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Tidy Street: Changing Neighbors' Behaviors through Voluntary Monitoring and Public Infographics

Residents Tidy Street (Brighton, UK) collaborated with a graffiti artist, producing street art each day to indicate their electricity usage

Photo of Meena Kadri
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This post was originally shared by LaTeisha on our OpenIDEO Vibrant Cities Challenge. I'm cross-pollinating it here as it has lots of relevance to our Renewable Enegry Challenge around engaging communities and visualising consumption.

"After being reminded of this project in Gary Huswit's Urbanized film, I thought I would post it.

Over two months in spring 2011, The Tidy Street project engaged volunteer residents and a street artist in a project attempting to change energy-consuming behavior.  Organizers gave residential participants electricity meters to track how much electricity different devices in their home use. A website enabled them to see how the electricity usage in their home changed over time – and allowed them to compare that against the street's average. They could also compare that to the national average or even that of other countries. Once participants started measuring, a local graffiti artist painted the street's average energy use against the Brighton average in a graph on the road outside their homes, updating this each day with information from the prior 24 hours. 

The project aimed to answer whether the public display of this monitored data would change the community's electricity consumption during the project. Indeed,  over the first three weeks, the street's average energy use dropped by 15%, with some cutting usage by as much as 30%.

I'm really impressed by the impact of monitoring and publicly sharing behavioral changes and the sense of project ownership and civic pride the participants seemed to have felt."

How might we help communities visualise their collective consumption to trigger onwards conversations in an engaging way? Could this kind of thing be used for visualising crowdsourcing of community renewable enegry initiatives too?



Join the conversation:

Photo of Maira Khan

Hey Meena ,
hope all is great at your end .
Great to go through your contributions . They actually lead to bridging gap between 3P : peace , prosperity and planet .
Good luch !
would love to be a part of your team . ��

Photo of Chip Giller

This was such a cool project -- Grist interviewed Jon Bird, who started it, as part of our work to elevate people making change. He made some important points -- including the sad but perhaps not surprising fact that six months after the experiment, just 3 of the original 17 households were still checking their meters and recording their energy usage. So it does raise Qs about how to sustain these creative approaches over time, how to keep people's interest. Conservation can be a tough sell, but it's such an important part of this puzzle.

Photo of Nyko de Peyer

Chip, from my experience, if you want people to change behavior and stick to it, there need to be incentives. Gamification and providing incentives for people to change has worked extremely well in the corporate world-- for example credit card companies give a fraction of what you spend back so that you will use their card. They make money on the transactions and processing fees, and the fraction you get back doesn't mean a lot to them, but it can be meaningful to the consumer, and drives consumers to spend.

If you had the ability to prove that you were checking your meter and trying to be efficient about power usage, and the energy companies could see this and provide credit back or a discount, then maybe more people would continue checking their meters. The issue is, once the art was gone, the incentive was gone. Such a cool project!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this pos being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Selina McPherson

Wow this is great Meena. I love the direct impact that data visualization has on peoples' usage habits. This really shows the power of transparency!

Photo of lee wallace

This is fantastic, it is a 'nudge', behavioural economics, using a social norm to let people know how their behaviour compares to others. People like to follow social norms and do the right thing. very very powerful.

I love the street art aspect, imagine if all these energy savings were aggregated nationally each day and it was reported on the nightly news, just like GDP, interest rates or exchange rates.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Glad you like it, Lee. Am sure stuff like this would go down very well in Australia!

Photo of wekesa zab

Halo Meena, i love this share.. the used of graffiti/ street installations .. to get communities and neighborhoods thinking bout their energy consumption..
thanks for the share.