A safe space for sustainability



We’re big fans of  Nudgestock and this year’s event was the best yet. One of the papers that was very topical to us was Cinta Azwiendarsari’s talk on ‘A safe space for sustainability’.


Based in Jakarta, Cinta shared helpful ideas which are relevant to wherever you are championing more sustainable solutions. She shared a case study to illustrate the opportunity for behavioural science to advance sustainability programmes especially in developing countries. Her key point was that interventions in sustainability fail because of the inherent biases from the intervention designers.


Case study: Fishermen and the SNAPPER programme

The fishing industry in Indonesia consists of more than 9 million jobs – so fishermen’s livelihoods are very important to the local economy. Cinta was working with an environmental NGO – The Nature Conservancy to help build awareness and understanding of the environmental impact of over-fishing, and to encourage fishermen to participate in reporting the detail of their catches. This data is vital to help make informed decisions about how and where to manage fishing efforts for the future.


They quickly learnt that fishermen didn’t believe that their fish stocks would run out in the future, they felt the fish stocks were always going to be bountiful. They saw that the size of their catch was down to fate, not the environment. A lot of fishermen felt that supporting sustainable fishing could be much more about a sense of contributing to their country and a sign of nationalism than being interested in sustainability per se.


This allowed Cinta and the team to consider a new narrative for the fisherman to build a sense of pride in sustainable fishing practices. They developed a campaign called Nelayan Peduli (or ‘Caring fishermen’) that focuses on the narrative of pride and self actualization as fishermen, rather than the narrative of Sustainable Fisheries itself. This narrative, along with the campaign materials (such as a calendar, playing cards see below) highlighted the fishermen’s crucial role in the continued prosperity of Indonesia’s fisheries. They were developed and informed through the insights generated from spending time in 3 different fishing communities in the eastern part of Indonesia. They were also inspired by the Indonesia cultural tradition of Gotong Royong – where every member of a community is expected to contribute to ensure communal resilience. This campaign encouraged fishermen to see fish data collection data as a shared duty that they can be proud to contribute to.


We spoke to Cinta and asked her advice on tips to help clients to consider investing in field trips before designing behaviour interventions:


“It’s a never-ending effort! It’s not easy, because it’s expensive, it takes time, and some projects have limited budgets. It takes time to convince many of them on why research is important to inform behaviour design. Clients often come with specific briefs where they already know what they want to do (e.g. A poster to convince fishermen to adopt sustainable fishing practices) and this is what we are often trying to challenge. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t, which is part of the lifecycle of an agency. But having successful case studies is definitely useful to encourage investments in more insights-led solutions (and providing safe space in the process).”


Here are Cinta’s 5 top tips for creating a safe space to explore sustainability interventions


  1. Be mindful of your own biases.
  2. Sustainability issues are complex. Allow time to create an environment to learn, reflect and have open dialogue, without judgement.
  3. A well designed facilitated process will improve understanding of your target audience. 
  4. Avoid difficult jargon often used in sustainability circles exclusively.
  5. Co-create with your audience and be open to new ways and creative ideas to change behaviours.


Thank you @Cinta for sharing your wisdom and passion and @Catalyze Communications  for inspiring us with your work  We know it goes well beyond the shores of Indonesia. 


Credit: Catalyze Communications