Behaviours or practices? Understanding Interlinked Practices to enact social change for Net Zero…

Louise joined Dr Rhona Pringle and Lucy Harbor of CAG Consultants in a research study for Climate XChange to explore how the Scottish Government could apply the concept of interlinked practices to improve net zero policy development and enact societal change. We carried out research with Scottish Government staff and external stakeholders, including a literature and evidence review, interviews, exploratory and testing workshops, and a mapping exercise.

We found:

  • The interlinked practices concept to be untested and theoretical in terms of policy development and implementation.
  • Policy interdependencies and interlinked practices in the following sectors: Transport, Agriculture and Land Use Change and Forestry, Waste and Circular Economy, and Buildings. These are key pillars of the Climate Change Plan and have significant powers devolved to the Scottish Government. These sectors have practice-based elements and are crucial in making progress towards net zero targets in key areas.
  • Interlinked practices can help to reframe a behaviour problem and help policymakers and practitioners work towards positive societal shift. However, the end point of using social practice related tools is to identify the factors influencing behaviours or practices rather than to prescribe a policy or intervention.
  • Of the three social practice elements, material and competencies were often considered in policy development, but meaning was not.
  • An interlinked practices approach could be beneficial, but policymakers would need support with developing and implementing it. As you can see from the complex flow diagram I devised pictured.

If you are interested in going beyond the concept of behaviour change there will be interesting and challenging reading in the report here https://www.climatexchange.org.uk/media/6012/cxc-applying-interlinked-practices-to-enhance-the-effectiveness-of-net-zero-policy-making-in-scotland-march-2023.pdf.