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 building 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. In addition to conducting literature and practice reviews, we also invest time gathering data from  partner organisations, 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.

Skip the Deep Dive by using generic behaviour change tools

Sometimes we have enough evidence on the behaviour and target audience to move directly from Exploration to Application (intervention). Alternatively, our timelines and resources might be limited. In these cases, we can use a range of generic behaviour change 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

What influences  behaviour?

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 interventions are instead based on assumed models of behaviour. 

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

Propose theories

In order to determine how we are going to change the target audience's behaviour, we first need to identify a theory or framework of behaviour that suits 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.

We use a range of qualitative and quantitative audience research methods to learn more about the influences impacting  behaviour. But we also know people aren't always aware of the things that influence them (e.g. biases and social norms), so we often need to draw on observations, population data and other evidence to capture the full suite of influences impacting the behaviours of interest.

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 during the Exploration and Deep Dive 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.


What impact have we made?

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

Measures of success

Defining measures of success is often the first step to assessing impact. While changes in behaviour is a key focus, we might also be interested in changes to the underlying influences on behaviour as well as whether our interventions have been implemented as planned.  

Such measures of success are typically documented in a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) framework to help us determine what type of data should be collected, how often, by who, and using what methods. Importantly, this data should be collected before, during and after the implementation of our interventions.

Trial the intervention

While our interventions might be based on established theory and evidence, there is no guarantee they will work. So before embarking on a broad 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.

Scale and share learnings

To ensure that our research is implemented and impactful, we explore strategies to scale, disseminate and translate our research findings. We do this by drawing on bespoke internal frameworks which we have developed from our research: SCALE  and SPREADS. These are discussed in Chapter 12 of our book.

Go deeper with The Method Book

We've republished The Method Book and it's now available to be pre-ordered! For those curious about what they can expect in each chapter of our new book, and where it can be pre-ordered, click on the link below.