Tonight, I was given the very fun opportunity to make the remarks after the opening BECC Icebreaker. By recommendation of my colleague, Chris Jones, I focused my talk on teams and social capital, which I see as the generator of social diffusion. Just for fun, a few excerpts:
We hoped tonight’s icebreaker was a fun way to meet some new people and reconnect with old friends and colleagues, but we also hoped it would get you think about some elements of behavior change.
Last year’s keynote speaker, David Gershon, shared with us the power of the EcoTeam model. For those that might have missed it or are unfamiliar with Gershon’s work, the EcoTeams Low Carbon Diet Program assists households in engaging in environmental actions. A household joins an EcoTeam with 5-6 others and they meet regularly over the course of a four-month period. Each team member chooses actions that match their larger goals, resources, and interests. And over the four months, neighbors get to know each other, they coach one another on completing their actions, and hold one another accountable.
The EcoTeams model has demonstrated outstanding success. One representative case reduced energy use by 14%, vehicle miles traveled by 8%, waste by 40%, and water use by over 30%. In other words, the EcoTeams are highly effective units for supporting sustainable behavior change.
You see, when we work in teams, our behavior changes, and we get certain benefits:
- We’re apt to practice leadership and team-building skills
- We innovate, by trading and exchanging ideas
- We’re more confident because we’re not alone
- We’re building trust. In teams, we make connections, we cooperate, and collaborate. We earn the trust of one another.
And when we are building trust, we’re building another resource….
Social Capital. Social capital is the collective value of all ‘social networks’ and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other. Social capital is the ability to confidently ask your neighbor for that cup of sugar, or the confidence that if you to pull over to check on a stalled car, you won’t get taken advantage of, and that when you’re stuck on the side of the road, someone will help you out. It’s the confidence, as one professor once told me, that when I give into this community, I can reasonably expect to receive something back for no other reason than that we’re socially connected.
When we are in teams and working together, we are building social capital, a trust in one another. Research shows that in communities and groups with high social capital, there is more trust, more collective activity, they are often more effective, and more apt to adopt each others’ ideas, recommendations, and behaviors. The adoption of ideas through trusted peers, we known as….Social Diffusion
Unlike social norms, and the “herd effect,” social diffusion is about trust, not numbers. Think of the last time you took a chance on a movie or picked up a new book to read. Likely, it came by recommendation of a friend or colleague that knows you and who you trust.
Social diffusion is why we trust the recommendations of friends and colleagues over Yelp reviews, why farmers adopt no-till practices only after they’ve been proven by their neighbors, and why it might take a trusted neighbor or friend (or an obnoxious but trustworthy local hardware store guy) to convince folks to change their light bulbs.
Underlying all of this is social capital, and that sense of trust or sense of community. The better we get to know one another, the more we might trust each other, and more quickly we can exchange ideas and learn from one another.
We hope that tonight was a helpful start to expanding your trusted network and building a sense of community here at BECC, because we all want innovation, idea exchange, cooperation and learning!
We hope that within your team you met someone new, maybe found someone you would like to talk with further, or that the icebreaker increased your confidence that you’re going to learn something new this year at BECC.
BECC offers several days of opportunities to build our community, foster new connections, and facilitate collaborative learning. We hope that this year’s BECC and our social media (via Twitter, LinkedIn Group, and Facebook) continue to offer a rich exchange of ideas here and throughout the year.