Access conference: Changing behaviours requires inspiration, dialogue and trust

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 04/12/2019

Be better as a community of outdoor representatives to share good practice messages. This was one of the key messages from the BMC conference on Changing Behaviours.

The BMC access conference held on Thursday 14 November looked at how we can influence positive behaviour in the outdoors in order to continue to care for the places we love. There were a number of presentations focussing on a range of issues from wild fires and parking to wild camping and pooing in the great outdoors.

In particular, the conference highlighted the continuing problems around litter and poo, disposable bbqs, dogs, transport and a general disrespect for our natural environment.   All of those presenting drew on the need for more education and a change in tactic in how we try and tackle changing behaviour.  Inspiration, dialogue, compromise and trust are all required along with public pressure and awareness.

Similarly, there was general agreement that more volunteering opportunities would be beneficial to help get more people involved and spread the understanding of the impacts we are having. More pressure on central government around issues such as funding for path work and the banning of bbqs is also needed. How quickly this change is needed was also raised - ‘winning slowly is the same as losing outright…’

A range of engaging speakers were at the conference (click on links to download PDF versions of the presentations):

Conserving Special Features, Barbara Jones, Upland Ecologist

How can visitors help care for our upland paths? Richard Fox, Fix the Fells

Wild fires & loss of wilderness, Chris Dean, Moors for the Future

Camping in the wild – getting too close to nature? John Cousins, Mountain Training UK

Shh! It Happens! Lessons learnt from the “what to do when you need a poo” pilot.
Nik Turner, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park

More behaviour to change: the BMC perspective, Rob Dyer, BMC

What's the point of codes of conduct? Joe Roberts, Natural Resources Wales 

Brain & Behaviour: The battle of Intention and Impulse, Dr Rhi Willmot

Delivering Creative Behaviour Change Campaigns, Trewin Restorick, HUBBUB 

How these messages should be presented to the public was considered, with the possibility of using more ‘shock’ imagery, more catchy phrases and the ‘fun theory’ to get our messages across. Whatever our future approach, it is clear that we (the collective outdoor representatives) need more innovative thinking to get our messages out there, we need to understand our audience a little better, we need to collaborate, keep messaging simple and we need to try and inject a bit of fun when and where it’s appropriate.

Next steps – the BMC will look at putting together a group (or several) to look at some of the key issues and will draw on those attending the conference to join these. Fortunately, there are many passionate and skilled professionals working hard to meet these challenges and opportunities in lots of different ways, as was apparent at the conference.  This will help input into the BMC Green Guide to the Uplands; a series of good practice messages that we might all be able to share (leaving behind any organisations logos); and one or two specific campaigns in 2020. ‘Changing behaviours’ will be a core part of the BMC Access Team’s work next year!



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