August Meetup: behavioural change, @Stop Funding Hate, and why we should care about it


Written by Alina Kadyrova, Tech for Good Live

Long-time ago when the skies were blue, and the weather was nice (also known as August) we had a chance to learn about behavioural changes and the role of digital in it.

Why should we care about ‘behavioural change’ that sounds like a subject of a dusty library book? Mainly because all of us are involved in it, whether we want it or not. We change the behaviour of people around us – for example, by telling a friend to try this restaurant on the corner. Our behaviour is changed by someone else – think about that another pair of socks you put in your basket while waiting at the cashiers. Sounds familiar?

What do we know about behavioural change? Not enough, apparently. Scientists of different fields have spent decades looking at how people make decisions and how one can influence it. Broadly, what affects the way we act is genetics, social interactions, and environment around. But what makes us change our behaviour is a bit complex than just a list of bullet points. At least, scientists have not agreed on this and developed ten different theories of behavioural change – a look at this Wikipedia article if interested.

Policy-makers are very interested in behavioural change too. Some programs encourage you to cycle to work, drink more water, spend more time outdoors. Some countries establish departments advising the government on how to design policies delivering behavioural change - in the UK, there is a Behavioural Insights Team that works with this kind of tasks. Sometimes, analysis of your online behaviour and slight adjustments of the ads you see on Facebook can lead to change is Presidential elections in some countries (yep, that’s the US elections I am referring to).

Role of the digital in behavioural change is crucial. With Statista reporting about 2 hours spent on social media every day, digital becomes that platform where crazy things happen. It is now the new reality when a piece of closing see in influencer’s Instagram can make a company’s annual profit in a month, and also when retweeting, sharing and tagging have more power than ever before.

 When having this power of hashtags, likes, comments and shares – why not use it to make the world a better place? That is what our speakers were talking about.

Our first speaker, Catarina Nyberg, is a behavioural scientist doing research environment user experience, service and information design. Catharina's presentation introduced us to the academic evidence on how we can design initiatives that lead to behavioural change.

Designing a good behavioural change campaign is a challenge. Sometimes the campaigns that mean well manage to go the opposite direction – for example, Citizens' advice released a document on how to work with Black and Asian minorities and managed to use many racist stereotypes in it. But what is ‘good behavioural campaign’ anyway? How and when do we measure behavioural change? How do we make sure our campaign will promote desired behaviour and not the opposite? How do we ensure that a tool/solution we suggest fits the everyday life of the users?

One of the toolkits that help to design and evaluate behavioural change interventions is Behavioural Change Wheel, which combines all academic wisdom on ‘what works’ in behavioural change aimed at different functions (educating, persuading, enabling, etc.) in different policy fields (environment, service provision, regulation, etc.). The core of the wheel is three factors that influence behaviour – capability (psychological and physical capacity to engage), motivation (all processes that make us do something), opportunity (outside factors that help with action). The Wheel is a great structured approach, go check it out if interested.

The next speaker,  Richard Wilson from Stop Funding Hate,  brought us practical evidence on how behavioural change occurs. In 2016, around the times of Brexit referendum, the anti-refugee and anti-migrant discourse were on the rise in national newspapers such as Daily Mail, Sun and Daily Express. Richard wanted to do something about it and set up a small group on Facebook to discuss whether they can call out paper advertisers to stop funding the hate ads. A video later, the campaign got huge popularity with over 3 million views and many people reaching out with similar concerns.

Things started to change in a few months after starting the campaign. Lego issued a statement about withdrawing all adverts from Daily Mail, and soon after some other companies such as Body Shop joined. The campaign spread to other counties challenging hate advertisers in Denmark, Germany and the US.

On the advertising side, the things changed in 2018 when The Sun apologised for calling African migrants ‘cockroaches’, and Daily Mail replaced an editor and promised to ‘detoxify’ the content. It is the beginning of a long road on changing the hate being a part of advertising models. Some companies and international organisations have taken steps forward and taking the economics of hate seriously.

Stop Funding Hate matters a lot to me because I am a migrant, so are many of my friends in the UK. Living in my home country, I wasn’t always aware of the migration hate; it was some sort of elusive and ‘that-does-not-touch-me-and-I-do-not-care’ thing but started to feel much more real when I became a migrant myself. All the odd looks on a bus when you speak in your language on the phone, ‘so when are you going back’ kind of questions and the weirdest assumptions on how you got into this country. No matter how ‘valuable’ you are for the economy and society in your new country, at some point you understand that you are still portrayed as a ‘not good enough one’ by the newspapers with millions of readers. Sad, isn’t it? Digital sphere gives us a lot of ways to rebalance this power and raise our voices when something is not ok. Let’s use it this power to stop funding hate, shall we?

Join us next Thursday when we will talk about Climate Crisis. The world is burning and many of us are already working hard to stop it. Want to know how you can help? Join us on October 17 at the Federation.

Alina Kadyrova, Tech for Good Live

Alina Kadyrova