Design Approach

User Centred Design + Service Design Thinking + Energy Visualisation = Fun and rewarding activities to save energy in workplaces

A lot of work is being put into behaviour change theory, and exploring its possibilities. This pilot was a chance to apply these theories under conditions that would allow evaluation of new and innovative approaches, letting us monitor results and evaluate the potential opportunities. Most importantly, it let us explore how to get people to join in with energy-saving measures in the workplace and change their behaviour by testing out what actually works.

Workplace behaviour change efforts have traditionally been implemented as instructive communication based programmes that have been either static in time or just communicated one way, drawing on techniques from e.g. McKenzie-Mohr & Smith (1999) Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing. Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society marketing. These efforts might include putting up signs reminding people to turn off lights or guidelines telling staff what to do. The problem is that just telling people to do, or not do, isn’t very effective and doesn’t produce lasting change in the way that engaging with, and involving people, can.

We wanted to give the users a voice and to put the needs and concerns of the people whose behaviour we wanted to change at the centre of the design process. We also wanted to encourage them to participate and keep them there through a dynamic user engagement process of participatory design. Staff at DECC provided input and feedback at every stage, and were kept up to date of where we were through blog posts and other communications tools.

We provided an online social media platform as a single base from which a large number of behaviour change drivers could be delivered. The CarbonCulture Platform is flexible in content and use, but provides an underlying anchor for the developing community.

As the behaviour change tools were going to be co-designed with DECC staff, we needed a way to communicate and to build a relationship with our users. Therefore, the online platform was first introduced as a simple blog that communicated the design process in a transparent and interactive way.

Continuous feedback and conversations between us and DECC staff were key components of the whole approach to the pilot. Having a simple ‘feedback’ function on the platform, as well as comments on the blog, gave users the opportunity to question, comment, and get involved.

The tools were developed with rapid and agile iterations. The team used DECC staff feedback at every step to respond very quickly to design tools for them, and then to use their comments to make improvements quickly. By designing carbon-saving tools with the end user in mind and listening to these users at every stage, we encouraged DECC staff to feel involved in the process of improvement and to be invested in the process. They were therefore able to withstand the development of the pilot, and to be involved in making it better.


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The CarbonCulture Platform


‘Homebase’ for CarbonCulture Members, Tools and Blog
Number of CarbonCulture at DECC Members: 410
Number of CarbonCulture at DECC Blog Reads: 2274

All of the Design Stages and user interaction discussed below need a vehicle to deliver them — a place that can bring together the tools used in behaviour change, as well as providing a ‘community space’ that is fun and easy to use. The CarbonCulture Platform was introduced to provide this ‘product platform architecture’, linking three levels of functionality that provided:

  • A user facing communication channel for the CarbonCulture team
  • A core structure for incentivisation mechanisms
  • Practical way-finding to individual interventions, or ‘Tools’

The Platform, and the user engagement tools it would host, were presented using a brand that was very distinct from the DECC brand. Knowing that users respond differently depending on the messenger, the CarbonCulture team were careful to always present information clearly, and to openly call for feedback at all times. A friendly tone of voice and cute iconic ‘peeps’ were used throughout the space and external communications.

Presenting information and updates in a way that humanises a normally technical and intangible domain helped to facilitate understanding of the issues. It also helped to portray the CarbonCulture team as being demographically and behaviourally similar to the users.

The Platform was developed with features that would engage users, as well as influence them. Users created profiles in order to use the platform, choosing avatars to represent them in the community space. A number of people in the pilot took the opportunity to upload their own images as their online representation. All of this allowed users to feel ownership of the space, and feel involved in the direction of the tools presented there.

This new community was extended outside of the online space by linking up with other touchpoints throughout the building. Information presented on the platform was also presented through public real time displays, posters, notifications on the intranet and updates in ‘all-staff’ emails. These extensions reinforced the community to existing users, as well as making non-users aware of, and directing them toward the platform.

The primary communication channel for CarbonCulture to speak to users who had joined the platform was through a regularly updated ‘billboard’ for high level updates, and a blog that kept users informed in more detail.

The ‘billboard’ space on the homepage of the CarbonCulture at DECC community site was a place for the CarbonCulture team to play out a selection of messages to users that were easy to understand, fun to read and exciting to look at — and importantly led users to certain areas of the platform or encouraged certain actions.

Blog posts also employed the accessible language used throughout the user-centered design process, and furthered the commitment to transparency throughout the pilot.

The core Platform functionality centred around a ‘dashboard’, where user actions were recorded and incentivised through a leadership board, a community activity feed, and a summary of each user’s own points and blocks.

Online Feedback and Interview Results — CarbonCulture Platform

“Really like the profile images – I’ve always wanted the chance to dress up as David Bowie in Aladdin Sane!”

“We need a stair walkers’ tool!”

“I’m loving the new leaderboard this season. I just wondered, and this is probably a stupid question, is there anyway to build up carbon culture points when you are out of the office for the day or on annual leave?”

“I do check the activity feed, but don’t know everyone I see on it, I’m more interested when I see friends”

“Points mean prizes”

“It was a massive talking point across the office”

Dashboard with links to carbon saving activities and energy graph


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