Klas Grinell

Associating cared for benefits with sustainable consumption in order to motivate action

It is assumed that if people will start behaving sustainably if they only understand that many of our resources are finite and that overconsumption has severe consequences. Unfortunately, despite general knowledge of the harmful impact of modern consumption to our climate and natural habitat, we keep consuming in unsustainable ways. For many, the benefits of sustainable consumption are not sufficiently motivating, especially when it conflicts with their goals. Our research results indicate that a viable way to circumnavigate such psychological barriers is to use co-benefits of sustainable consumption to motivate change. Highlighting societal benefits related to job creation, and scientific advancement, as well as community benefits such as a friendlier society, has proven to motivate climate skeptics and believers alike. This project will stimulate people to start searching for benefits of sustainable choices and thereby recruit new groups to climate change action. This will be achieved through a collaboration between one of the co-benefit researchers and the National Museums of World Culture (NMWC), within a larger exhibition on sustainable consumption. We will develop an interactive activity that showcases and encourages reflection on co-benefits of sustainable consumption. This project will go beyond typical science communication by engaging the intellect, body, and emotion. Through the NMWC we will reach around 200.000 visitors and 800 school classes.
Final report

The aim of the project “Associating cared for benefits with sustainable consumption in order to motivate action” was to communicate research findings on how policymakers could reframe the discussions on climate change to motivate mitigating action. Findings showed that by addressing the potential co-benefits of a future where climate change was halted, citizens where more inclined to act.

Most previous communicative efforts have highlighted the dangers of environmental changes and painted a bleak future for humanity. These efforts have not adequately changed people’s behavior in a more environmentally friendly way. Einarsdóttir has in collaboration with an international team of researchers investigated how potential co-benefits of addressing climate change can motivate pro-environmental behavior around the world, for both those convinced and unconvinced that climate change is real. The conducted research assesses beliefs about the co-benefits that climate change mitigation may bring about. The framework for assessing these beliefs integrates research from various fields of psychology. We asked over 6000 participants from 24 countries from all inhabited continents about their beliefs. The results showed that two types of co-benefits motivated public, private and financial climate change action. First, co-benefits related to economic development and scientific advancement motivated action. Second, beliefs in a more benevolent society as a co-benefit of climate change action, motivated behavior change.

Through an interactive part of an exhibition on sustainability and consumption at the National Museums of World Culture visitors will encounter the effects of such a shift in communicative strategy and themselves face the societal and personal benefits of a sustainable future. Groups who previously been skeptical or indifferent to climate change can, through the interactive activity, find other arguments than pure environmental to engage in societal transformation towards sustainability. Thanks to its game-like construction the interactive activity can reach a range of different ages and encourage them to learn more. In accordance with the rest of the exhibition hall, which in greater extent focuses on objects from the collections and history, the design has during the project period changed to further enhance its future-oriented potential. To broaden the perspective from personal experience´s the project has made use of the geographical scope of the original research. The geographical amplitude in the research has been interwoven with the ambition of the museum to show cultural differences and commonalities across the globe. By highlighting that the future oriented dreams of people can be specific for different places and cultures the audience encounters, and can gain understanding to, different conditions. This project interacts with yet another research project which highlights personal consumer choices. In the original grant application this project also had a stronger focus on personal consumption than the resulting interactive activity. This change was made to make the overall experience more nuanced and extensive without making repetitions and still make use of the potential in the research. Thus, the resulting activity leans more towards the societal benefits that could be encompassed in a transition towards sustainability.

The exhibition experience will be manageable, understandable and relevant to everyone from the age of 12, but at the same time it will also be strong and appealing for adults. In 2016 the Museum of World Culture had 200 133 visitors, and the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm 135 201. In the same year National Museums of World Culture had 784 494 digital users (Annual report, 2016). The exhibition is aimed to reach 100 000 visitors and 400 school classes at the Museum of World Culture alone, with a similar expected reach in Stockholm and digitally.

The project was initiated in January 2018 when some changes in budget and responsibilities where made. Klas Grinell replaced Gró Einarsdóttir as project head. Responsibilities and workload for implementation and administration of the project shifted from project head to Kristoffer Ekberg who took over as coordinator. The museum also added resources for further work in the final stages of the project. We worked with a pre-study that would inform the content of the interactive activity. This took in account both the results from the research and scientific critique of the same. Our focus has been to clarify the multiple steps that the original study was comprised of and to adapt the results to a pedagogical and appealing concept. In April we met with two focus groups, one with youths in upper secondary school and one with participants in ages ranging from about 25 to 65 years old. This test gave us important insights on fields of interests and conflicting views. Together with discussions between Ekberg, the pedagogical staff, Einarsdóttir, and the exhibition producer, these tests guided our focus for the interactive part. A storyboard was drafted during summer 2018, and designer hired early fall 2018. Another focus test was conducted in September with a mockup of the interaction. At this point functionality and understanding was tested.

The result was a pedagogical, clear and inspiring game design where the visitor encountered positive effects of environmental policy and action in the shape of recreational activities, economic benefits and a more enjoyable everyday life. The game is shown as a projection in a room solely designated for this project. Through a board of physical buttons focusing on co-benefits, the visitor interacts with the screen and change the societal vision into one that shows a more environmental friendly view. The buttons and co-benefits connect to the environmental policies and legislations of the Swedish government. This adaptation was made to make the actions more relatable to most of our visitors. The initial societal image has a general modern look to appeal to international visitors. The focus tests comprised of both climate sceptics and citizens with great environmental concern. The adjustments made in the final activity, based on reflections from both these groups, will help reach the aim of the project to engage and reach new target groups.

The importance of focus tests can not be underrated. They have been most useful for the final product and provided important lessons on communicating research. Scientific language and even governmental policy can act as a barrier between researchers and the public. The focus tests have shown the benefits and developing aspects in communicative efforts between academia and the public. The collaboration between the pedagogical staff, exhibition producer and project head have resulted in both an informative and emotional final part of the exhibition. This has been inspiring for future communicative efforts and made visible the potential in collaboration between academia and museums. To include results from research in the greater whole that an exhibition is, also has tied additional element to the original research. Through its scope the activity also has the potential as a meeting ground for a range of themes discussed in the exhibition and highlights the overall questions on how we steer into the future.

Publication list

The project will be shown in the physical exhibition. The interaction will also be made into a web application for the pedagogical website of the exhibition.

Grant administrator
National Museums of World Culture
Reference number
SEK 430,000.00
Communication Projects
Applied Psychology