HOW TO USE THE ISM TOOL" A STEP-BY-STEP APPROACH
This next section of the guide shows how to use ISM as a practical tool for influencing behaviours. In theory, the ISM approach could be used as a planning tool by one person sitting at their desk. However, experience in developing effective strategies shows that you are more likely to be successful if you can bring together a group of people to use ISM as a practical tool in a workshop setting.
The following steps are suggested as the basis of a workshop which seeks to provide insights for the development of policy and practice. A summary diagram and a more detailed explanation are provided.
1. DECIDE IN ADVANCE THE TARGET BEHAVIOUR
'If you want to change a behaviour, first specify that target behaviour' ( GSR Behaviour Change Knowledge Review, 2008). In other words, this is a specific behaviour ( e.g. installing loft insulation) undertaken by the same group of people ( e.g. house owners rather than landlords). Note that this is not necessarily the same as a policy goal. For instance, a policy goal might be 'to save energy in the home' but from the householder's perspective this could involve turning down the thermostat, and/or installing double glazing or solid wall insulation. All of these are different behaviours, with different contexts and influences, and each would need to be targeted differently. It is critical that the targeted behaviour is clearly understood and agreed in advance with the people attending the workshop.
It's important to get 'the right people' together; people with a good knowledge of the behaviour in question, the current policy and practice landscape, and knowledge of research and evidence. Policy leads, analysts, specialists in the field from different disciplines, and practitioners who work at the coal face would be ideal to invite along. A group of up to ten people is a good workable number.
The ISM tool should itself provide a challenge to received wisdom by identifying the wide range of different contexts and factors that influence behaviours. However, it may also be a good idea to invite along a 'critical friend' to challenge people's assumptions. In other words, aim to achieve a diverse range of participants with a deep understanding of the factors that influence behaviours in order to maximise the possibilities for creative insights.
Ideally, one person acts as convenor or customer for the session: they outline the problem and are the main arbiter of whether and how to action the ideas generated. As well as a facilitator who is knowledgeable in behaviour change theory and research, and has experience of working with ISM, it's worth appointing an able note taker who can capture points as they are being raised.
3. INTRODUCE THE ISM TOOL
It's a good idea to provide a short introduction to the ISM tool, covering explanations of the contexts and the different factors which influence behaviours. For those who are already familiar with the tool, a brief re-cap should suffice.
The customer or convenor of the session should briefly outline the existing policy and practice context, covering the current uptake of the target behaviour, the main things government and others are currently doing to encourage this behaviour ( i.e. the policy context), and any reflections on key issues or problems. Try and keep this to five minutes maximum. If more detail is required, it will emerge in subsequent stages of the exercise.
This should follow smoothly on from step 4, and pick up on one or two of the main points noted there, observing the useful principle of 'starting where people are at'. The facilitator or note taker should start capturing the key points being raised about the different factors, either on to flip charts or PowerPoint, so that the group can view them as they work through the remaining steps.
There will be different ways to use the tool depending on whether it is being used for developing effective strategies or evaluation. Depending on the assumptions and skills of the participants, you may wish to put a different emphasis on the different contexts in the tool: for example, highlighting Individual or Social factors when previous work has been led by a focus on Infrastructure or Technologies, and by contrast emphasising the Material when participants are more inclined to turn to 'communications-based' solutions.
6. COVER ALL THE CONTEXTS AND FACTORS
It is useful to capture linkages as the conversation flows from factor to factor, and across contexts. Although we do not suggest running the exercise as a rigid checklist which goes through all separate ISM factors in order, there may be a need towards the end of the session to prompt the group on any factors that have not come out spontaneously. This in turn leads naturally into the next step of standing back and prioritising.
Furthermore, at this point, do not worry too much about the details of the supporting evidence. Work from the group's expertise, which step 2 highlighted should include people with knowledge of the evidence base. After the session, it is a good idea to ground and cross check the 'facts' as reported in the session - especially if it is a crucial element in the chosen intervention approach(es).
Key insights are likely to be those which were the most striking to participants when they first came up, or which keep being referred back to by the group. Others may be apparent by reviewing the completed mapping to see which factors link most with other factors. Note any initial ideas for step 9.
Picking up from step 4 above, note existing policies and interventions by government and others to encourage the target behaviour, before moving on to the next step.
Note what factors are not covered by existing policies or interventions - the gaps - and note people's ideas for how these gaps can be addressed. In other words, what should we be doing to impact on key behavioural factors that we are not already doing?
Some ideas will come naturally to the fore and may already have been generated as part of the mapping of behaviours (steps 5- 7), whilst others may require more creative thinking. It may be helpful to focus in on the potential linkages between factors, both within and across the different contexts, to generate ideas.
This step should also consider what factors would benefit from being strengthened. For example, a clearer understanding of the costs and payback period (under 'Individual') was identified in the electric vehicles workshop - see worked example below.
10. TAKE ACTION - DEVELOP A COHERENT PACKAGE OF INTERVENTIONS
Take a step back and reflect. Decide the priority factors to address and ideas to take forward. Ideas which impact on a range of different factors which have been identified as gaps are likely candidates. The wider evidence base may also be helpful in deciding which ideas to take forward.
Possibilities for implementing more than one idea at a time should be explored, working on as many contexts and factors as possible, to develop a coherent and coordinated approach. Evidence shows that this is more likely to be effective in influencing behaviours than developing and implementing one intervention at a time. Consider the roles of government (central and local), business and other stakeholders, such as communities and the third sector, in taking forward different interventions.
It may also be a good idea to prototype or pilot new approaches and evaluate them in order to learn lessons before roll out. In any event, evaluation of the implemented package of interventions is good practice.
Finally, it may not be possible to cover all of the steps in the same workshop. Therefore you may wish to reconvene the same or a different group of people to reflect on the issues and ideas raised and to develop an action plan for moving forward.
The next section of the guide provides a worked example which illustrates the insights and ideas which can be gained from using the ISM tool.