The Do Nation gang came in to give a ‘Lunch & Learn’ at Futerra the other week and as well as inspiring us all with the concept and action of Do Nation we also touched on some of the conversational and communications challenges that ‘Do-ers’ can face. Because the idea of donated actions rather than simple cash is novel, it tends to actively engage people much more (obviously part of the clever psychological positioning of the whole project!).
It is the opposite of passive cash sponsorship, where a no-brain contribution can assuage or literally ‘offset’ personal guilt (in a way that genius satirists www.cheatneutral.com did for infidelity). The problem with this, and perhaps personal carbon offsetting generally is that it effectively offers a form of ‘get out of jail free’ where no behavior change is required or indeed expected. As such it tends to compound existing habits and a ‘business as usual’ approach or worse generate some form of psychological ‘Rebound Effect’.
What’s great about Do Nation is the personal aspect of the action ‘pledge’. We know from our ‘New Rules’ on behavior change that for pledges to be meaningful they need to be made to someone’s face and that the pledger has to believe that the person they’re pledging to actually gives a monkey whether they fulfill their commitment or not. Do Nation meets these criteria rather elegantly!
The challenge then lies in the likely bombardment of questions that follow a ‘Do-er’ setting up their challenge and inviting donated actions from their family and friends. ‘Why should I be doing this? What difference will it make? Which actions really count? What is climate change all about anyway’ (the last question may take a little longer to unpick!).
So to help Do-ers respond to their sponsors I’ve tweaked our own original ‘10 Rules for Communicating Sustainability‘ as a bit of guidance on what to say and how to say it…
1. Big Picture: Blow myths – there’s a whole plethora of misinformation swirling around but it’s important that Do-ers help their sponsors understand the overall context of action on climate change, that clear, creative and collective action can really make a tangible difference.
2. Technically correct: The carbon ranking of different Do Actions helps people understand which behavior changes really count and the cumulative quantitative difference that we can collectively make.
3. Be cool: The adventures and challenges that Do Nation people undertake are fantastically inspiring and act as a powerful lure to draw ‘non-environmentally’ minded folk into action.
4. Belong: Together we can make huge differences, by connecting with each other and using peer to peer communication we can all drive behavior change, why wouldn’t you want to be involved?
5. Only stories work: The narratives that underpin people’s challenges are extremely compelling, they’re emotional stories of physical and mental endurance that people can empathise with and relate to – tell them!
6. Optimism: We can all do this! Behaviour change is not all about self-sacrifice and feeling guilty but a better way of living. Rather than passively donating money you too can be actively involved in Do Nation as a ‘doing’ sponsor.
7. Glory button: You’re amazing. We’re amazing. Let’s go out and do amazing things together and who knows we might all feel a bit better about ourselves and maybe change the world a little.
8. Change is for all: So, you’re not the typical sort of person or do-gooder that does sponsored events or sponsors others…well Do Nation offers a very different way of getting involved, so even if you’re totally skint you can still play a crucial part.
9. We need more heroes: Whether it’s cycling to Morocco, climbing a building using only your teeth, or swimming across an icy lake, Do-ers are impressive, bold and interesting people – but so are the sponsors that incentivize them to complete their challenges. We can all be heroes.
10. Personal circle: Do Nation perfectly connects big issues like climate change directly to people’s everyday lives. You can ‘do’ something everyday.
You can read more about Futerra’s approach on our website but hopefully these ground-rules will help Do-ers talk about their challenges and the Do Nation more effectively. Me? I’m off to see the dentist before attempting to scale the enormous toothpick that is the Shard…
Ed Gillespie is Co-Founder of Futerra Sustainability Communications, follow him on Twitter via @frucool.