Forum 5.2 Individuals vs. groups


Forum 5.2 Planning to change behavior: individuals vs. groups

Resources for this activity:

Capitals as community resources, handout pdf

Changing Public Behavior, Workshop Materials. Behavior Change Theories and Techniques fact sheet. Table I. Value-Belief-Norm Theory. Also found in the Sample Workshop Materials online, pages 43-64 .

Water Outreach Web site. Essential Best Education Practices, or as a PDF here.

Check your ability to assess the social dimension of an environmental management opportunity. Take time to study the material for this activity. Try to incorporate new information presented here, the Value-Belief-Norm theory, along with content introduced in Lesson 5.2 in your response.

Use your post to this forum to see how well you have mastered course information about behavior change.


Explain your ideas about the difference between planning to change the behavior of an individual vs. planning to build the capacity of a group or community.

To develop your explanation, compare what you know about changing the behavior of individuals, to information about changing behavior of group members. Consider one more behavior change theory, the Value-Belief-Norm theory – explained below and in Table I of the Behavior Change Theories fact sheet, and refer to it as the basis for your understanding of group behavior.

Your explanation should take into account: the Value-Belief-Norm theory (summarized in the box below), community “capitals” described in Lesson 5.2, and individual behavior change theories outlined in Unit 4. You might find it helpful to start by developing your ideas in conversation with a colleague.

The Value-Belief-Norm theory

For more information about the Value-Belief-Norm theory see Behavior Change Theories and Techniques fact sheet, pages 19-29.

The Value-Belief-Norm theory is a theory about support for a social movement, as applied to the environmental movement.

It outlines behavioral indicators of nonactivist environmentalism and addresses the likelihood of behaviors for: environmental citizenship actions (group activity); policy support and acceptance; personal-sphere behaviors that agree with movement principles, and activism.

Value-Belief-Norm theory states that individuals who accept a movement’s basic values and who believe that valued objects are threatened and that their actions can help restore those values, experience an obligation (personal norm) for pro-movement action.

That sense of obligation creates a predisposition to provide support, depending on the individual's capabilities and constraints.

Value-Belief-Norm theory demonstrates a strong association of personal norms with pro-environmental behavior, when social-psychological effects on acceptance of personal norms are considered.


NOTE: By personal norm, in this context, we mean the beliefs that a person has adopted about a particular action based on: his or her attitude towards a specific behavior; his or her belief about that behavior's acceptability in society; whether the person feels that by applying that behavior he or she will make a difference; and finally whether the person feels that they have the skills to apply the behavior. Review Lesson 4.4 to check your understanding. 

BONUS QUESTION: As part of a social assessment process, what questions could you ask to determine whether individuals where you work have experienced an obligation (personal norm) for “pro-movement” action? How would you use their answers to develop an education or communication initiative?

Share your ideas, questions, and suggestions with other course participants. Add to a discussion, or start a new one.


In Lesson 5.3, you will consider whether human behaviors are contributing towards a particular environmental condition found in a specific place and community, in more detail, building on concepts you learned in Unit 4. The answer to this question requires that you have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the situation – an answer inclusive of the social and natural dimensions.

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