Monday, September 21, 2009

Do One Thing

For change to take real effect, it needs to be personalized. Saatchi & Saatchi S, our sustainability agency, is working with companies to implement nano-practices in the workplace to reduce carbon use.

We call this DIY contagion DOT, Do One Thing. Each person is encouraged to choose one thing to pursue regularity. It can be anything from cycling to work or doing laundry with cold water. It’s just one thing, a start not a complete change of life. One person’s DOT may stand alone, but connect a billion DOTs together and you’ll see a movement of change happening.

Employees throughout our own network have shared their DOTs. Here are ten, from Sao Paolo to Singapore:

  1. My DOT is to take public transportation to and from airports whenever possible.
  2. I use the same bottle for water each day every day.
  3. I am going to stop smoking.
  4. I no longer use plastic shopping bags.
  5. My family will no longer buy water in plastic bottles.
  6. I turn off the tap while brushing my teeth.
  7. I buy ecologic food and supplies, when possible.
  8. I will not eat meat at least once a week.
  9. I will drink coffee from a reusable mug whenever possible.
  10. To find my bike in the cellar – yes, and to use it!
What’s my DOT? Make one less flight per month. What’s yours? It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as you Do One Thing.


Aaron said...

It is a source of daily inspiration that people all over the world have committed to DO ONE THING. The things people are doing every day will manifest innovation through the places we work, the families we love and the happiness we spread

Register your DOT at

Mr. Madness said...

My DOT = xixi no banho!
and brushing my teeth while I'm at it.


Anonymous said...

from Little acorns come great majestic oak trees......
your oaks may be
A happy family round at the dinner table
the child you never believed you'd have
that plum job
whatever the path is it starts with one very important ingredient......

one could change the did this man below (love and peace to you all, Andy)

help this bloke he's a trier!!

Jeremy Gilley is the founder and chairman of Peace One Day.

Dear Friends

10 years ago this September I founded the film project Peace One Day to document my efforts to create an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence with a fixed calendar date. In 2001, Peace One Day achieved its primary objective. United Nations General Assembly resolution (A/Res/55/282) was unanimously adopted by UN member states, formally establishing an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on the UN International Day of Peace, fixed in the global calendar on 21st September.

Jon Alexander, Fallon London said...

Unfortunately for me as a member of SSF group, I'm not sure this is a constructive concept.
When I met Adam, he talked a lot about 'Start from where people are' as the first rule for effective radicals. So I understand where you are coming from.
However, there is a better quote... "Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes time. Vision with action can change the world."
With the language of personal sustainability programmes, there was at least some 'vision' element retained. Now I think you risk only encouraging people to believe they are doing their bit by doing one thing.
There is some extremely well thought-out research on the limitations of 'foot in the door' strategies such as this, as for example here:
I would be happy to help you engage with this in order to refine the SSF stance on these issues.

Adam Werbach said...

Jon, thanks for your post. I’d be very happy to work with you on this. “Simple steps” are a critical component of most movements, but without larger strategic goals, they end up being window-dressing. In the case of Saatchi & Saatchi, this fits into larger commitments, like a commitment to reduce our carbon use significantly (which Kevin will be announcing soon). It also connects to the larger effort in Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis to begin to focus our business further on companies that are leaders in the sustainability world. The first step though is to acculturate the network to this approach, so that it’s authentic. We’ve been working on this phase for about 18 months, and it’s just about time to move on to harnessing the energy that’s been created in the network that runs from South Africa to Brazil to Beijing towards these larger strategic goals. Kevin will be sharing more about these plans in the weeks to come.

-Adam Werbach

Ellen said...

Hey Jon, hey Adam

I’m with Jon on this one. I can’t help but think as an industry we are capable of making more radical moves than this – especially given the urgency of the issues at stake.

Whilst I don’t want to sound like a naysayer, I think we are under estimating people with an approach like this. There is so much potential within the industry to be far more ambitious than this. The danger in ‘one small thing’ behaviour change is that people ‘think’ that its enough, and as Jon pointed out there is substantial evidence to show that there is negligible escalation of behaviour – i.e there is no direct correlation between someone doing ‘one small thing’ and behaviour change in other areas to create the big longlasting change needed in our lifestyles. It simply isn’t effective because it operates within the same motivational frame of consumerism, infact to Jon's point, it can be obstructive in having people think its all they need to do.

Now the advertising industry is expert in consumer psychology – it knows how to tape into peoples deepest desires and motivations. Why then are we still tinkering at the edges, rather than rolling up our sleeves and using our skills to fundamentally bring about a shift in the consumer mindset, rather than focusing on one-off behaviour change?

Adam Werbach said...

I LOVE this conversation. At the bottom of this e-mail I'll share a few sources of the academic literature that sit behind a "small steps" theory of behavior change. Most of the research for this has been done in the health field. The idea is that when you break up a large problem into manageable pieces, and you make those pieces actionable by everyone in their own lives, you build both the engagement and compliance mechanisms for success. This doesn't obviate the need for large structural change; in the case of climate change the world still needs to pass a carbon cap that reduces our emissions of CO2 by 80% by the year 2050. And, similarly, corporations need to exercise their own leadership in changing their products and processes. If you can read just one author, I'd recommend psychologist Albert Bandura, and particularly his thoughts on self-efficacy. From an organizing standpoint Marshall Ganz has spent a great deal of time thinking about how person-to-person organizing forms resilient movements. Our own work with large employee bases has also demonstrated that "bottom-of-the-pyramid" organizing leads to top-of-the-pyramid changes at more rapid and sustainable level than just declaring a bold goal.

With all of that said, I fully endorse your impatience and I invite you to help us lead a movement as big as our potential.

Bakker, A.B. & Schaufeli, W.B. (2008). Positive organizational behavior: Engaged employees in flourishing organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29, 147.

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory. American Psychologist, 44, 1175-1184.

Bandura, A. (2004). Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health Education & Behavior, 31, 143-164.

Mlonzi, E.N., & Strümpfer, D.J.W. (1998). Antonovsky’s sense of coherence scale and 16PF second-order factors. Social Behavior and Personality, 26(1), 39-50.

sculley said...

I agree with Adam that DOT is the way to go, particularly in the current economic climate however, I can see where Ellen & Jon are coming from.

I'd encourage people to read or re-visit Peter Senge's Systems Theory concepts to help remind us why DOTs will eventually bring about bigger change.

Jon Alexander said...

I think the point I'm trying to make is being misconstrued. I'm not saying change doesn't beget change - of course it does. But the problem is that change only begets change WITHIN FRAME. If my motivation is to do the win-win things that save me money and help avert climate change, then I am working within the frame of self-interest.
The research done by Crompton and Kasser shows that there is more going on here. Leaving self-interest motivations intact, and indeed playing to them, actually makes the really big behaviour changes LESS LIKELY to happen - precisely because in doing so we are pandering to a values set that is antagonistic to genuinely pro-environmental beliefs and behaviours. This is seriously important research for what we're doing in the world.
I'm not saying I know exactly how it should change DOT, but I am saying it's the kind of thing we as a network should engage with before we assume we're definitely something good. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Jimmy Greer said...

'I am saying it's the kind of thing we as a network should engage with before we assume we're definitely something good.'

On this point dont want to sound boring but it reminds me very much of setting up corporate sustainability programmes.
If you dont go and talk to all stakeholders and map out what the most material issues are to them and to you before you put together your stratgey your programme will lack relevance and lack the chance to evolve over time.
It becomes a disjointed initiative serving very little purpose other than to appease senior management who want a sustainability 'thing'.
for me the materiality assessment has got to come first...
Jimmy Greer

Joe Brewer said...

I'd like to join in this discussion and amplify Jon's point.

The purpose of strategic visioning in the context of motivating social change is to set the overarching narrative that allows people to self-identify in a manner that (a) reinforces a set of moral values that are part of their identity (e.g. being an engaged citizen who aspires to be socially responsible toward others); and (b) set a conceptual trajectory (via the narrative structure) to see where their "first step" will ultimately lead if they continue on the same path.

While I agree with Adam that it is important to prepare the cultural milieu for empowered action, the nuanced point that is often overlooked lies at the deeper level of considering how the action is understood by the person participating, especially the "toward what end?" component of their personal narrative.

I am working with Tom Crompton at WWF-UK (and have worked in the past with George Lakoff at the Rockridge Institute) to clarify how conceptual worldviews, semantic frames, and meta-narratives of self-identity operate in campaigns. Our goal is to clarify how to shift behavior towards sustainability in powerful and transformative ways. Tom and I have nearly completed a report that demonstrates how research in the cognitive sciences leads to new insights into campaign strategy.

A key insight we explore is the role of deep frames that constitute a person's sense of how the world works, especially how they conceptualize key ideas like the meanings of markets, government, citizens, and corporations. Vital ideas like these will shape how actions are understood in larger cultural contexts that must be modified through the change process in order to succeed.

You can learn more about this approach in a report I co-authored with Lakoff titled, Comparing Climate Proposals: A Case Study in Cognitive Policy.

Much more to say, of course, but I hope this starts to clarify where Jon is coming from. To put it succinctly, if you promote actions without shifting the frames people use to make sense of their world, you will lose vital capacity to engage them in a process of directed and transformative change.


Joe Brewer
Director, Cognitive Policy Works

Tom Crompton said...

I think that the marketing industry has a huge contribution to make to sustainability. The single most important thing it can do is to examine the values that it is helping to promulgate in society. Some values - even though they are often pressed into service by environmental organisations such as the one I work for (WWF) - may be effective in motivating piecemeal changes, but prove counter-productive in motivating systemic environmental concern of the sort that Adam wants to see emerge.These are the extrinisc values (social status and pursuit of wealth etc.)

Other, so-called intrinsic values are of huge help in motivating systemic behavioural change.

So it could be more important for a marketer to ask not whether the product they are selling is socially or environmentally benign, but rather, what particular social values they are promoting: the 'brainprint' of marketing, as opposed to the 'footprint'.

Same applies to motivating simple behavioural changes: the negative brainprint impact of urging people to change to energy efficient light bulbs may more than outweigh the positive footprint impacts, if this behaviour is urged on the grounds of the money that will be saved.

Adam Werbach said...

Jon --

Context IS important. So far, in the applications we've seen, there has been a high degree of coherence in terms of the actions that people choose. We're still in Beta-design phase, so we're looking for examples. At the College of William & Mary, for example, I've been surprised by the level of consistency of the environmental commitments.

The frame is set by the people sharing the program, the fact that it comes from a 'sustainability' initiative, and the environmental leanings of early adopters. They set the context. But we'll see when the project gets uptake among a more general population.


Ellen said...

Forgive me if I’m over simplifying this, but it seems to me that the DOT strategy is focused on bringing about change by treating ‘symptoms’ (behaviours) of a deeper, unseen disease (beliefs).

Surely full health can only be restored by addressing the underlying disease, rather than temporary symptom alleviation? Which as Jon and Tom point out can exacerbate the underlying condition.

Now what I’m really interested in HOW you address this underlying disease (of attachment to social status, material wealth...)?

Tom, I think in this sense marketing approaches can be highly problematic where the image created rarely matches up to a lived reality. My question is then how do I create tangible experiences, interactions, organisations that address this underlying disease?

All suggestions welcome ; )

Lisa Gee said...

Hi Ellen

Have you seen this TED talk: "Life lessons from an ad man" by Rory Sutherland?

Very funny, but makes serious points relevant to the question you ask…

Great discussion, btw