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How To Balance Motivation and Enforcement when Reducing Illegal Activity


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When starting a project that aims to tackle illegal activities, we are often faced with the question of: do we tackle the fact that we are not catching everyone who is doing the illegal activity OR the fact that people are doing illegal activity in the first place?

Well, we need to tackle BOTH. This SlideShare includes four lessons I’ve learned in my work about how to effectively motivate people to change their behaviors while also improving a weak or lacking enforcement system.

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How To Balance Motivation and Enforcement when Reducing Illegal Activity

  1. 1. HOW TO BALANCE THE CARROT + THE STICK 4 lessons on balancing the roles of motivation and enforcement when reducing illegal activity
  2. 2. The topic of enforcement typically surfaces early on when planning projects that aim to reduce incidents of illegal behavior, whether it’s illegal fishing or driving without using a seatbelt. And often the question is:
  3. 3. Which do we need to tackle to see results? A lack of enforcement that is needed to catch those doing illegal activities? The fact that people continue to conduct illegal activity? or
  4. 4. We need to tackle both The short answer is In the following slides, I will touch upon 4 lessons I’ve learned about the role of enforcement when promoting legal behaviors
  6. 6. Without a doubt, having a strong, well-functioning, efficient enforcement system is critical when aiming to reduce illegal activity.
  7. 7. THE BENEFITS OF HAVING SUCH A STRONG ENFORCEMENT SYSTEM INCLUDE: Providing a visible reminder that Authority is WATCHING Consequences for those who break the law, sending a signal that the risk is real and reinforces appropriate behavior Active protection for areas under threat from illegal activity, keeping the area and its inhabitants safe
  8. 8. HOWEVER, ENFORCEMENT ALONE WILL NOT CHANGE SOCIAL NORMS Instead it can often: •Threaten a current way of life •Encourage sneakier behavior •Exacerbate the “us versus them” situation
  9. 9. BEHAVIOR CHANGE ALSO REQUIRES MOTIVATION, through: • Demonstrating ideal behavior • Emotional triggers • Social cues • Benefits • Confidence Along with a slew of other things, like infrastructure, legislation, systems, and more.
  10. 10. SO, THE IDEAL COMBINATION INCLUDES: A communication program that promotes the social norm of acceptable behavior improving enforcement of illegal activity in conjunction with Together, the communication program will spread a positive message about why adopting legal behaviors is beneficial and enforcement will both catch the laggards and reinforce the norm (rather than purely just enforce it).
  12. 12. Enforcing rules, regulations, and the law is not an easy job, especially if you’re not getting paid very much or if the people you catch doing illegal activity are part of your same community.
  13. 13. PROJECTS ADDRESSING A WEAK ENFORCEMENT SYSTEM OFTEN NEED TO PROVIDE: • Equipment, resources, and gear. Logistical items to make the system run efficiently. • as well as more personal provisions such as skill building, communication improvements, and increased motivation.
  14. 14. SOME WAYS OF MOTIVATING ENFORCERS CAN INCLUDE: • Providing an indicator of authority to wear (a badge or uniform) • Giving public recognition for when they’ve done well • Creating a feeling that they’re part of something important (and bigger than just “catching the bad guys”) • Building greater confidence in their abilities (such as ongoing trainings)
  16. 16. Motivating, supporting, and prompting the target audience to adopt legal activities is more cost-efficient and sustainable, because…
  17. 17. As more people willingly stop doing illegal activities, a new social norm emerges then the audience enforces and reinforces the behavior themselves which reduces the burden on the enforcement teams (so they can focus on other pressing issues)
  19. 19. It is tempting to promote the risk of getting caught and fined as a main benefit to why your audience should not engage in illegal activity. But don’t promote the risk until it’s real.
  20. 20. The premise of the “click it or ticket” campaign was that youWILL get pulled over and fined if you are caught driving without a seatbelt on. When this campaign launched, the local police department made a concerted push to have their traffic cops on the lookout specifically for non- seatbelt wearers, and people actually got pulled over and ticketed. Therefore, the campaign message was validated as a real threat when people told their own ticket stories to one another, reinforcing through peer discussion the need to wear your seatbelt.
  21. 21. But if that campaign came out and there was no enforcement effort, meaning people rarely ever got caught by the police, then it would not have worked. The audience would quickly realize that it was all talk and no follow through, and it’s really hard for a behavior change effort to rebound from a lack of belief like that.
  22. 22. SO, IF THE TEAM IS NOT YET EQUIPPED TO ENFORCE THE LAW Then don’t include that message in your communications campaign Instead, focus on promoting the right behavior Once enforcement is running smoothly, then you can assess if including messages about the risk of getting caught will help reinforce the desired social norm.
  23. 23. IN SUMMARY: BALANCE THE CARROT + THE STICK Establish, encourage, and reinforce what appropriate and legal behavior looks like… …while improving a weakened enforcement system
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