Social mobilisation strategies for adapting to the impacts of climate change

The research project entitled “Social mobilisation strategies in climate protection policy”, which is being run by Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences and the City of Bielefeld, is investigating the use of various kinds of information technology (i.e. the internet, mobile phones and social networks) in the area of climate protection. The project takes an interdisciplinary approach, with researchers from the fields of psychology, sociology and computer science all working together. Since climate protection requires wide public acceptance, the project aims to improve the general framework for individual initiatives and to have a positive influence on the way people behave.

Climate protection goals cannot be achieved by individual organisations alone – public acceptance and people’s willingness to change the way they behave are always especially needed at the local level. To address this, municipalities require knowledge about the attitudes and behaviour of people in the community and their desire for attractive, low cost, effective tools that can be widely used.

Engine for progress:

  • Valuable results of analysis on individual and collective behaviour
  • Improved communication between the city authorities and citizens
  • Participation and social networking
  • Methodology can also be used in the area of adapting to the impacts of climate change

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Photo: Shutterstock, FH Bielefeld

Images such as these suggest that a lack of flood protection, or insufficient protective measures, frequently lead to extensive damage.

Transformative research project

The project developed theoretical ways of influencing people’s behaviour with regard to climate protection and tested these out in practice. One thousand Bielefeld residents were asked about their behaviour patterns in areas relevant to climate protection. The intention was to determine how the people of Bielefeld could be persuaded to use more climate-friendly means of transport, to implement measures at home and in their apartment blocks, and to adopt a diet that included less meat and more local products.

In terms of partners, the project leaders focused in particular on locally established associations, church congregations and businesses, in order to maximise the number of people involved (“an urban network”). People were also asked about their attitudes and provided with tips via an app. In addition, the project was transferred to the district of Gütersloh.

Transfer to the Risk_M project

The methods used in the project can also be employed for the topic of adapting to the impacts of climate change – the follow-up project, Risk_M, is investigating social mobilisation strategies for improving risk management in cases of extreme flooding. The project is being carried out in collaboration with the respective local and state branches of the Workers' Samaritan Federation in Magdeburg, Lüneburg and Leipzig. The research focuses on establishing which factors (e.g. social capital, perceived threat, anticipated damage, coping strategies) influence the level of and motivation for personal initiative (for example, the mobilisation of emergency services), and also examines what flood prevention might look like in the future.

Special attention is being paid to the processes of communication and interaction between the individuals involved (affected residents and professionals) with the aim of improving risk management in cases of flooding (cooperation management). The transferability of the approach to other districts will be tested. Once completed, the project will be evaluated and the results will be published.

Photo: FH Bielefeld / Ressort Hochschulkommunikation

“As a result of increasing climate change, it is likely that more incidents of extreme flooding will occur in the future. Alongside structural and technical measures, effective protection schemes aim to provide people who will potentially be affected by flooding with information on their individual options for action.”

Prof. Michael Stricker, Department of Social Studies, Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences

Partners and sponsors

  • FH Bielefeld - Forschungsschwerpunkt "Soziale Mobilisierungsstrategien im Politikfeld Klimaschutz"
  • Stadt Bielefeld, Umweltamt
  • Ministerium für Innovation, Wissenschaft und Forschung (MIWF)