Monday, January 30, 2012

Our Story

Twelve years ago I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Dr. Jeff Linkenbach.  His presentation detailed the work he was doing to reduce adolescent tobacco and alcohol use, utilizing the theory of Social Norms.  I was completely captivated by this strategy that was so honest, straightforward and strength-based that I made arrangements to bring Jeff to my community to learn more. 
At the time, I was the Safe & Drug Free Schools coordinator for our school district.  I invited a few members of our community to meet Jeff, including representatives from a local prevention coalition and colleagues from our university.  After spending a couple of days with Jeff learning about the theory and ways it could be implemented, this small group agreed to contribute time, treasure and talent to the effort.  Our first project at a local high school addressed an identified issue of underage drinking and drinking and driving.  Two years later, this project was able to increase the number of students who did not drive after drinking, increased the number of students who would not ride with someone who had been drinking and decreased the overall rate of alcohol use at the high school.  So successful was this project that it was recognized with a national award.
Other communities asked us to “come tell our story” and twelve years, sixty plus schools and twenty states later, the Concierge Approach is going strong.  The Concierge Approach is built on several core beliefs of our team:

·         People want to belong and fit in

·         Most people do the right thing most of the time

·         You can’t scare, shame or intimidate people into meaningful and lasting change

·         There is more health in a school/community than we think

·         People support what they help create

·         People want to make a difference

Connecting with students and caring adults across the country to make a difference has been a highlight of my career.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Thinking about Jim’s comment, “When coalitions learn the full extent of our method of implementation of a social norms campaign, they get so energized and excited”.  As you know, the research is clear that Social Norms works, but the way a campaign is implemented makes all the difference.  In our experience, the old way of merely sticking up posters with a stock photo and a percentage on them, has not led to sustainability.  Here’s what students tell us: 
·         We were not involved in the process from the beginning
·         No one asked us our opinion as the campaign was designed, so this is not the way we would have done things
·         The issue the adults picked for our campaign isn’t the issue we think our school most needed  and isn’t something we want to promote
·         The pictures in the posters don’t resonate with us (don’t look like us and don’t depict our interests, etc.)
·         We were not given meaningful and authentic work
It is our strong belief that sustainability and real change lies in the design of a campaign!  When students are given authentic and meaningful work, are engaged from the beginning and are supported, they are more likely to stay involved and excited.  Remember, this is not an event and change occurs over time!  People support what they help create!
Join us in our next several posts, as we share stories about how our approach creates experiences for community members, youth and students, coalitions and businesses.  We adhere to our tagline, “data doesn’t change behavior…inspiration does”.