An integrated approach to behavior change

An integrated approach to behavior change
By Matt Barnard
Feb 22, 2024

In 2023, a cartoon was published in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. It shows two officials at a polling booth, with one saying to the other “Would more people come to vote if we offered a Local Election Quiche?” in reference to the national dish created for King Charles III’s coronation. The coronation was much better attended than the local elections in England that had taken place a few days earlier.

It seems ridiculous to think that offering a quiche as an incentive could change behavior around something like voting, which we intuitively think of as being spurred by core, motivational drivers.

But the cartoon highlights that behavior is influenced by a range of factors, including short-term incentives.

A new Integrated Model of Behavior

For policy makers seeking to understand and influence citizen behavior, a traditional, siloed approach—economic levers, the psychology of an individual's motivation, or behavioral insights like "nudging"—can fail to generate a comprehensive understanding of the drivers of behavior, leaving gaps in policies and interventions.

ICF’s Integrated Model of Behavior seeks to bridge these gaps. It offers a framework that considers the interconnectedness of traditional methodologies. The Integrated Model stems from the realization that people seeking solutions to problems are generally not concerned with the tools being used but rather with finding effective interventions.

The new model developed organically out of deep research and insights into the traditional approaches. We integrated the traditional approaches, examined their commonalities and contradictions, and ultimately created a holistic framework.

ICF’s Integrated Model of BehaviorICF’s Integrated Model of Behavior

The Integrated Model in practice

An example of the practical application of the Integrated Model is a recent project under the umbrella of U.K.'s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Net Zero Growth and Environmental Improvement plans. The project encourages more stakeholders to attend engagement events in order to support a cross-industry approach to environmental protection.

We used the Integrated Model to map barriers to this engagement across the behavioral pathway. By identifying issues related to motivation, choice, implementation and negative feedback loops, the model informed potential interventions. For example, altering the email invitation using insights gained into the wide range of barriers to the engagement events was a simple, immediate intervention to test.

We also recommended more long-term actions, like launching an ambassadorial program or integrating an engagement element into existing events. Other suggestions, such as compensation, addressed issues around the cost-benefit of attending engagement events for stakeholders who may be concerned about any loss of income during their time away from work.

In a very different sector, our Integrated Model has also helped the efforts of the Youth Endowment Foundation (YEF) to reduce violent offending and victimization among young people.

While evaluating two of their sports-based programs, we mapped potential causes of violence to elements on the Integrated Model pathway, such as “motivation” and “choice.” From there, we could create precise theories of change that now inform the intervention trials, helping both us and the YEF to understand what works.

A unified future for behavior change

We believe the Integrated Model improves upon traditional frameworks by bridging the gaps between traditional approaches, unifying the best of these models, combining their commonalities, and ironing out their contradictions.

The new model encourages practitioners to focus on solving the problem itself and to consider the entire behavioral pathway, offering a broader perspective than a siloed approach. It therefore reduces the likelihood of an intervention failing, due to overlooking any critical contributing factors to certain behaviors. By addressing all relevant areas simultaneously, the Integrated Model means subsequent behavior change interventions can have much more impact.

Meet the author
  1. Matt Barnard, Consulting Director

    Social researcher, evaluator and behavioural scientist; developer of the integrated model of behaviour. View bio

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