This is Not a Citation: Supporting Residential Inspection Activities with Social Science

Date / Time:
Wednesday, Sep 17 11:30am to 12:00pm
Garden 1 & 2
Track / Session:
Short Description: 
To support residential inspections, the County of San Diego developed and tested innovative door hangers that incorporated tools from social science such as social norms and customized feedback.

The purpose of this presentation is to provide the audience with guidance for leveraging tools from the social sciences to support pollution prevention and inspection activities in residential areas. This unique approach goes beyond simply providing information or instruction and leverages social and group influences. In a previous effort, the County of San Diego developed and distributed a door hanger that could be placed on fences, garages, or doors by inspectors who observed pollutants in residential areas. The purpose of the hangers was to make residents aware of illegal discharge and other issues on their property that may be contributing to stormwater pollution and to encourage them to take corrective action. Although the door hangers were not official citations, resident response to this initial outreach effort was negative. The door hangers were somewhat punitive in nature and contained a large amount of information which may have contributed to the negative response. In the spring of 2014, the County of San Diego implemented a project to improve the door hanger outreach effort with the goal of promoting behavior change and improving perceptions of the County as a partner in pollution prevention rather than as a punisher. The project began with a review of case studies from other agencies as well as a review of academic research in the social sciences. The goal of the review was to identify a set of best practices to incorporate into the development of an improved door hanger design. A variety of elements were considered in the review including style, delivery method, and format as well social science research regarding message framing, feedback strategies, and social norms. Based on the results of the review, a series of new door hangers were developed each focusing on a specific pollution source: over-irrigation, sediment, and trash. The revised door hangers improved upon previous efforts by including a number of elements drawn from the social science literature including: positively framed messages, a focus on specific actions, personalization, social norms, and customized feedback. The door hangers were tested using a field experiment to gauge public reaction to the new approach prior to implementation. The current presentation will provide the audience with best practices for door hanger design as well as present effective strategies for incorporating social science tools into door hanger communications.

Primary Speaker:
Jennifer Tabanico, Action Research
Supporting Speaker 1:
Nick del Valle, County of San Diego, Watershed Protection Program