“Great idea! … Ah no, it’s not” – Preparations back home – Before an experiment can start there is a lot of work to do. Here you find out what it takes, at least in my case.
So first I was reading a lot of scientific literature: Books and papers about environmental behavior in general. There were theories trying to explain how habits, affect, cost-benefit considerations, norms, morals, and other factors guide or influence our behavior. Then there were empirical studies showing how actually people’s behavior had or had not been changed in different ways. These papers were looking at so-called interventions. Basically those are the ways, means or instruments with which people shall e.g. increase recycling, save electricity, stop littering or using public transport more frequently.
Diving in and out of theory
Back in Germany I spent a lot of time bringing theories together with experimental designs. So I asked myself what can I learn from the work that has been done before? How can I bring their findings, ideas and hypothesis back to the real world, and test them? Test whether they hold up in the case of plastic bag use and for Indonesia? Can they help me find an effective way to reduce plastic bag consumption there? That is what the experimental designs were about.
Literature Review: Reading and … reading.
This challenge was not easy. I spent not only weeks, but months looking for a design that considered: first, a theory inspired and testable idea, second a promising transfer of ideas to the world of plastic bag use, third reducing the risk of people doing things during the experiment that would violate conditions for a scientific analysis, fourth interventions that were likely to show effective results, fifth interventions that can be easily replicated, hence used by different NGOs or ecological businesses, and last of course sticking to the budget available.
The best shot: Bringing it all together
Do you know a game like the following going on in your mind? “Yes that is a great idea!”… time passes “Ufff, nah it is not going to work”. Well I played a number of variations of it. 2 seconds in between, 2 weeks in between and anything in between. It seemed like there was always a risk that could completely undermine the validity and usefulness of the experiment. If the voice did not come from inside, it was my supervisors or colleagues from the working group helping me to not forget about this, or that. But at some point you will just have to go with your best shot, and here I come Bali, I got ideas, you will show me what works.