Those of you who work directly with young people will know that the direct approach rarely works. You can tell a teenager till you’re blue in the face that risk taking behaviours are a very bad idea, but he won’t hear you, even while he nods and smiles.
The research report produced by the Department of Education earlier this year – Reducing Risky Behaviour Through Provision of Information – simply confirms everything we already knew, but very interestingly, also focuses on the opportunity presented by utilising social norms programmes to make a difference where simple educational messages never will.
This paper is summarised briefly in the recent Behaviour – warnings to teenagers are a risky business, which you may have seen, and which again spots the opportunity presented by social norms.
RUDifferent? is arguably now the largest and most tightly defined social norms programme now operating in the UK, maintaining a strong presence in the North West, Midlands, Yorkshire, South West and South East and soon to be expanding overseas. It is specifically designed to support local authorities and schools in their work addressing risk taking behaviours in young people.
Gary Lovatt, Director at Social Sense, the company behind RUDifferent?, says: “For years now we have been trying to disrupt this space and challenge complacent minds. It’s not enough to just condemn campaigns that don’t work, we need to provide evidence based solutions that DO work. Social norms challenges and changes behaviour but we accept that this needs to be joined with other strategic, long-term approaches.
“Because of our mix of traditional and innovative interactions with the target groups, we can not only reveal the truth behind the hype around risk taking behaviours – smoking, drinking, sex & relationships and drugs – but we can reveal this truth to the young people in measurably effective ways.”
It is our view that a risk taking activity prevented is far more valuable to our community than a risk taking activity cured. The long term health and wellbeing of any young person drawn to smoking, drinking or drugs, or falling pregnant, is instantly compromised – and this has a long term impact on the local authority that then has to ‘pick up the pieces’ via their Public Health budget. Social norms can, and measurably does, change behaviour. Isn’t it time you investigated the opportunity too?
Would you like to learn more about how you can make change through effective prevention rather than expensive cure? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org