Lessons for behaviour change communications in the age of austerity

'to the rescue' by fergaloid

Last week was One World Media Week, a week-long programme of events around the One World Media Awards.

I made it along to two of the fringe events organised by the Institute of Development Studies at the Royal Society, ‘Media as a Tool for Development’ and ‘White Man to the Rescue? International Development in the Media’. Discussions at both meetings ranged across international development issues, but it was behaviour change campaigns proved a consistent theme.

The delegates were mainly from academia, NGOs and broadcast and press media. Yet behaviour change communications is also a major theme for government. Having worked in both sectors, it struck me over the course that in this so-called age of austerity that there were many lessons government can learn from the way NGOs conduct their campaigns. That said, on reflection, there are lessons that civil society can learn from government.

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Who is accountable? Giving power away in a centralised political culture

We are all localists now.

So starts a new research report by IPPR exploring the political consensus around decentralisation and the barriers to achieving it in practice – Who’s accountable? The challenge of giving power away in a centralised political culture.

The researchers asked a representative sample who they regarded as accountable for the performance of public services. Across a range of services – health and policing, for example – no matter who is charge, the public placed responsibility firmly at the feet of government. However, in other cases – such as education and transport – accountability is more diffuse. Why?

The report considers a number of factors, but of particular importance seems to be good communication. When power is devolved, the lines of accountability must be made clear. The examples of devolution in Scotland and public transport make for interesting case studies in this respect.

However, in the report the authors write:

… ministers may be more inclined to give up powers where lines of accountability are clear and when they can be reassured that once they’ve let go, the public, the media and the oppoistion will accedpt that responsibility rests at the local level.

I do think the authors should have spent longer considering the important influence of party politics and media representation, alongside that of public attitudes and perceptions, in order to get the full picture.

Otherwise, it is an interesting and well set out piece of original research.

Spending less, yet spending more

Ofcom has released its 2008 Communications Market Review.

Haven’t had the chance to plough through it yet, but the main headline seems to be that Brits are spending more time communicating, yet spending less money to do so.

These reports are fantastic data sources, so it’s worth spending some time and bandwidth downloading it.

Interestingly Ofcom are running a trial of an ‘experimental, interactive version’ of the report’s key points. In essence, it’s a ‘social text’ allowing users to place comments against each point in the document (like the one that DIUS are running).

I think it’s a good idea but they seem a little too cautious about the whole thing.

Have a look at comment.ofcom.org.uk/cmr08.