The BehaviourWorks Method

Developed over several years, the BehaviourWorks Method is a tried and tested approach to changing behaviours. 

Consisting of three primary phases - Exploration, Deep Dive and Application - the Method can be used in full, or in parts, to gather evidence on the behaviour change approach that is most likely to work. 


What's the problem?

Experience tells us that many organisations need help defining the problem to begin with, so the Exploration phase focuses on 'unpacking' the problem and build a shared understanding of it.

Understand the system

As a society, we are dealing with increasingly complex problems and working in environments where there are many competing agendas. To get everyone on the same page, we use a range of tools such as process mapping, actor mapping and influence mapping to identify the individuals, groups and organisations involved in the problem - and who may be part of the solution. This step can reveal where behaviour change will have the biggest impact - ideally for the least effort.

Engage with stakeholders

Those who are impacted or interested in a given problem bring their own knowledge and understanding to it. Without their input and perspectives, the best laid plans can go awry. Genuine consultation challenges assumptions and provides insights that data collection may not capture. We tailor our stakeholder engagements to minimise any 'missing links' and bring all perspectives to the table.

Review and collect evidence

This is a fact-finding step; one that focuses on identifying what is known - and not known - about the problem and the factors that are contributing to it. Apart from conducting literature and practice reviews, we invest time gathering data from the partner organisation, as this is often an underutilised resource for helping us precisely define the problem.

Identify priority behaviours

Unpacking problems can produce a plethora of potential behaviours to change. How do you decide between them? Our Impact-Likelihood Matrix helps to narrow the options down by mapping the behaviours on a visual prioritisation framework with two key dimensions, 1: Potential impact on the issue and, 2: Likelihood of adoption (will they do it?). We also look at existing penetration levels, cost of compliance and barriers to adoption.

Jump past Phase 2 by using generic behaviour change tools

In some cases, we have enough evidence on the behaviour and target audience to move directly from Exploration to Application (intervention). If so, we may use generic behaviour change tools and approaches, in combination with our own tools and approaches, to move directly to trial.

However, if we want to understand the audience in more detail (what matters to them and why they do the things they do) and develop more targeted interventions, we will need to conduct a Deep Dive.

Deep dive

The purpose of the Deep Dive is to understand the explicit drivers and barriers influencing the behaviour from the target audience's perspective. 

In our experience, this step is often overlooked and is instead based on assumed models of behaviour. 

By exploring the context, barriers and motivations behind the behaviour - and what has worked in the past to change them - we can develop more effective interventions and, importantly, know why they did (or did not) work.

Propose theories

In order to determine how we are going to change the target audience's behaviour, we first need to identify a likely theory of change, given the context.

There are many models of behaviour drawn from a wide range of disciplines and traditions. Our job is to consider these models, understand which is relevant to the behaviour under consideration and agree on a theory to guide our investigations moving forward.

Drivers & barriers

Rather than making assumptions about the audience, we need to spend time getting to know what matters to them in the context of the behaviours we want to change.

While qualitative and quantitative methods can be used to learn more about the circumstances impacting the behaviour, people aren't always aware of the things that influence their behaviour (e.g. biases and social norms), so we often need to draw on data and statistical analyses to empirically compare the relative importance of of a broad range of individual and population-level factors.

Evidence review

In the Exploration phase of The Method, we reviewed the literature in relation to the specific problem.

In the Deep Dive phase, we conduct highly-targeted evidence and practice reviews to examine the influences on the target behaviour and the types (and success of) intervention approaches that have been used in the past to change them.

Intervention options

Whether it's an education campaign, a persuasive communication piece, an incentive, a regulatory measure, a nudge approach or capability building, our choice of intervention strategy is based on the knowledge and insights gained in the previous phases of The Method.

We now explore and discuss the different intervention options, approaches and audiences with our partners and discuss what resources will be required to pilot these approaches.



Underpinning the Application phase of The Method is an acknowledgement that, to have a measurable impact on behaviour, our trials must be implemented in a way that allows them to be properly evaluated.

Measures of success

The ultimate measure of success is, of course, behaviour change, but how do we know we have achieved it?

BehaviourWorks has developed a range of robust Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) frameworks to help us determine what type of data should be collected (and how often) during the trial intervention.

Trial the intervention

Rather than going straight to roll-out, we may test several different intervention options with a smaller group, in a smaller setting, so that we capture impacts and effects. We may conduct field trials, observe people engaging in the behaviour or undertake formative research and evaluations in the laboratory. These trials often challenge our own assumptions and reveal important insights that allow us to refine - or redesign - the program to maximise its impact.

Evaluate and Adapt

This step is about documenting the learnings from our trials (both our successes and failures) and ensuring this knowledge is disseminated in a way that allows for changes to be made in an efficient manner. We use Adaptive Management techniques to facilitate decision-making, acknowledging the skills, expertise and contribution of multiple stakeholders.

Go deeper with The Method Book

Two things: not only have the BehaviourWorks Australia team synthesised their insights into a book, it's free. Years of research is now in an easily accessible format, clearly laying out The Method and how it can help you design better behaviour change programs. You're welcome.