of nonprofit and government staffers from around the country) learned about the five steps of community-based social marketing: selecting behaviors, identifying barriers, developing strategies, conducting pilots, and broad scale implementation. Case studies helped illustrate the potential power of various steps, and small group discussions provided opportunities for considering practical ties to several areas of our work:
Community outreach specialist Hannah Strong observed many CBSM engagement strategies that CEE already uses, as well as plenty of opportunities to tweak our approach moving forward. It is valuable to recognize that conventional advertising doesn’t necessarily translate well into achieving sustainable behavior change. Rather than expensive advertising, CBSM advocates a sequenced process that – in CEE’s case – could start with in-depth research into both the barriers and the benefits for a homeowner to complete insulation and air-sealing work. Once identified, assessed, and prioritized, these factors can help identify the most effective strategies to address the needs of the community and move in a sustainable direction. Hannah looks forward to applying CBSM strategies, such as incorporating public and durable commitments into CEE’s residential engagement partnership with the City of Minneapolis, opening new pathways for residents to make energy-saving home improvements.
BSM strategies will be particularly useful for the City of Minneapolis’ building benchmarking program, for which CEE provides technical and outreach expertise. All large commercial buildings are required to submit annual energy performance data to the City – a practice that helps building owners and managers become more aware of energy efficiency in their buildings, and informs them of their performance relative to similar buildings. At CEE, Katie Jones Schmitt is developing an outreach strategy incorporating CBSM principles to help participating buildings improve their energy efficiency, paying special attention to social science-based research to inform her strategies. Rather than speculating on barriers that might be holding back actions on energy efficiency, Katie is drawing directly from the studies’ data to leverage strategies that have worked well in other cities.
Home sales and energy efficiency
Engagement coordinator Megan Hoye sees promise for CBSM in professional communities. In 2014, CEE launched the Energy Fit Homes℠ certification program, paired with Realtor® outreach and education. Designed specifically for older homes, certification depends on meeting defined energy efficiency standards that are easily measured and verifiable. Although the real estate community has expressed interest in the program, making Energy Fit Homes a part of daily conversations with homebuyers and sellers is a challenge because it requires adopting a completely new behavior. To ease this shift, CEE has started providing opportunities for residential real estate agents to make voluntary commitments, and is considering potential behavioral triggers to prompt certification discussions at opportune times. Using CBSM to engage Realtors®, CEE aims to markedly increase the pool of certified homes and help our region meet emerging market demands for energy efficiency in home buying.
CEE is committed to providing staff with opportunities for professional development, because ongoing learning helps inspire and inform our work. With a new set of tools ranging from familiar to excitingly foreign, our crew of workshop attendees will continue looking for the best leverage points for Community-Based Social Marketing in our own strategies for lasting change.