Category Archives: Behaviour Change

What happened to me when I invested in social business Birdsong

Like most of us I am a regular charitable donor. Whether supporting your charity run or texting cash for a DEC appeal. I am there. To me it does not matter if you finish the marathon in super speedy time. I have donated because you asked me to support a cause that you care about.

I have even pre-bought product through crowdfunding. It was great knowing the I had helped get something out into the market by buying to before it was made. I got my purchase. 

But I have never before invested until now, until Birdsong, the ethical online clothes store did their first ever raise. I am now an investor – get me!

I know the team – they are awesome. I trust their values and that they can deliver it. But most of all the business they have built is about solving a real problem.No sweatshop. No Photoshop. So my contribution is 99% motivated by the same drivers as i would make a charitable donation.

So when I hit the button to make my small £25 contribution I expected it to feel like making a charitable donation. After all I was claiming a stake it because I care about what they doing and if I never got the money back I won’t really miss it.  

What actual happened was something very different. I had invested! I don’t just mean cash wise. I became personally invested in making what they do successful because I am bound to them now in some small way as they continue their business journey. 

When they hit their target I didn’t just say well done. I told my mates that this was something they should invest in too. I wanted them to raise more because I have skin in the game. 

I didn’t just ‘donate’ and forget. I found myself relishing every update on their progress and will continue to do so, because nestling in amongst the big investors is my £25. I am now in a relationship with an ethical company that has a future stretching before it!

Just wait till Christmas, my Facebook will be full of the great ways you can gift from ‘my’ company Birdsong.

By investing £25 they also got a bit of me, an ambassador, a customer and a loyal good word for the long-term. This blog 😉

If you have never invested before then I encourage you to try it. Dip your toe in the water with as little as £10 and see how it feels.  Birdsong’s equity crowdfunding is still open (for one more day). It’s where all the ‘best’ investor are putting their money right now!

(please excuse my bad spelling and typo’s – my autocorrect is on a meditation retreat!)

A MeetUp about MeetUps

jussi no back

Written by Jussi Tolvi

The first Building Online Communities of 2016 had Robert Fenton from Hipsters, Hackers & Hustlers (aka the Triple H) doing a “fireside chat” with Laura from Club Soda. Robert told the story of how he took over a dying MeetUp group with a couple hundred members, and turned it into the biggest tech meetup in London, with 25,000 members, all from organic growth.

The topic of the day was using MeetUps to build communities, and Robert talked about both the good things of MeetUp.com (it works for small groups, lots of people are there already) and the bad ones (getting data and metrics out of the system is hard if not impossible, difficult to use). For triple H, Robert now uses Eventbrite for ticketing, with MeetUp just as a marketing channel, and they are also building their very own online platform, with some quite exciting features to come.

He also talked about how much work needs to go into organising events, especially if you use several event platforms to draw more people in (HHH use about 20!). He puts a lot of effort into the details of his events, from meeting and greeting attendees to making sure that the tech works. This ensures that the good word of mouth helps them grow and each event is a marketing boost for the next they run.

We all know the no-show rate on MeetUp is poor. For HHH the no-show rate is usually from one in three to one in two, depending on the MeetUp, which sounds about right in my experience too.

There was an audience question on franchising MeetUps. 3H are setting up their own “chapters” outside London. Robert thought that it will be important to set up clear terms and conditions for these, ask franchisees to attend the original events to see how they work, and for the main one to keep an eye on the franchised ones.

Another question was on finding topics for your MeetUps. Robert suggested surveying your members to find out – also about potential speakers etc. On funding events? Robert’s list was: franchising, finding sponsors, setting up paid-for classes and workshops and other events, selling merchandise and charging for membership.

So the big takeaways were:

  • MeetUp is great for recruiting members and people interested in what you do, but it is not the perfect tool on its own.
  • You can monetise your MeetUp – but it takes hard work to get into a rhythm of producing events that draw the crowds so you can find sponsors.
  • Just like any other business, you need to know your audience, and where to find it and what it wants.

Our next Online Communities MeetUp is with change.org – book here.

If you want to keep the NHS you need to take government guidelines on drinking on the chin

At a health tech pitch event last year a group of guys were presenting a new app they had created – a way for you to challenge four mates to achieve a health goal and bet on who will win. The first person to achieve the goal won the pot of cash or it went to a nominated charity.

In behaviour change terms this is a neat app. It won’t appeal to everyone but for those that it does it’s a great little tool. When asked how they were going to fund it going forward they stated they were looking to public health because this sort of thing was the Governments responsibility.

I was annoyed. Our personal health is our responsibility. Why should the Government pay for my poor life choices? Is it the Government’s role to interfere in every aspect of our health? What happened to individual responsibility? Should the Government fund everything to do with health? If they did would it actually encourage us to get healthier or would it have the opposite affect?

I firmly believe every aspect of our health should not be outsourced to the Government. But we are several generations into a tax funded health system that has impacted on our health behaviour, both positively and negatively. We seem to rely on the fact that however we treat our bodies at some point the NHS will pick up the resulting problems.  The Government has never really excelled at preventative health. Once there is a problem to treat it is engaged, but developing services to help us avoid those problems or stopping our own behaviour exacerbating our poor health condition, in this it is less skilled. No surprise, preventative health is hard and expensive, you have to cast the net wide to have an impact because you are trying to stop things from happening rather than treat something that exists.

So should the Government be telling us how much to drink? Well it comes back to the life choices argument. We do expect the Government down the line to pay for the choices we make about our diet, drug taking, extreme sports and stupidity. But  the Government also has a responsibility to balance the budget and prioritise how the allocated cash will be spent. So whilst we make individuals choices the final bill for the health impact of that choice is funded through a tax pot we all contribute to. The Government, therefore, does have an interest and legitimate role in sending big messages that they think will change behaviour and reduce demand or allow them to sift priorities.  Setting alcohol drinking unit limits may not be the most effective behaviour change technique, but as far as Governments can nudge our behaviour guidelines certainly have their role. Their primary aim is to reduce long term demands on the NHS.

Whilst I don’t personally like being told what to do by the Government I do want there to be enough budget for an improved NHS that is here for the long term. So I have to take on the chin that it is within their responsibilities to send out messages about our use of a widely used substance that impacts on nearly every short and long term health condition going – from our poor quality sleep through to increased cancer risk. If the guidelines impact on just 2% of the drinking population (which is 85% of adults) then the financial saving is significant. It is a preventative message aimed at nearly everyone to hopefully impact on a few.

So whilst I would always encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own health you still have a personal choice. You can listen to guidelines or your can listen to your own body and common sense – the chances are you know deep down if alcohol is having a negative impact on you.  If not for yourself then consider your own health in the context of helping manage the long-term costs of the NHS. You would certainly be more likely to take notice of that financial cost of you were paying a premium to an insurance company that reduced your fee based on your lifestyle choices.

The case for better behaviour

If I am to be honest, my reactions to many social issues, problems or general day to day decisions are based on gut feelings. I know full well these responses are in large part emotional and have been shaped over time by my background, experiences, politics and friends. I also notice it most when I am with colleagues who have been to private school or studied law. They argue using facts and weigh alternative arguments in their head – powered by a different style of education. I acknowledge “because it feels right” is not always a reasoned argument!

Which is, I suspect, why I am naturally drawn to behaviour change science. It gives a fancy name to exploring gut feelings, but of course is more complicated than that. Behind every rational decision we take, whatever our schooling, are more actions we don’t notice that are shaped by the environment and people around us, and which impact significantly on how we interact every day.

Club Soda is a behaviour change business because we are trying to support people to change a habit, by not only understanding how factors around us shape our everyday actions but also, by properly testing our gut feelings or hunches, we can find tools and techniques that will help people unpick and re-programme behaviours they want to change.

It is the same with my role at the Consumer Council for Water. The water sector is heavily regulated by logic, schedules, processes and contracts, and the water in our tap is brought to us by amazing feats of engineering. But how much we use, how we react when a pipe bursts, what we flush down the loo are governed by unseen psychological factors that are harder to manipulate. To make real change in this sector we need to be more scientific about behaviour.

Which is why I am jolly glad to have heard Rory Sutherland, from Ogilvy Change, speak last week (you can see his Tedex talk here). He describes himself as an accidental techie, but actually, what I see is an ideas person who likes exploring hunches and ideas, and can see how technology can measure and, if it works, make those ideas real. A man who has an instinctively good hunch about things but has realised these hunches can be tested and implemented – small tweaks leading to sustainable change at a fraction of the cost.

One example Rory used was HS2. Like him, every time I go to Manchester I think about whether HS2 is necessary. Surely making journeys easier to work on rather than shorter is what could improve the flow of business between the North and South? Rory shared a number of hunches around HS2 that are completely rational if you think about it for at least a second, and must be worth testing out before the Government spends millions unnecessarily. But why is it not happening?

We already have evidence that small tweaks can achieve great change, for example Ogilvy have successfully redesigned the security scanning system at an airport based on knowledge of queue panic as well as customer flow – interestingly the same behaviour we have identified as being a major issue for customers wanting to make healthier decisions at the bar!

The Government is not blind to this stuff. It has a behavioural insights team after all, but its reach is not yet very wide, and its influence not very deep. I have learnt a lot from the Government team – I have seen the outcomes of their work on tax payments a few times. But they are basically tasked with nudging the existing system using mostly comparison and penalty. They have not, for example, had the opportunity to re-engineer the whole tax system to change how we view and pay taxes as a society, using reward triggers instead. Now there is a real challenge that would involve behaviour change to be considered at policy stage!

Nudging people within badly designed services and isolating behaviour change within a few disciplines (letters and payments) is not a game changer. As a society we need behavioural insight to go deeper – all the way into policy making. That is a tall order, but we could begin to show the power of behaviour change methodology by introducing it as a step before major financial commitments such as HS2 – there should be time and space to explore hunches before we throw money at a problem.

From a Club Soda and CC Water point of view this raises other questions the are worth exploring. How can both be agile enough to test hunches before making big changes, planning new programmes or shelling out cash!

CCWater is reorganising its structure and developing a new business plan. It has an opportunity to not only look at what it wants to achieve but the most effective way to do that. Looking at how behaviour change is a feature of everything it does and using it as driver for agile working – using the super combination of staff and local consumer advocates to test hunches in a meaningful way to make rapid changes in the way it delivers its service and supports the sector to achieve some of the big behaviour change challenges (reducing usage, metering, waste disposal). This is not traditional big scale customer research but service design, rapid prototype testing and implementation.

Testing gut feelings is what we do by accident at Club Soda, as this is the nature of a start-up. So for us the challenge is how we embed our learning about behaviour change as we evolve the service and create processes so it’s built in from the start. Every thing we write, every piece of design, every widget we add to the website has the potential to support the behaviour change our members want to achieve. How do we do this quicker, cheaper and improve outcomes for our members as a result?

To me using behaviour change and agile methodology is a no-brainer for any service, but especially public services. The question is how do we get there quicker?

Ironically that is a behaviour change project in its own right. So I guess I throw this back as a challenge to Rory, who sits in a position that means he is more likely to be listened to. And how can he engage those in other aligned domains to superpower that goal?

In the meantime you could do worse than downloading UCL’s Behaviour Change Taxonomy app and looking at their online training and other materials. I find it a useful way to order my thoughts when writing anything for Club Soda.