On June 8th WISERD researchers delivered two ‘knowledge exchange’ workshops on behaviour change at a two-day event organised by Participation Cymru attended by stakeholders across Wales with an interest in public engagement with service delivery. An overview of the policy and political (UK Gov) terrain was firstly given by Jessica Pyket from the ‘Soft Paternalism’ project at Aberystwyth University. Alex Plows and Laura Jones then fed back findings from the WISERD localities research programme, providing examples of senior service delivery managers and other stakeholder perspectives on behaviour change and citizen engagement, particularly focusing on issues of participation, choice, opportunities, and the interrelationships between individual capacity/responsibility and structural (macro) factors. The question of whether there exists the potential for a distinctive ‘Welsh model’ also helped to frame a series of discussion topics on how the workshop participants understood and viewed the issue of behaviour change as it related to their sector.
There were lively discussions during the workshops, which saw participants tending towards situating behaviour change in the context of community or collective behaviour change and with several discussions about the necessity for institutional and systemic behaviour change. Engaging people in behaviour change through encouraging informed choice was seen by one participant as “more respectful” than “nudging” them. This was an interesting takeup of the more individualised model of the behaviour change agenda in current UK Government policy and is possibly a reflection of the particular sector represented by workshop participants (workshop participants working in community /service delivery); as well as potentially signalling a ‘Welsh model’ of behaviour change. The workshops were given highly positive feedback in the evaluation forms provided by Participation Cymru and seen as relevant and useful to the participants’ working practice; we will try our best to be ‘less academic’ in our delivery next time, however!