Behavior change is not about fostering awareness, knowledge, or changing attitudes, but rather is the art of changing people’s actions.
Here are a few examples that demonstrate this distinction:
- Most people know that they should eat green vegetables, but still do not eat the recommended amount of veggies a day.
- Research has shown that while many people are concerned about the environment, they still may not behave in an environmentally responsible way.
When we say we want to create programs that change behavior, we are talking about voluntary, desired actions by the individual and the community. The goal is not to force anyone to do anything. Real change comes when people want to change. Furthermore, environmental change comes from issues that are of importance to the community where the program resides. We advocate for programs that are supportive of community participation, both in planning and in action, and justice for all members of the community.
Behavior change programs will be most effective not by telling people what to do, but by involving the target audience, evaluating the program and making improvements from lessons learned, and utilizing strategies that motivate individuals, build competence and confidence, and make the community and physical environment supportive of the behavior.