« Innovate and invest in communities: A commentary by Angela F. Williams | Main | Recruiting and retaining employees with skills-based volunteering: A commentary by Tessa Vithayathil »

'Hidden obstacles' to behavior change: A commentary by Alice Ng

August 26, 2022

Human_brain_xray_Hayri Er_GettyImages-171263511Organizations of all kinds often aim to change people’s behavior by offering incentives or warning of negative consequences. Foundations, governments, and NGOs often rely on lessons learned from programmatic reports or interventions that worked in similar circumstances. But these approaches may fail to address factors that are preventing behavior change in a particular community or situation.

As a result, traditional grantmaking processes and nonprofit strategies sometimes fail to get the results we want because we don’t understand the motivations of the people we’re trying to engage well enough—that is, we don’t see the hidden obstacles. To accelerate progress on addressing big problems, we need to identify the barriers to behavior change before launching or funding a program and committing to a theory of change....

The challenges of bringing about behavior change get trickier with efforts to address systemic issues. Initially successful efforts may stall later on because they introduce new hidden obstacles. For example, research on using small-bore steps—“nudges”—to reduce carbon emissions found that while nudges may result in small improvements, they ultimately decrease support for higher-impact solutions like a carbon tax—by leading people to believe that there’s a quick and easy fix....

Read the full commentary by Alice Ng, senior advisor for fundraising at Multiplier.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Hayri Er)

« Previous post    Next post »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

Subscribe to PhilanTopic


Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Filter posts