The power of ‘we’

15 May 2008 at 9:29 pm 1 comment

Becky Rowe writes:

I’ve been in Australia for a few days for a client project and one of things I have noticed (aside from the jetlag and great weather) is the constant reference across all kinds of public communications to ‘us’, ‘we’, ‘together’, ‘you’, and ‘community’.

New building projects mention ‘helping our communities grow stronger’, while ‘no alcohol’ signs on the beaches explain why it is beneficial to everyone if you don’t drink your beers on the beach. The taxi rank at the airport had a large sign which communicated clearly and simply what you could ask of your taxi driver, and what he could expect of you (you are entitled to ask your driver to turn on or off the radio or aircon, and to take a different route, but you aren’t allowed to be drink or eat in the cab).

The prevalence of these signs, the explicit wording, and clear reference to shared responsibilities, all communicated in a friendly and understandable way, somehow surprised me. In some ways I found them a bit patronising, but I also found it refreshing to have ‘the rules’ of ‘good citizenship’ made clear.

Knowing the rationale behind an apparently bureacratic or even irrational rule can make all the difference to compliance. I think the UK has something to learn from the Australians about how to behave – and how to get people to behave.

Entry filed under: behaviour change, communities, culture, politics, social responsibility, sustainability.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jake Goretzki  |  29 May 2008 at 10:33 am

    This reminded me of a plan I had a few years back to create a Hall of Fame of ‘Hotel Towel Hubris’, collecting the often cloying copy used in those signs in bathrooms encouraging guests to save the world / our laundry overheads.

    Here a couple of classic from US hotels. Hope you’ll forgive the cynicism here(!)…

    Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, Georgia, USA:

    Please enjoy Westins Heavenly Bath complete with Speakman Showerhead, spa towel, Egyptian cotton velour robe and custom bath amenities. Another important element is our voluntary Green Program. Choose to conserve… Towels to be re-used, hang up. Towels to be replaced, please leave on the floor.
    Hotel Blake, 500 South Dearborn, Chicago:

    A hanging towel means “I will use again”
    a towel on the floor means “Please exchange”
    thank you for helping us conserve the earth’s vital resources
    you make the choice


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The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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