Use social support and social pressure

Social influence is important in changing energy use patterns, since energy use is influenced by norms and social conventions. People also learn many behaviours directly by copying (modelling) others . Social support is important for many reasons: it can provide ‘moral support’ and reinforce commitment, but it can also provide practical ‘how to support’ through peer-to-peer advice. Social pressure is the opposite side of the coin.

The key issue here is that your target group is encouraged to change because others, whose opinion matters or who they admire, display their commitment to change energy related behavior. When sufficient numbers of people adopt the new behaviour, it becomes ‘normal’ and appropriate.
What you need to do: 

Here are some alternative ways to use social support and social pressure:

When does it work?: 
This tool is likely to have some positive effect in most situations. It is particular useful:
  • when the proposed change is fairly easy to adopt
  • when it is clear who are socially central or admired figures in the community
  • when you are familiar with the social dynamics in your project’s context
What do you need to look out for: 

► It may be difficult to predict, manage and measure how social support and social pressure work in a particular context

► It may be easy to engage a few central persons, but this does not guarantee that you reach the majority of your target group

► If you want to use celebrities or other admired figures, make sure they are really admired and consistently set a good example

► You should be careful with social pressure: If the change is really difficult to make (for example, a large investment), pressure may provoke a counter-reaction