ViralChange in Societal Change

Large scale behavioural change is at the core of the solution for many societal problems, from public health to community challenges and the world of sustainability.

Micro and macro social change follow the same rules

In the book Homo Imitans, Leandro Herrero makes a persisting point: there are no fundamental differences between the mechanism that create (or block) a grass roots driven large scale behavioural change inside the organization and those which create (or block) behavioural changes in the wider society. In both territories what has been created is a form or social movement, whether it is labelled or not in this way.

The success formula is the same: strong focus on behaviours (versus a more vague and ‘unmanageable’ ‘change of attitudes’ of ‘change of mindset’); peer to peer influence ( versus top down hierarchical dictation); informal networks of relationships and influence (versus formal team and committees structures); stories that flow around and create a new narrative of success (versus top down bombardment of information) and a particular form of leadership which may seem largely invisible (versus traditional command and control) but which is working from the background.

When the focus is large scale change in societal terms.

Health awareness programmes, health-related behavioural change, tackling street violence, community cohesion projects, social interventions on dysfunctional groups such as families, interventions to holt spread of antisocial behaviour, large scale behavioural change needed in sustainable and green goals, these are all examples where we need to move from top-down indoctrination and hierarchical cascade down of information to a grass-roots, peer to peer driven social copying and imitation. As Leandro Herrero says in Homo Imitans, ‘the best way to tackle a behavioural epidemic is not to fight it but to orchestrate a counter-epidemic’.