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Shifting Attitudes and Behaviors


Question: How can we mobilize individuals and societies to shift attitudes & behaviors in order to address climate change?
Submit Proposals:
Rules: All entrants must agree to the Contest rules and Terms of Use
Deadline: Sunday, Sep 10, 2017 at 18:00:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Judging Criteria & Prizes: See below.


Climate change is a tangle of environmental, social, and economic issues. This complexity makes concerted collective action extremely difficult. The diverse attitudes, norms, values, and beliefs that underpin our unsustainable behavior make structuring a clear, unified message nearly impossible. There is a need for a more tailored approach that targets specific unsustainable practices and aims to change them. The aggregate of many small changes can trigger a broader societal transformation. This contest invites participants to contribute to this transformation by identifying and challenging unsustainable attitudes, norms, and values and proposing meaningful ways to alter them to encourage climate-friendly and people-friendly behavior.

Key Issues

Mobilizing people to shift behavior and take concerted and collective action to address climate change is a tremendous challenge. How do we inspire, motivate, empower, and activate people to change? How do we go beyond changing perspectives and enter the realm of changing behaviors?

There is strong agreement among scientists that changes in lifestyle and behavior patterns are necessary to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Our behavior-–underpinned by personal attitudes, beliefs, values, and social norms and practices–-is often deep-rooted and difficult to change. Targeting these underlying influences and encouraging constructive shifts will be a critical part of the societal response to climate change.

Considering the enormous complexity of the climate change phenomenon, it might be useful to follow the “divide and conquer” principle. Think about the best ways to encourage people to change their behavior, even in small ways; inspiring conversations, practices, art, and more can shift perceptions of climate change science, alter cultural norms regarding transportation and diet, or promote stronger values of sustainability. The situation presents a tremendous opportunity to craft messages that both inform and motivate, shifting attitudes, norms, and values to engender real action at a large scale.

Yet, people need to believe it's in their best interest to change, and the benefits must be clear, immediate, and personal. The most compelling reasons to change are those reasons that fit with a person or community’s values and world-view. Once motivated to change, people need resources, tools, and a pathway to change. To make options available to consumers and decision-makers we need innovation to make sustainable technologies available, and we need the policy and pricing structures to make them accessible. In order to motivate shifts in behavior we need clear targeted messaging that helps people understand that climate change impacts are local, personal, and immediate and that also empowers them to be part of the solution. In order to effect real change, we need to mobilize people to adopt more environmentally sustainable practices and behaviors, to engage in political activism and policy discussions, and to transform policy and economic conditions.

In this contest, we invite you to propose ideas for how to trigger a broad societal transformation by motivating and empowering individuals to shift their own behavior as consumers, voters, and integral members of society.

Judging Criteria

Judges will be asked to evaluate proposals on the following criteria:

Winning proposals will be especially strong in at least one of the first three dimensions, and also well presented.

Judges will evaluate proposals, and deliberate as a group to select the Semi-Finalists, Finalists, Winners, and possibly other awardee(s) at their discretion.  Judgments of desirability are also made in the final stage of the contest, by the Climate CoLab community through popular vote, and by the Judges through their selection of the Judges' Choice winner(s).


Top proposals in each contest will be awarded...

Judges’ Choice Award -- Two proposals* will be selected by the Judges to receive the Judges' Choice-- one project, and one practice.

Popular Choice Award – Received the most votes during the public voting period.

The Judges’ Choice Award and Popular Choice Award Winners will be invited to MIT (see prior Climate CoLab Conferences), join the Climate CoLab winners’ alumni, and be eligible for the $10,000 Grand Prize—to be selected from among the winners across contests.

All award Winners and Finalists will receive wide recognition and platform visibility from MIT Climate CoLab. Climate CoLab or its collaborators may offer additional awards or recognition at their discretion.

* Judges’ Choice Award(s) are allocated at the Judging panel’s discretion. In rare cases, the Judges may choose not to select awardees.

Resources for Proposal Authors


Global Opinions on Climate Change


On Public Attitudes toward Science

U.S. Public Opinion on Climate Change


Climate Change Worldviews