Why we include behaviour change in the Adaptation Academy...

731848 GA 72nd PresidentMost years, there are one or two people who are perplexed that a programme on climate adaptation includes sessions on behavioural change - exploring our own responses to change, how change can be effected at a local community level, and at the state level, as well as global changes.

Today, we saw the close of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly with a focus on sustainable development. Outgoing president, Peter Thomson, handed over to Miroslav Lajčák, and in his final address, Thomson summarized the achievements of his one-year tenure, and urged the international community to raise awareness about the behavioural changes needed to create a more sustainable way of life and to combat climate change, as agreed to in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

“We must embrace the power of innovation and technology to leverage SDG implementation and combat climate change at the speed and scale required,” he said. “We are witnessing exponential change in multiple areas of technology and we must manage the risks and seize the opportunities for the common good of humanity and the planet.”

In many ways, this highlights how far the thinking of 'change', and behavioural change especially, needs to progress. Without doubt, we need to see new innovative ways of doing things being implemented, however these force behavioural change on the communities that are engaged with them. We need far more subtlety in how this happens. Enforced change, whether it is in introducing new agricultural practices, or facilitating migration, undermines communities, and destroys the confidence of many of the people within them. When change is effected through learning, both formal and informal, and adult as well as child, then there is a far greater chance of it being successful. In many cases, this is slower, but not necessarily if it is managed properly.

Personally, I believe that this is going to be something that we need to engage in far more intensively in the future - drawing in perspectives from anthropology, psychology, sociology, history, and from the teaching profession.

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