Make sure everyone 'does their bit'

Individuals can feel helpless in the face of big problems like climate change, unless everybody contributes to solving them. People do not want to make useless sacrifices, but want to see that their efforts are making a difference.

The key issue here is that your target groups need to know that others are ‘doing their bit’ or ‘pulling their weight’ and that people are working together to solve a common problem.
What you need to do: 

Here are some ways to help people see that others are contributing, too:

  • Public commitments and pledges: Public commitments and pledge campaigns can help to show your target group that many other people are also concerned and are committed to taking action.
  • Monitor collective achievements: Public, visible displays of the collective achievements highlight that others are also taking action and that the sum of these individual actions is collectively making a difference.
  • Show the effects of actions on the local level: even if your target group and the people around them work together to mitigate climate change, the impact of this on the global climate is likely to be small. Aggregating energy saving and carbon reduction achievements on the local level may serve as an ‘intermediary step’ that provides motivation.
When does it work?: 
This tool is likely to have positive effects when the goal is important, commonly accepted and people are convinced of its urgency. In particular:
  • when you can convince quite large numbers of people to join up (people want to feel connected to your message and the change you are advocating)
  • when you can ensure that people will follow up on commitments
  • when you have evidence to show of common achievements (your programme is well underway and has provided some success)
  • when you programme is fairly large-scale and long-term. Commitments may not change behaviour in short-term projects, but they may be helpful in raising awareness and making public concern visible.
What do you need to look out for: 
Making sure everyone contributes may be difficult, especially for small-scale projects. It may not work:
  • if you can’t get sufficient numbers of people to join
  • if the change you propose is too difficult to achieve (too costly, too drastic)
  • if commitments are ‘just words’ and there is no real action
  • if no follow-up can be ensured