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Shrinking and scaffolding: supporting behaviour change towards implementing sustainable design
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8829-1719
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Industrial Economics.
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Strategic Sustainable Development.
2018 (English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

To start to include sustainability in a design project is a transition. This transition requires change in how people do things, that is, behaviour change, and it takes place in the midst of the usual pressures of product design. Prior research on sustainable design has mostly explored the so-called technical side – identifying what tasks should be performed, such as specifics of including sustainability criteria when analysing product concepts. Recent studies have advocated the consideration of the human nature of the people who are to implement these ‘technical’ tasks, to undergo and drive the transition.

We therefore embarked on an action research project to support behaviour change towards implementing sustainable design in the individual members of design project teams. Our action research partner was a design consultancy who wanted to begin working with sustainable design. Our research question was: How might the partner organisation support individual behaviour change towards implementing sustainable design?

Firstly, we identified some barriers to behaviour change; these barriers were related to motivation, capability and opportunity to apply sustainable design. Secondly, to investigate how to address the barriers and support individual behaviour change, we integrated concepts on behaviour change, motivation, learning for sustainability and climate communication to form a conceptual system (a theoretical model). In parallel, we undertook a participatory action research project with the consultancy, where we iteratively and collaboratively employed our model to develop ideas for specific actions that the organisation could take. We also tried out some of these actions and observed the outcomes.

We learnt that it is important to not just define what ‘technical’ tasks project teams should ideally perform, but to also scaffold the journey as a series of simpler steps. Shrinking the ‘technical’ tasks into meaningful steps that are within reach helps individuals to feel confident and competent, which in turn leads to increased intrinsic motivation and behaviour change. Progressively achieving small steps aligned with their values reduces the risk of dissonance and denial, and therefore increases the potential for action.

In this article, we present our model and our learnings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-17038OAI: oai:DiVA.org:bth-17038DiVA, id: diva2:1250810
Funder
Knowledge FoundationAvailable from: 2018-09-25 Created: 2018-09-25 Last updated: 2018-10-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The individual human side of supporting sustainable design beginners
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The individual human side of supporting sustainable design beginners
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Starting to include sustainability considerations in a design project is a transition requiring a change in how things are done, that is, a change in behaviour. Furthermore, this transition takes place in the midst of the usual pressures of product design. Prior research on sustainable design has mostly explored the so-called technical side – identifying what tasks should be performed, such as specifics of including sustainability criteria when analysing product concepts. However, this has not been enough. These tasks are not being performed to the extent that they could, or that is needed. Recent studies have advocated the consideration of the human nature of the people who are to execute these ‘technical’ tasks. In other words, there is a need to work with the socio-psychological factors in order to help sustainable design beginners to adopt new mindsets and practice (their usual way of doing design).

My aim was therefore to investigate how to support individual product design team members with the human aspects of transitioning to executing sustainable design. In particular, I focused on supporting good individual decision-making and individual behaviour change. This aim was addressed through multiple research projects with four partner companies working with the early phases of product design. Given a focus to change practice, I followed an action research approach with a particular emphasis on theory building. This action research approach comprised two phases: understanding the challenge and context, and then iteratively developing solutions through a theorise–design-act-observe-reflect cycle.

Through the research projects, my colleagues and I found that there are challenges related to behaviour change and decision-making that are hindering execution of sustainable design. In order to help organisations to overcome or avoid these challenges, we found that it may be beneficial for those developing sustainable design tools and methods to (i) use techniques to mitigate for cognitive illusions, (ii) provide individuals with the opportunity to implement sustainable design while helping those individuals to increase their motivation and capability to execute sustainable design, and (iii) communicate with these individuals in such a way as to avoid triggering psychological barriers (self-defence mechanisms). I combined these points into two models.

Together with the partner organisations, we applied the two models to design some actions that we then tested. The actions included integrating behaviour change and decision-making considerations into sustainable design tools as well as stand-alone interventions in the culture.

Given the findings of these studies, I urge developers of sustainable design tools to see implementation of their tool as a learning journey. The beginning of the journey should comprise small steps supported by handrails, which then increase in size and decrease in support as the journey continues. Especially in the beginning, tool developers will also need to help travellers to avoid the decision-making errors that occur due to being in unfamiliar territory.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlskrona: Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, 2018
Series
Blekinge Institute of Technology Doctoral Dissertation Series, ISSN 1653-2090 ; 9
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:bth-16972 (URN)978-91-7295-357-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-10-19, J1650, Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, 371 79 Karlskrona, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2018-09-10 Created: 2018-09-06 Last updated: 2018-09-28Bibliographically approved

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Gould, RachaelBratt, CeciliaSvensson, MartinBroman, Göran

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