How do we predict long-term action toward environmental goals?
The Carrot & Stick Method: Troublesome?
Environmental project leaders have attempted to change human behavior for decades using the traditional carrot or stick method: either offering individuals an external incentive to act like money or social approval (the carrot) or implementing regulation to deter their action (the stick). While these tactics may seem to offer quick and easy solutions to changing human behavior, time has shown a common trend wherein the humans who these tactics are designed to inspire often lose steam in their progress toward project goals or revolt unexpectedly against the project mission over time. Sixty years of psychological research has found that these effects are predictable and suggests that there are more effective methods that precious organizational resources and time can be used to support.
The Internal Carrot: Predicting Long-term Behavior
My work focuses on ways to strengthen and measure the 'internal carrot'-- the internal motivation that predicts whether and how individuals act toward environmental goals over time. Intrinsic motivation has been empirically shown to predict long-term human behavior toward environmental goals. Over twelve years of research and practice, I have created training methods and evaluation tools that demystify the nuances of the 'internal carrot' in the context of environmental projects and remove barriers to action toward the mission of conservation. The Internal Carrot includes psychological dimensions such as meaningful ownership, effective autonomy, being needed, group effectiveness, and understanding. The diagram above outlines the dimensions of the strategies and tool I have developed to empirically predict and measure how projects affect the intrinsic motivation of humans to act towards environmental goals. I use my knowledge of the Internal Carrot dimensions to guide my work with environmental organizations to quantitatively evaluate this essential aspect of their programs and identify which of their strategies are most effective at fostering long-term action that support their missions.