Moderator: Welcome all to the latest episode of the Nudges for Social Good Podcast from the local government association. My name is Rhian Gladman and I manage the Behaviour Change Programme here at the LGA. And, for those of you who have listened to previous episodes of this podcast, you will know that our main aim is to demystify behaviour change and break it down into those practical components that councils can use to address behavioural challenges in their own local area. And how we do that is through conversations with those in local government who are leading their behaviour change projects and bring it to life through those examples. So, today, I'm joined by Nicola Plummer from New Forest District Council. Hi, Nicola. Thanks for being with us today. How are you?
Nicola Plummer: Good morning. Very well, thank you, yes.
Moderator: Great stuff, great stuff. So, if you could just start by, sort of, explaining what your role is at the council and then we'll get into it from there.
Nicola Plummer: Yes, sure. So, I work in the operations team at New Forest District Council. My role is Projects and Performance Officer, so I get involved in a range of projects that, kind of, aim to improve the service outcomes for waste and recycling operations, but also for our street team services and, so, one of those projects has been this journey working alongside our chosen behavioural insights experts to improve littering within the district.
Moderator: Littering, hot topic in councils at the moment, so I think, there will be lots of people out there really listening in to this one, really keen to learn from what you've been through and what you've found through your project. So, the easiest way to do this really is over to you to, sort of, explain your projects and the key thing to start with is, what was the behaviour that you were trying to change?
Nicola Plummer: Yes, so, the original challenge, or the original focus, of the project was very much on littering from vehicles. So, the original scoping report set out ways that we can examine this specific behaviour. Why? It's not just a problem for New Forest, obviously, but it does pose a significant issue for our area. Commonly for other areas, verge clearance is expensive, it's potentially quite dangerous for the operatives to collect from the side of the road, it can cause traffic disruption, but for New Forest, specifically, it also causes a threat to wildlife. In an area like the New Forest where we (have) roaming animals and livestock, there's additional considerations for us with that material on the side of the road. I think it's important to say that, actually, that wasn't the challenge that our trial intervention eventually targeted and the COVID situation had a significant part to play in that. However, the research methodology that we'd used and the evidence that we'd gathered was used, in that process, to create this adaptable framework and COVID gave us this perfect storm, if you like, to test that adaptability.
Moderator: So, I guess what you're saying is, you'd done some pre-work and the focus was around littering on verges, people, you know, litter from cars, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is where you are, in the New Forest, and then, you pulled together a framework of how you were going to take that project forward and then COVID hits, the world changes, how did your project change from there?
Nicola Plummer: Yes, so, at the time we were starting to select our, sort of, trial interventions to deal with, a litter thrown from vehicle, this was February or March 2020, so last year, obviously COVID hit, global pandemic, very small inconvenience. For us, operationally, like other local authorities, we were completely stretched in terms of our staffing. Like everybody else, we had the lockdown measures to contend with and so, we suspended the littering from vehicles project in March last year. As we came out of lockdown, which was June-ish of that first, sort of, lockdown period, we looked at it again. You know, we really wanted to continue with the project but there had been such a shift in so many ways. I mean, with the original project, for example, we were sampling litter collected on the verges. That had had to be suspended. Even if we could monitor litter, the roads had been so quiet for months, you know, how would that skew our project? How would that skew our monitoring? And then, additionally, at that particular time, we're talking May, June 2020, this really wasn't a priority now for the council and, like other areas, there was this, kind of, new littering problem. So, the context had totally changed, and we needed to use the evidence that we'd gathered to put to a coastal littering problem.
So, you might remember scenes back on the national news last year and I think, specifically, I'll think about the Bournemouth incident where they declared a major incident. And I pick out Bournemouth, although it was happening all over the country, because Bournemouth is just down the road from where we are, essentially they're right on our border. You know, the amount of people that were just flocking to the coast was vast, emergency services were stretched to their limits and, like I say, although you will have seen it on the news in areas like Bournemouth, it wasn't just in Bournemouth. It was happening everywhere and we weren't exempt from that. You know, we were dealing with much more waste and much more litter than we ever had done before and we were trying to tackle it. We increased the size of our bins where we could, but we have quite a lot of locations where you can't access with a bigger vehicle that you would need to empty a tippable bigger bin. We increased our staffing along our coastal locations, we had operatives working from 6:00am in the morning through till 8:00pm seven days a week, but still we were getting these masses of overspill at these coastal locations. And more people is one of the reasons, but I think what we'd found is, also, the type of litter had changed. So, you know, at the time, also, people were less able to eat indoors, so people were having more takeaways. Takeaway packaging is no longer just a couple of sheets of paper for your fish and chips, you know, it comes in pristinely boxed parcels with extra bags around the outside. You know, pizza boxes are huge. If you've got a small litter bin and someone tries to put that in the top of the litter bin, it can almost fill it, or look like it's been filled.
And then there was this culture, really, of people bringing these takeaways to these beauty spots. That really, kind of, took off and has been maintained, to some degrees. I think people had taken in to this culture, but they, kind of, hadn't taken in to removing that waste, of taking it with them, and they hadn't really bought in to the fact that that could be a problem that that would be left in that particular spot.
Moderator: So there's an issue there around, you know, from the supply side, putting more collections on, more staff on it, which is already a scarce resource, you know, already under pressure, public services, at that time. So, that's the supply side, so, actually, looking at that, you can't just keep putting more and more of that on and then, you shifted your thinking to look at the demand side and thinking, 'Actually, it's this change in behaviour that we need to look at and actually, you know, to discourage this new behaviour we've seen,' and, therefore, was it right that that became the focus of your projects?
Nicola Plummer: Yes. I mean, so, you'll see in our report there are some images in there of waste literally piled up next to bins and this is something that we've found happens a lot and we'll call it 'polite littering,' you might say. So, our intervention, really, was targeting these people that potentially genuinely don't think that they're doing anything wrong, but, as we know, uncontained waste at a coast is a problem, aesthetically, for us, as a council. It's hard, you know. It's a lot of waste for us to collect, so operationally it's difficult, but environmentally, you know, uncontained waste that close to a water course or the sea or the coast is disastrous, or potentially can be. And so, yes, we as a council were doing what we could, like you just said. We couldn't keep adding to that resource, so we wanted to take the research that we're doing, the finding we're doing, and put that to see if we can actually elicit a behaviour change in our coastal visitors.
Moderator: Just to pick up there, I think, Nicola, the way that, 'polite littering,' yes, I think that's such an important term, isn't it? And councils listening, even if they don't have coastal area responsibility, they will be finding this in their parks, in their nature walks, beauty spots, canals, where people have been outside more and appreciating that natural environment but the polite littering definitely is something that councils across the country are struggling with. Hence, this is a really important and timely conversation that we're having here in sharing your project. So, polite littering, you've already got your framework, so what was the intervention that you put into place? What was that behavioural nudge?
Nicola Plummer: So, the intervention that we put into place. I mean, I go back a little bit. We go back to the research that we'd done. We'd done, you know, a fair amount of research with Social Engine, our behavioural insight experts, who were really excellent and really fantastic to work with. I mean, they'd gone away and they'd done a desk research, a literature review, they'd come in and they'd held stakeholder workshops with our key partners, they'd carried out in-depth telephone interviewing with other stakeholders, they'd talked to enforcement officers, they'd talked to local restaurants, they talked to our operatives, they talked to local people that have an active interest in anti-littering. You know, they went out and observed, so they looked at our littering hotspots and they talked to and interviewed motorists and van drivers and lorry drivers and they went out and they talked to focus groups of young people and they also carried out this big, sort of, perception survey as well, where they gathered over 800 responses. And so, they'd done a lot of work and I won't go into everything that they found within all of that work. Obviously, the writing is there in the report, but some of the key findings they did find were that about half of people appear to have dropped litter or drop litter. It's not just a young person's problem, although they might be a little bit more honest about their behaviour. Women appear to be a little bit more opposed to littering than men, suggesting that men may be more likely to, sort of, follow that behaviour. And the other thing is that litter attracts litter, so when we think about this behaviour of polite littering specifically and we see it piled up by a bin, if one person makes that action, it makes it more acceptable to another person.
Moderator: This really feeds into a key behavioural insights principle, which is around social norms, and actually, you know, you don't want to stand out from the herd. Humans want to conform and not stand out in that way, so therefore, if you see a certain behaviour, you will follow it. You don't want to be the one. Hence where we get 'queues attracting queues' is a bit of a classic one and, as you say, polite littering, people look at it, 'Oh, is that the way we do it here? Let's join in with that.' So, yes, I think that is a really important point just to highlight for people listening, that element of social norms. So, sorry, as you were saying.
Nicola Plummer: Yes, no, exactly, and that was really the crux of our intervention. You know, social norms do impact behaviour. If people see litter around a bin, they're more likely to think that that's an acceptable behaviour. If they're with people that litter, they are more likely to litter, but the converse is also true. So, if they see people carrying out, you know, the desired behaviour, or 'not littering,' then that can also have an impact on their behaviour. So that's, kind of, the crux of what we wanted to use to get people to carry out this desired behaviour. And our desired behaviour, essentially, at the coast, is to get people to take their litter home when the bin is full. We provide bins but, as we've already said, when the capacity is reached and our capacity is reached due to those external factors beyond our control, we have to look at other people's behaviour. Our intervention was based on two key hypotheses and that is one, that New Forest residents are really, really proud of where they live and the second one is that people are more likely to litter if they think they won't get caught and so, the initial overarching framework branding that was designed was based on those and we wanted to include elements of surveillance and that, sort of, affinity, love for our area. So the branding was this 'Look Out For Our Forest' message, which was adaptable to be able to use in a positive way, you know, targeting those personas that potentially would be helping us look out for litter, but also to target those that, you know, we know are dropping litter. 'Look out litterbug.' So these were the, sort of, key themes that were coming through with our messages.
Moderator: And the branding framework came from all the insights work that Social Engine had done, all the interviews, all of that, sort of, gathering information in then informed that branding framework and those messages. Is that correct?
Nicola Plummer: That's right, yes. That's right. And so, obviously in February 2020, in March 2020, we were looking at that stage to-, we had this sort of branding framework, but we were looking to introduce interventions with those key themes to tackle our littering from vehicles project, which are still sat in the background, but obviously have never, sort of, come in to fruition. And when we got this new coastal littering problem, we looked at it again and we used that information to put into this coastal littering intervention. The actual intervention was really, really very, very simple. We identified key coastal locations and we put in poster trailers, which displayed our message, which was very big and bold, which was 'Look out litterbug, take your litter home'. The branding for that was Crabby, our hashtag crabby crab, who was very much a friendly focus cartoon, appealing to families. So, you know, appealing to those people that may follow that behaviour that we know are at the coast in these summer holiday periods. So, yes, very much targeted to those that, potentially, are those polite litterers, who maybe think they are doing the right thing, leaving waste by the bin. So, alongside these very, sort of, salient posters, images, poster trailers, we had a roll of dispensers, of plastic bags. So the message was to encourage people to take a bag, pack up their litter and take it home.
So, we know that, sometimes, when people come to the coast that they, potentially, are quite unprepared to take that litter home. So they've thought about getting there, they've got all their picnic or they've got all their takeaway material but actually to come then and put that back in their car when it's all very messy and mess up the car is a bit of an obstacle for people to be able to take that home without, sort of, making a mess in their own vehicle.
So the dispenser rolls for the bags were placed on the side of the poster trailers, so the messaging on the board was then directing them to take the bag. We also had some additional dispensers, which were placed on, like, our toilet blocks in our car parks at our coastal locations and, again, additional signage to encourage people to use those instead of leaving their waste by a bin. We stickered all our bins as well with the same sort of message, so our bins would read, 'Don't make me crabby, if this bin is full, please take your litter home.' And so, yes, we were just trying to, sort of, back up that message throughout all of those key points where people may see it along the coast.
Moderator: I think that point you raised about people maybe having the intention to take their litter home but the focus, as you say, is on getting to the destination and all the other things that are going on with that day and it's actually, 'How can we make that desired behaviour as simple for people as possible,' without those friction points where you end up, sort of, saying, 'I really want to do that behaviours, but it's just too difficult and there's too much else going on, so I'll just put my stuff next to the bin and follow the herd and do it that way. So, I think it's really important that point that you have, the bin's there, clearly right underneath the campaign you've got there, so you're making it as simple as possible for people to do the right thing. I just wanted to pull back to the-, I know a podcast isn't the most visual medium and people can look on our website for your report, but I just think it's really important if we can just describe a bit more what those big trailers looked like. How big are we talking here and, you know, you've got the Crabby campaign, are there pictures of crabs? How was it done?
Nicola Plummer: Okay, so the trailers are fairly sizeable. I think they're, sort of, fourteen foot by ten foot, something like that, and the colours that we used within the campaign are very much primary colours. You've got your reds and blues, you've got orange, I suppose, for the crab, but very bright, so very, very visual attracting, like I said before, those families. We had, on one side, a big image of our, sort of, cartoony crab and a bubble coming out of his mouth which said, 'Don't make me crabby, please take your litter home.' The message on the boards was, 'Look out litterbug,' so we're making it really clear that we are looking out, which is part of that surveillance message, and then underneath that, it just said very simply, 'Grab a bag and take your litter home,' with an arrow that pointed round the corner onto the side of the trailer with our dispenser. On the other side, the other part of what we did was link to social media. And so, we had a converse side where people could stand and take a selfie and post that to social media with the hashtag 'crabby' and that was a thank you message essentially, which said 'Thank you for doing the right thing. Thank you for taking your litter home.' And, yes, so, we did get a fair number of people posting their images to social media of them holding up their bags and doing the right thing.
So, in terms of, you know, you've got the big advertising trailer, which I think you did a fabulous job of describing on an audio medium here, rather than visual, so, you really brought it to life, thank you. That's really helpful. You've got salience, it's very appealing, it's visual, you've got a clear character appealing to families, you've got the bit around the surveillance gently bringing in the surveillance point as well, so you're building in everything that came from your insights. So, I just wanted to understand who was that intervention targeted at within the local population?
Nicola Plummer: Yes, I mean, I think we, you know, identified two different types of littering, really, at the coast and one we've already spoken about, which is this polite littering and the second is those that are deliberately dumping. You know, quite often we will find piles of smashed glass and dumped barbecues and all kinds of things along the coast. I think that behaviour is slightly different and that is probably not the behaviour that we were trying to target with this intervention. I think if people were going to go out and carry out that behaviour then 'Look out litterbug' and 'Crabby is watching' probably isn't a strong enough message, but we do have the silent majority, the vast majority of people that, potentially, we can alter their behaviour through this message and that's who we were trying to target. Those who, you know, with a nudge, would carry out that desired behaviour, which is to take the litter home and not leave it by the side of the bin.
Moderator: So it's the polite littering part, isn't it, you were targeting with this. Having the bins there, making it easy to do the right thing for people who probably want to do the right thing but they haven't remembered to bring their own bags, they're not sure what to do, there's too many other things going on, so you're making that as easy as possible for them. Yes, yes, that makes sense and it's a clear targeted intervention. Okay, so, in terms of the timeline, when did the advertising trailers go up and how long for?
Nicola Plummer: So, it was a bit of a fast turnaround, actually. We sort of identified the problem, went back to work with Social Engine in June, decided to target our coastal littering and we got the trailers out by the end of July. So, from, sort of, conception to actually getting out on site, they were out by the end of July. Our measurement period was the whole of August for our trial intervention, so we took the dates from the 1st of August through to the 31st for all our measurements. The trailers actually stayed out till, sort of, mid-September, but any period the other side of that wasn't necessarily measured, which was only a few days, really,
Moderator: Great stuff. So, the all important question, what was the impact? What happened?
Nicola Plummer: So there's a few things that we looked at and that was the number of bags that we used. So we were replacing the rolls of bags pretty much every other day and because they were an open dispenser sack, one of the thoughts that we had was that, you know, there was a possibility that someone could just come along and steal the whole roll if they were so minded to, but we did find that they were just very steadily taken. And so, we were just replacing the rolls of sacks every other day. So we found that, over the course of August, nearly 7,000 sacks had been taken or used. So, if you can imagine in your head, 7,000 sacks of rubbish piled up, that's the amount of rubbish that, potentially, was added to these sacks at our coast and, potentially, taken home.
Moderator: 7,000 sacks. Wow. And I'm thinking, like, a normal-sized bin bag? Or, were they smaller, or-,
Nicola Plummer: Yes, so we're not talking, like, a black bin bag, we're talking, like, an almost pedal bin liner-sized, but you're still, sort of, 45 litre-ish, you know, sack.
Moderator: Still, 7,000. 7,000, wow.
Nicola Plummer: 7,000's not bad, is it? Yes. In terms of the other things we looked at, so, for the volume of litter, we used July as a comparative. And we've already spoken about the fact that, you know, we were having our bumper year, essentially. It wasn't really fair to compare with previous years. We'd already known that July and June had been very, very busy, so what we did is we made a comparison between our litter tonnages from July to August, which we felt was the, kind of, fairest comparison, really. Now, obviously, a lot of things can affect the amount of litter that you will see on any given day in any given location, so not necessarily would one location on the same day, you wouldn't necessarily expect to find the same amount of litter or waste in one location or the other, based on location, based on types of visitors, you know. You wouldn't necessarily expect to see the same amount of waste on a rainy day as you would a very hot, sunny day. So, there's a lot of variables here that we really can't control and we can't measure, but, you know, over the course of that month we can, kind of, consider that, if we looked at visitor numbers on these coastal locations, then we could raise a fair comparison of waste generated. So, we looked at the number of visitors that we had in our car parks through our car park revenue and we looked at the number of users of our toilets, who are clocked as they go in and out on a sensor, and what we found is that between July and August, we'd had an increased number of visitors of forty percent, so we had forty percent more visitors in August than we did in July. So then we went away and we looked at our tipping weights via vehicles that we'd deployed to the coast and we had seen an increase in litter from July to August, as you would expect, had you had forty percent increase in visitors, but what we would have expected to see was about an additional almost eleven tons of waste and we didn't.
So, for us, this represented a 29 percent reduction in litter in these coastal areas. I think, financially, if we'd had to collect that additional almost eleven tons, we'd have needed more vehicles, we'd have needed more operatives and the estimated cost of that is about £10,000 over the month of August. I think, also, you know, the other thing that's very good for us, one of the things we wanted to understand is, did the general public think that this was a good campaign? Did the general public think that the council were actually taking action against littering? And the feedback was really, really good in that, sort of, perception survey that was carried out after the intervention. You know, there was a lot of people, 86 percent of the respondents thought that the bags were very useful or a useful intervention. 60 percent of people agreed that the council was taking action against littering, so, you know, the perception of the general public was very good. That post-perception survey we also looked at and we looked at what our operatives thought and our operatives were telling us that this intervention was making their jobs easier and that is really key. You know, if they're having to pick up less waste, if their job is easier, then we've made a difference. So, yes, overall, we were just really pleased with the way that the intervention had gone. You know, something that we can't measure is the environmental impact, but if we know, if our operatives are telling us, 'We have less uncontained waste by our bins, we are finding less waste down on the coast,' then what we know is that that means less of it will end up in our oceans and our waterways and it will protect our marine life and our planet.
Moderator: 11,000 tons. I mean, wow. Let's sit with that for a minute. 11,000 tons less waste. As you say, you know, potentially going into the sea, affecting the environment, there's safety concerns there for visitors as well. You know, you've got lots of families, lots of children there who could pick things up. Huge impact on your front-line staff as well and as, I would say, a low-cost intervention. Is that correct?
Nicola Plummer: Yes. I mean, the biggest cost, really, is the outlay for the poster trailers, initially, but they will be-, and actually, if we move on to talk about what happened next, they are being re-used. You know, they are an asset and we can re-utilise them and we are re-utilising them again this year at the coast. So, the cost of the sacks was very minimal, the operatives are already in those coastal locations, so, you know, the cost in terms of replenishing those sacks is nothing, essentially, because they are already there, they are already carrying out that task. And, like I say, had we not had that intervention in place, the possibility is that we would need to employ almost an extra two staff rolling seven days a week between 6:00am to 8:00pm to, kind of, manage that waste at the coast, which equates to something like £470 every day, which, you know, is substantial.
Moderator: And so, onto next steps. What's next for this?
Nicola Plummer: I mean, you know, it was successful, clearly, at the coast, so we've rolled it out again. We've expanded it. So this year, instead of three sites, we're now at five sites. We've put out some additional dispensers and some additional banners in areas where we couldn't get a poster trailer and so far, it's working really well. The feedback has been really positive. You know, we don't have any negative complaint from this campaign. What we do have, which is sometimes very difficult for local authorities to receive, we have had positive feedback. We have, along a number of our coastal sites, beach huts and beach hut owners and we've had some emails and some positive feedback from them. So again, the perception that we are carrying out action and we are doing something to tackle this problem is proven really.
Moderator: Based on being clear about the behaviour you want to change, understanding of what drives that behaviour locally, and then a well-evidenced intervention that you've tried, you've piloted, it's been successful and now, you've scaled up, like you say, to the five sites. So, will that be for this summer? Is that live at the moment?
Nicola Plummer: So they are live at the moment. We put them out in the June break holiday, so they will be out now until the end of August, yes, helping tackle that litter. Yes. And, so far, we have been monitoring, we've been going around the coast, the feedback from our operatives is good again. We haven't had the weather, potentially, that we've had, but you know, we are now, what, a week away from the actual school holidays kicking in, with people not being able to go abroad. You know, those visitors are going to come and we'll monitor this situation quite closely and see what impact it has. I think it will go back to the original problem of littering from vehicles. There's still all those interventions sitting there. There's still a future for this 'Look out for our forest' overarching framework and branding. Obviously, you know, we're a fairly diverse area. We have a range of statutory bodies that kind of look after various areas of the district. You know, we have Forestry England, we have the NPA, we have the county council, we have the Highways Agency, we have ourselves and we all have varying responsibilities and varying timelines and so, one of the things the project did is, at the very beginning, at that stakeholder meeting, it kind of brought all of those people together. And so, there is a level of shared understanding of A, this project and B, this framework and how far it can go and how it potentially can be used in other littering areas or littering strands. And so, we will, at some point, hopefully, be able to revisit some of those interventions, when we're able to, to look at the littering from vehicles again.
I think one of the things that's happened very recently is, we had some contact from a small parish, actually, of Minstead, and they have a village green in their village, which has two small litter bins. And the council have said to us, 'This has worked for years. We've had two small litter bins here and this has not been a problem. We've never had a problem. It's worked really well.' But that behaviour we spoke about at the beginning, that has changed, where people within the COVID context are now going out and meeting outside and sitting on that village green, rather than being inside, or rather than being in a pub or a bar, has changed that. You know, people are bringing more stuff to that village green. To every village green, to every park, to every coastal location. And she said, 'Our bins can't cope.' And this is an area where we have free-roaming animals as well, so to have litter left in this area is potentially problematic and dangerous for those animals. And so, what they want to do is they want to take this 'Look out for our forest' branding framework and they actually want to take away those bins and they want to replace it using that branding and that message to take the litter home. And so, you know, there's another strand, really, or another way we can utilise this message.
Moderator: I just wanted to pop back. In terms of, you know, COVID impact, so the dispensers for the bin bags, it was just, you didn't have to, like, touch anything to get-, I'm just thinking of, you know, around infection control and, obviously, the changed behaviour, again, of people not wanting to touch things. Was that a barrier or had you set it up in a way that people just took the bin bags and it was fine?
Nicola Plummer: Yes. I mean, the bags, sort of, come out of the dispenser. You can just snag it off, like you would paper in a dispenser in the bathroom, for example. So no, it wasn't necessarily an issue, really, I don't think. It tended to work quite well. There's not a lot of touching points for that, other than the bag that you're taking.
Moderator: Okay. And so, in the village green example there, the plan is to use the 'Look after our forest' branding and also have the dispensers there ready with the bin bags as well.
Nicola Plummer: Yes. No, the problem within these locations, especially when we have free-roaming animals, is that we can't have a roll of sacks that would be accessible to an animal, because they would be able to then, like they would if litter was left there, to eat that themselves, which would be problematic. And so, therefore, that is why the message, kind of, has to change, to take litter home and we potentially couldn't use the sacks intervention there, unless they could be made secure from animals. Which, you know, is a possibility, but we haven't found that yet.
Moderator: So it's, sort of, changing the intervention based on the environment within which you're actually going to put it into place, so that's great. You've got the beaches campaign going strong and expanding, looking to, in the future, go more into the original, back to the litter being thrown from cars onto verges, forest campaign, and also this work at that parish level, as well, around the village green, changing the message there to encourage those to take their litter home. So there's so much learning for other councils in your projects and, as I say, we'll provide the link at the end of our conversation where they can read your report and look at these nudges and see visually how you did things, as well. So, Nicola, looking back over this whole journey you've been on through this behavioural insights project that you've undertaken in the New Forest, what has really surprised you? What's stood out as something you weren't aware of before you started this whole process?
Nicola Plummer: So, I think, you know, when we started off this process, as I stated before, one of the things that we did, or that Social Engine did for us, we had this key stakeholder meeting. And, within that, there was, obviously, open conversations between stakeholders as to, you know, what was causing this problem, who was causing this problem, who is the perpetrator, who do we need to target? And there was a lot of conversations and a lot of thoughts that, you know, this might be a young person's problem. It's young people, it's young people dropping litter, it's young people throwing litter from vehicles, because they don't care. And the research has shown that, actually, they weren't the problem. And, although they might be slightly more honest about their behaviour, when we think about our actual issue that we found at the coast, of this 'polite littering,' it wasn't young people that were specifically coming to the coast and piling up, mountains and mountains of waste and litter by bins. And so, yes, what I've learnt is that we need to let go of those previously held ideas of what we think is the problem and really open up and trust the behavioural research to follow through with these interventions.
Moderator: That's a really key point, a really important point. I guess, linked to that last question, for those busy council officers and busy councillors that are listening, that are thinking, 'Right, I really want to do a similar project,' what would be your three, key practical pieces of advice for them?
Nicola Plummer: So, number one is that behavioural insights experts really do know their field and so, you should really trust your experts, but alongside that, don't be afraid to question them because you know your field of work, you know your geography and you know your demographics and those two elements really have to work together and you do have to work with them and have those conversations to make sure that they are understanding how your district and how your problem is working, as well. The second thing would be that measurement isn't always easy and so, you really need to know your data before you start. You need to think about, you know, what is your problem and how you are going to measure that, because you cannot rely on gathering all that data or capturing that data during your trial. And thirdly, be flexible. I think this project, in itself, is probably a very good example of that. Despite our best intentions, I think we can often enter into projects with a very fixed idea of the outcome, so you need to let that go. And the other thing is, I think also, even if you know that your intervention has had zero impact, you will have learnt about that original challenge than perhaps if you would have succeeded. And if you've learnt and you've documented that, then that can be shared with your peers nationwide, and that, in itself, is such a saving of valuable time and resource.
Moderator: That's fantastic, Nicola. A really strong way to end our conversation this week. I've really enjoyed it and thank you so much for your time.
Nicola Plummer: No problem, thank you very much for having me and it's been lovely to talk about Crabby again.
Moderator: Great stuff, great stuff. And good luck with the next steps for the project. So, if you would like to learn more about behavioural insights projects that you can try out in your council, please do visit our website, www.local.gov.uk and search for 'behavioural insights.' We have a host of other nudges for social good on our website that you can learn from that other councils have already undertaken and that you can use to address your local behavioural challenges. Please do share the podcast with your colleagues and with friends and many thanks for listening.