BLOG: “Start with why”. Great, but why?

Anyone who’s ever read any leadership book ever will have heard of the old adage, start with why. It’s the annoying question that small children continually ask when they want to know precisely why the sky is blue (and then again when they receive a less than satisfactory explanation, usually from a flustered parent trying to get them to sleep). It sounds simple but so we’re often so caught up in the “what” (delivering education sessions, creating fancy flyers) that we actually forget the original purpose of what we’re trying to achieve and it’s when we lose sight of this that we often become disenfranchised.

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So why start with why?

Understanding the underlying reasons why our target audience engages in a risky behaviour that can lead to injury is absolutely crucial if we are ever going to design an intervention that has any hope of changing that behaviour. Once we understand people’s motivations; we can develop strategies to influence the behaviour change we want to see in the communities we work.

This was echoed by Dr Linda Portsmouth at the Knowledge Exchange, whose entertaining session on “How to influence behaviour” was one of the highlights of the day. Dr Portsmouth introduced us to the Health Belief Model which is based on a person’s perceived susceptibility to and severity of a consequence and also their perceived barriers to change. If we address these barriers in our interventions, then our target audience will be much more amenable to adopting the safe behaviour. This is why effective community engagement is so important in program design; to ensure that our strategies are aligning with the perceptions of our audience to ultimately effect the desired change we want to see to make our communities safer.


Written by Marc Zen, Know Injury