Enabling Change

That's you
leading change

Goodies for practitioners

Possum says..get some tools!

Difficult participants

Yep... love 'em or hate 'em, difficult workshop participants are a fact of life. Fortunately there's a lot of ways to happily manage even the most cantankerous. This 2-page guide distills the practical wisdom of folks in Les's Facilitation Skills workshops.
Download here

Remember everything ONLINE

Taking a workshop or meeting online isn't that hard. It just needs some special planning, especially about orienting your participants in the new space and setting ground rules - the more physical your participants are, the happier they'll be! Here's a handy guide to important stuff never to forget!

8 rules for communication for change (plus tips)

Communication for change has different rules to "inform" or "educate" communications. We're asking people to invest effort and negotiate risk. And we have to contend with people's natural fears and tendency to resist and deny any form of pressure.

So what does work? Here are 8 rules and a page of tips.

Facilitating change

Workshops can be great for enabling change. But what's the ideal workshop structure?
Download here

The 4 Clarities Collaboration Inception Tool

Whether partnerships or public consultations succeed or fail depends on what happens in the inception phase (the first time the project partners or project team come together to plan the effort).

The Inception Tool has 4 clarities that have to be got right to avoid conflict and mess down the track.

Remember everything

I always forget something when I facilitate, so I made this handy guide to never forget important stuff!

The physics of enthusiasm

Les explaining why changing people doesn't work, and could fundamental physics possibly teach us anything about human nature? From Cecilia Macaulay's Fireside Skillshare in June 2017.

Les shows how to use the awesome "If not, then what?" method

It's a way to generate a host of convention-busting ideas amazingly quickly.

The 6 dimensional enchanting event constructor

The secret to engaging people is to be engaging! Here's a fun tool to release our inner genius and construct events which are fun, game-like, sociable, yummy and irresistible. The 6 dimensional enchanting event constructor.

Transforming Local government: What works

Local government is in in the midst of an historic modernisation. This is complicated and challenging work. Is there a formula for success? This short study is based on interviews with change leaders in local government.

Here is 'how to do change' in the words of the change makers.
Download the booklet (142k PDF).

Facilitation tricks to spice up workshops

Creative and fun ice-breakers and inspirations.

Kindly shared by NSW environmental educators.
Download the booklet (142k PDF).

How to use the bell curve

We've all heard of the bell curve. Here's a way to use it as a practical project design guide.

How to instruct a brainstorm

Brainstorming is one of the most important things we do. Here's a word-by-word script that builds in the good things we need to think about to get the most out of a gathering of minds.
Here's the script.

Suggested Design Thinking resources

The interventionists' first tool

Mismatching the style of intervention and the situation you face is the cause of failure, waste and, sometimes, catastrophe. Which class of intervention matches your situation?
Situation Diagnosis Tool.

Outcomes, objectives, blah blah...

The terminology of project design is life-drainingly managerial and colourless. Here is a suite of more self-explanatory terms.
The language of project design.

The changeology of waste and recyling - some inspiring solutions

What influences waste and recycling behaviours? Here's an inspiring slideshow to excite the imaginations of your team or brains trust.
Download the slideshow. (2.4Mb PDF)

"Seriously, friends, we need to talk."

There's a problem with the way we design change projects: "Change Project Management 101" is holding us back. There's a better way.
Why "Surprise yourself!" is the missing magic.

A great guide for community-of-practice facilitators

A really marvellous resource for anyone who wants to create a community-of-practice. I've had a look around and I think this might be easily the best one available.
Collaborating for Sustainability GUIDE (30pp, 6.3Mb PDF)
Collaborating for Sustainability Case Studies (22pp, 4.1Mb PDF)


Comfy Zone Diagnostic Tool


Decisions, decisions, and so much to think about! This simple tool reminds project designers about the full range of behaviour change strategies available to them and when they should be used.
Download the tool (152k PDF). =

Les explains the key ideas in Changeology = in this succinct interview with Rob Hopkins of the UK Transition Network.

"If not, then what?" ideas for Landcare groups

How to reinvigorate a Landcare or bushcare group. An inspiring collection of reinvention ideas generated by participants in Les's Passion Mashin' workshops. Download the booklet. (287k PDF).

Cooking up workplace behaviour change

Instead of challenging employees' comfort zones, it's better to expand them. One page summary. Full presentation with business examples. (590kb PDF)

"Mentoring for Sustainability"

The world's best guide for running mentoring projects (we know, we checked). Despite the title it's suitable for any context. Cowritten by Graham Collier, Chris Grey, Peter Cumming and Greg Freeman - some of the smartest people in the field. Download the Guide. (1.5Mb Word doc).

How to design a travel behaviour change project

A crash course in the principles and practice of designing behavioural projects, with lots of examples from the field of workplace travel change. Written for the WA Department of Transport. Download the 8 page fact sheet. (1.9Mb PDF).

A Palette of Behavioural Interventions

One of the biggest challenges facing program designers is to imagine the full range of interventions available to them. This two-page tool sets them out simply and accessibly. Get the tool.

How to craft a persuasive climate change message

It's time to shift the climate change discussion from facts to actions. Here's an example of how to do it, based on lessons from behavioural psychology. Download (1.1Mb PDF).

The 5 Doors

Confused by behaviour change theories? Here's one that wraps some of the best thinking into 5 simple principles. It's guaranteed to generate insights that change the way you work. 5 Doors Theory (147k PDF). 5 Doors diagram (12k PDF).

FAQs about behaviour change

The same questions about behaviour change come up again and again. Here are some answers that might be useful. This article first appeared in The Guardian. (86k PDF)

What enables cycling?

This study, carried out for the City of Sydney, will be of interest to anyone wanting to increase cycling in their communities. Download the study. (1.5Mb PDF)
Download the cycling logic model (168k PDF)

The dark side of regulating behaviour - the case of seat belt laws

Seat belt laws were supposed to make us all safer. Amazingly, after 40 years there is still no certainty about whether they have done so. Instead seat belt laws demonstrate some of the unexpected "blow-backs" that undermine attempts to legislate behaviour. Download. (246k PDF)

How to change the world - one conversation at a time

Prepared for the Australian Conservation Foundation - a short guide to hosting conversations that lead people to action in their lives, businesses and communities. Download. (292k PDF)

How-to tip sheets for community groups

Starting a community group? These 18 practical how-to sheets simplify the key tasks in community organising. Everything from starting a committee to getting members to attend meetings. The tip sheets page.

A crib sheet for brainstorming program objectives

It can be so hard to think outside the square! Every project planner needs a little help when developing program objectives. The crib sheet. (100k PDF)

5 steps to create motivation

I was writing a guide for starting parents' self-help groups and it occurred to me that this bit was a neat summary of what it takes to create motivation (which, after is, is a change agent's main job). Here 'tis.

How to make a theory of change

An engaging and collaborative method for designing programs to tackle complex social and environmental problems. (508k PDF)

Test your changeABILITY

Take this enjoyable quiz to check whether your next behaviour change project is likely to achieve its goals.

Who are the Green Hats? - an investigation into the motivations of early adopters of sustainable business practices

A study on how to better promote sustainable business programs. (630k PDF)

Success factors for community engagement

These two checklists will help maximise community participation in your next planning, decision-making or hands-on project. (72k PDF)

The voluntary adoption of new practices

Report on a unique research project that explored 93 personal stories with fascintating insights into the nature of voluntary change. Download the study (484k PDF).

13 steps to good practice

A best practice checklist for environmental educators and change agents. Download the checklist (176k PDF).

Zestful activities for environmental educators

A collection of 15 fun activities to help build groups, explore values and strategise (188k PDF).

What's best?

A decision tool for choosing the best community education strategy (352k PDF).

When to share decisions?

Two decision tools for choosing the right level of public participation in decision making. (PDF 348k).

Education for Resilience

This study, for State Emergency Service NSW, presents a communication model for building the resilience of vulnerable communities in the face of natural hazards, as well as offering some solutions to the perennial problem of motivating the public on low probability hazards.
Download the full study. (PDF 248k)

Public participation in decision-making

This consultancy, sparked by intense controversies over waste management in Western Australia, looked at international best practice in community participation, recommended a new approach and provided decision tools which aim to make communities more equal partners in decision-making for new waste management technologies.
Full report (328k PDF).
Two useful papers are available:
The qualities of effective public participation processes (PDF 185k) and
Two decision tools for setting the level of public participation (PDF 348k).

The Change Agency's resources for activists

An excellent Austalian site packed with change, facilitation and advocacy tools. Link

Most read articles

The problem with Social Marketing - why you can't sell change like soap

This paper presents a critique of Social Marketing. Why the answer to "wicked" problems requires different approaches. The paper. (140k PDF)

Enabling Change: the process and the theory

Here is the step-by-step methodology and the theoretical background to the Enabling Change method of program design.
The Enabling Change process (260k PDF)
5 Doors Theory (147k PDF). 5 Doors diagram (12k PDF).

Introduction to the Diffusion of Innovations

A succinct introduction to the model of change that focuses on innovation design, viral communications, and satisfying the needs of users. Download (259k PDF)
[This article is very popular. It gets downloaded about 4,000 times a month.]

Passionate mashups

A compendium of mashup ideas for volunteer groups from the Passion Mashing workshop. Download the booklet. (287k PDF).

The Changeology model

The all-purpose model for designing behaviour change projects. Explained.

Download PDF version.

How to change a system

We often here "We need systemic change." But what, exactly, does that mean? Here are 18 ways to change any system, with strategies ranging from weak to strong, inspired by the work of Donella Meadows.

18 Leverage Points.

Publications by Les


An enjoyable, inspiring crash course in social change thinking.
What it's all about.

Get Read

The popular guide to writing and designing reader-friendly publications (52pp). Download the full guide (276k PDF).

Working the Media

A short sharp guide to media management (38pp).
Download the full guide (72k PDF).

Open Your Council

How councils are rediscovering local democracy. Download the full booklet (360k PDF).

Enabling EcoAction

By Les Robinson and Andreas Glanznig, published by WWF Australia.
An easy, complete guide to anyone working with the public for environmental action. It's addressed to program managers and includes: communicating action, change models, the arts of facilitation, leadership, action research, measurable programs, understanding audiences, the program cycle, program planning, message and campaign design, and working with diverse cultures. (176pp) Download entire book! (1Mb PDF).

CoCreate cover

The CoCreate Guide

The complete facilitator's guide to collaborative projects.
This comprehensive step-by-step guide provides the tools, methods and approaches to facilitate collaborative projects at the neighbourhood and catchment level where high levels of stakeholder ownership are vital.
The 218 page guide can be downloaded in full. (2Mb PDF. It's free)

Valuable links for practitioners

Essential reading about social change practice:

A Technique for Producing Ideas

James Webb Young's little 1939 book is a classic on the creative process in 5 steps.

The Heath Brothers

Chip and Dan Heath are amongst the deepest, most inspiring and clearest thinkers about making change happen. You can download excerpts from their superb books Made to Stick and Switch.

Wicked problems

Tackling Wicked Problems - a public policy perspective, from the Australia Public Service Commission


Mindspace: Influencing Behaviour Through Public Policy, from the Institute for Government (UK)

Ryan and Gross

The elegantly simple article that kicked off modern diffusion studies: Ryan, B. and Gross, N.C. (1943) The Diffusion of Hybrid Seed Corn in Two Iowa Communities, Rural Sociology 8, pp15-24

Some nice insights into social change:

The power of first followers

Derek Sivers' Lessons from the Dancing Guy - a beautiful depiction of diffusion in action, and a reflection on the power of "first followers".

Change and social networks

Nicholas Christakis' TED talk on the groundbreaking research with James Fowler that demonstrates how obesity, smoking and happiness (and lots more) travel along social networks. [Ah-hah moment: our little viral messages and conversations are gifts that bind our networks together!].

What REALLY motivates people?

Dan Pink's entertaining video on why incentives so often backfire and how we are at our best when simply given a chance to be good.

Older talks and papers

The secret to being engaging
You can't make people engage with you or change their behaviours. But you can satisfy their über-wants. Address to Enviro 08 Convention, Melbourne 2008.

Outrage and control
What causes community outrage, and how to minimise it.
Talk to LGPro Conference, Melbourne, 2008.

The power of buzz
Talk to Coast to Coast Conference 2006.
Behaviour change rarely happens 'in a bubble'. People need to meet each other and talk. Here's how can we help this process along. (124k PDF)

Consultation: what works
Address to Local Government Public Relations Conference, Wollongong, NSW, Feb 2003. (PDF 540k)
And here's the consultation checklist we developed in the conference workshop (PDF 144k).

Public outrage, public trust
Keynote address to Waste and Recycle 2002 conference, Perth WA, Oct 2002. (PDF 528k)

Four Universal Laws of Communication
Keynote speech to Steel Can Recycling One-Day EE Conference, July 2002.

On making social change
A popular paper with insights on social change and evaluation.

The future of government
A talk to Marrickville Council's management team on 21st century challenges for local government, Feb 2002.

From education to social change
Presentation to Waste Educate Conference, Brisbane, Nov 2001.

Planning or democracy? Or why great planning ideas wither and die.
Talk to Communities and Places Forum, Sutherland, Nov 2001

10 tips for organisational insurgents
A talk to Hunter council stormwater managers on the art of leading change from below, Oct 2001.

Who are the Green Hats?
An insightful study on how to reach early adopters in business. Download the full study (268k PDF)

How not to save the environment
A lecture on resisting the seduction of information.
(The inaugural Allen Strom lecture, NSW Environmental Education Conference, August 2000)

Lessons from social marketing
Things campaigners can learn from the field of social marketing - includes a summary of current social marketing theories.
(Australian Association for Environmental Education Conference, Jan 1999)

Strategy for campaigners
Taking off the gloves...mindfully, and other lessons for grass-roots campaigners
(NSW Local Government Public Relations Conference, Picton 1997)

"All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning." - Albert Camus

Hand made in good ol' HTML.