Bottom-up communication: identifying opportunities and limitations through an exploratory field-based evaluation
Communication to promote behaviours like energy saving can use significant resources. What is less clear is the comparative value of different approaches available to communicators. While it is generally agreed that ‘bottom-up’ approaches, where individuals are actively involved rather than passive, are preferable to ‘top-down’ authority-led projects, there is a dearth of evidence that verifies why this should be. Additionally, while the literature has examined the mechanics of the different approaches, there has been less attention paid to the associated psychological implications. This paper reports on an exploratory comparative study that examined the effects of six distinct communication activities. The activities used different communication approaches, some participative and others more top-down informational. Two theories, from behavioural studies and communication, were used to identify key variables for consideration in this field-based evaluation. The evaluation aimed to assess not just which activity might be most successful, as this has limited generalisability, but to also gain insight into what psychological impacts might contribute to success. Analysis found support for the general hypothesis that bottom-up approaches have more impact on behaviour change than top-down. The study also identified that, in this instance, the difference in reported behaviour across the activities related partly to the extent to which intentions to change behaviour were implemented. One possible explanation for the difference in reported behaviour change across the activities is that a bottom-up approach may offer a supportive environment where participants can discuss progress with like-minded individuals. A further possible explanation is that despite controlling for intention at an individual level, the pre-existence of strong intentions may have an effect on group success. These suggestive findings point toward the critical need for additional and larger-scale studies. The challenges associated with field-based evaluative research and the role of theory are discussed. The design approach and measures used in this study may be useful to other evaluations that seek to compare different communicative approaches.
Full article available via Springerlink.com
Citation : Wilson, C. and Irvine, K.N. (2012) Bottom-up communication: identifying opportunities and limitations through an exploratory field-based evaluation. Energy Efficiency, 6 (1), pp. 91-104
Research Group : Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development
Peer Reviewed : Yes