Bridging divides

Project: Research project (funded)Research

Project Details

Layman's description

Much current government policy and initiatives is aimed at encouraging pro-environmental behaviour change (PEBC) amongst organisations and individuals to ameliorate environmental pollution and the drivers of climate change. Pro-environmental behaviour means behaviour that consciously seeks to minimize the negative impact of one's actions on the natural and built world (e.g. minimize resource and energy consumption, use of non-toxic substances, reduce waste production, etc.).Pro-environmental behaviour can be viewed as a mixture of self-interest (e.g. to pursue a strategy that minimises one's own health risks) and of concern for other people, the next generation, other species, or whole ecosystems (e.g. preventing air pollution that may cause risks for others' health and/or the global climate).

A major premise of such behaviour change programmes has been that providing information that improves knowledge leads to greater sensitivity toward the environment, which in turn will encourage individuals to engage in more responsible ways toward the environment. It may be hoped that pro-environmental behaviour undertaken in one social sphere (home, work, church, sports club) might translate to how people behave in these other settings for example, recycling or energy efficiency in the workplace leads to matching patterns in other settings. However, there is little evidence of how people actually translate and transfer their activities between these different settings. Managing the conflict between work and home domains has become an increasingly pressing issue. Different places varying patterns of what is acceptable practice that will have a strong influence on the perceived options of behaviour for individuals. People have a tendency of wanting to fit in - and behave as their neighbours and peers behave. People may operate to one set of beliefs in the home setting for example, but do not transfer this behaviour to their work place and vice-versa.

In order to make the transitions to a more sustainable society it will be necessary to gain a better understanding of whether, how and why these disconnects in behaviour occur. More importantly there is the challenge of identifying and developing individual or community led solutions to overcome these disconnections. The arts and humanities approaches and methods offers a unique way of identifying and investigating these behaviour choices that has not been utilised extensively before in this field.

This project piloted an approach combining participatory diagramming with co-creation and analysis of art pieces to investigate these choices, barriers and opportunities with approximately 50 community participants. The use of visual methodologies allowed people to express information and feelings that are difficult to capture using other approaches. They were intended to create a more trusting atmosphere that enhances participant sharing. The creative process was also intended to stimulate amongst participants new personal insights. For example, it has been argued that through the process of producing a drawing, the drawer is simultaneously constructing the knowledge represented in the drawing and the actual product of the drawing itself.

Participants were recruited from a cross-section of businesses representing a spectrum of strong to weak environmental policies and corresponding home patterns of behaviour. This allowed us to look at the spectrum of connections and disconnections between home based actions and work place behaviour. The novel approaches piloted by this scoping study identified new opportunities and methods for exploring the issues of encouraging and embedding pro-environmental behaviour across society. This topic has continuing policy relevance both in the UK but also internationally. This could make the project findings relevant to a wide range of audience including policy makers, businesses environmental organisations.
Effective start/end date1/02/1331/03/14


  • AHRC: £24,883.29