Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Making behavioural change fun !

There has been a lot of discussion over the last few years about the need to encourage people to change their behaviour - specially in relation to transport because of issues such as congestion, air pollution, obesity (lack of exercise) and the need to reduce C02 emissions.

One lesson that has not always been learned (or remembered) is the need to make the paths to changing behaviour less threatening and even fun!

Here are some interesting examples from the Fun Theory.com website (an initiative from Volkswagen). The Piano Stairs project wanted to see if they could get more people to choose the stairs by making it fun to do.  Watch the video and see for yourself.

According to the Fun Theory.com website it is "dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better."

Giuseppe Lo Bocchiaro has submitted a more recent entry entitled Just Cycle It  with a suggestion to local authorities about how to encourage more people to cycle in cities.

"Cycle in the city is a good thing! We intend to promote the use of bikes in the city. More bikes mean fewer cars in the streets and a more beautiful city. The way to promote the use of bikes is simple! The local administration gives the bikers an odometer. The bikers who are moving in the city, augment the kilometres in the odometer. When the bikers want, comes back to the local administration and shows the kilometres they made. The local administration gives some gifts to the bikers such as services, tax deductions, theater tickets etc. In relation to the kilometres they made. So the more you ride your bike the more presents the administration gives you. ENJOY!"

So if we want to see more people cycling in Greater Manchester, our challenge for 2010 (and beyond) is to come up with fun and attractive ways to encourage more people to cycle.  I wonder if any local authorities or businesses would consider the rewards schemes as suggested in the Just Cycle It example?

There should be plenty of opportunities for such initiatives in Spring 2010, when Manchester should see the launch of the Points4Life scheme. According to the website the scheme is a "new loyalty programme which will encourage people to be healthier. It will take knowledge, learnings and technology from the private sector, where many loyalty programmes run very successfully and apply them to the public sector. Through the use of government, local authority and private sector funding Points4Life will encourage Mancunians to be healthier in a range of ways including what they eat and doing more exercise."

The Points4Life scheme has set an objective to recruit 20-25% of the Manchester population to be involved, although it is hoped to be able to achieve 40% participation in the scheme over a three year period, plus 20% of those commuting to the city.

The key behaviour change outcomes that the programme is seeking to influence are:
  • people are more physically active
  • people eat a healthier diet,
  • people maintain a healthy weight;
  • people stop smoking;
  • people limit their alcohol consumption to nationally recommended levels;
  • people take up screening opportunities offered through the health service.

Part of the national Change4Life programme, Manchester has been chosen as the test bed for this scheme and has received £4.6 million funding from the NHS. We look forward to some fun and rewarding ideas to provide incentives to encourage more people to cycle in Manchester.

Happy New Year.

PS.  Oh, and any suggestions where we could install a Piano Stairs in Greater Manchester and who might fund it would be most welcome!

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