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2015-10-15 | project

Bringing about Behavior Change

This project aims to use low-cost and scalable behavioral-economic interventions to facilitate pro-environmental behavioural change. Specifically, the objective is to induce a reduction in electricity consumption of Provincial government employees.

The project is being run as a collaboration between researchers from UCT and US-based Ideas42 as well as the Western Cape Provincial Government (WCPG).

The project is initially being run as a pilot in 4 Dorp Steet (a government building in the Central Business District (CBD)) but will eventually be rolled out across Provincial government buildings.

In order to reduce electricity consumption, this pilot will leverage the use of social norms (and social comparisons) that have been shown to successfully promote pro-environmental behavior in applications to electricity and water consumption. Social norms will be introduced through an inter-floor competition, which will quantify and rank electricity consumption at the floor level. In addition, government employees will be provided with information around reducing electricity consumption. On a rotating weekly basis, employees will be assigned responsibilities for coordinating the floor’s activities.

The WCPG is currently installing energy meters in the pilot site. This will enable researchers to monitor electricity consumption and thus evaluate the efficacy of the interventions. In addition, the data that is collected will be used to feed back to participating government employees – for example informing them of their electricity consumption (at the floor level) relative to other floors in the preceding week. 

The interventions will primarily be conducted via mass mailing.

There are two main outcomes associated with this project. This first is obviously measuring a reduction in electricity consumption within the pilot site. The second outcome is that of “capacity building” within government. Specifically, a key component of this project is building capacity within government so that, once the researchers cease to be involved, government officials can continue the roll-out of the campaign and modify the interventions where necessary.