Publication - Advice and guidance

Influencing behaviours - moving beyond the individual: ISM user guide

Published: 5 Jun 2013
Energy and Climate Change Directorate
Part of:
Environment and climate change

A user guide to the individual, social and material (ISM) approach to influencing behaviours.

Influencing behaviours - moving beyond the individual: ISM user guide


So far we have shown how the ISM tool can be used to develop interventions, broadly in the earlier stages of the 'policy cycle' (to plan, prototype and pilot).

However, the ISM model can also be used as a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of pilots or interventions that have already been rolled out. Evaluation could be undertaken in different forms, from an initial workshop session to identify key evaluation issues to a more formal research project. The former would be akin to the session described above but with a stronger focus on evaluation of the effectiveness of existing policies rather than generating new ideas. The advantages of using the ISM model as a framework for evaluation is that it captures the breadth of contextual factors that influence behaviours, but when combined with evidence, also supports homing in on the most important issues for a particular behaviour.

For example, for EV use to be become widespread in the future, it will be important that charging becomes 'automatic', i.e. a habit. Therefore any evaluation of electric vehicles would need to look not only at the material infrastructure - the type, range and distribution of charging points ( e.g. supermarkets and service stations, cafes, etc.), but also at how and when people charge their EVs. Can and do EV users combine charging with a variety of other tasks ( e.g. shopping)? Or is it seen as an additional and standalone task? A positive answer to the former would suggest that charging is becoming a routine habit, linked to other activities. This would work positively in encouraging other people to buy EVs, as opposed to a situation with limited charging points in which re-charging is difficult.

Of course, a variety of other ISM contexts and factors would also need to be addressed in any evaluation of electric vehicles. In keeping with the working methods of ISM, in which multiple factors across three different contexts are addressed by various stakeholders, a thorough ISM evaluation would involve multiple research methods and sources of evidence ( e.g. usage and charging data, travel/activity diaries, attitude surveys, media/discourse analysis). In the final analysis, these measures would be presented against the background of the take up of the desired behaviour of buying an electric rather than a fuelled vehicle.