PROMOTIVATE: Design for social dynamics to promote sustainable behavior in secondary schools

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ENERGE is a research project working on managing energy consumption at the school level for sustainability. It is looking for solutions that extend data interactions to the field of behavioral change while taking both energy use and people’s comfort into account.
This graduation project explores how to communicate information related to indoor climate and energy to motivate secondary school students to save energy through social dynamics at school. The final design of this project is a digital application that promotes sustainable behavior among students.
In the exploration phase of the project, extensive user research including co-design sessions with users and literature review into the topic of social dynamics between students and their attitudes towards sustainability helped to understand users comprehensively. It revealed most students don’t have the motivation to contribute to energy conservation for the school. Yet, there is intensive social interaction within student cliques which is a potential means to motivate students to engage with sustainability. Further research through context study of the technical infrastructure and literature review into indoor climate science and its relationship with users narrowed down the solution space for the next defining phase. Based on the exploration, the design goal was defined and followed by the iteration phase. A series of design prototypes, based on the information communication method, was created and tested with the participants to inform the final design.
The final concept PROMOTIVATE is an interactive application that motivates secondary school students to act on sustainable actions in the school context. It features group-based competitions, sustainable actions, and information related to indoor climate and energy. The application enables students to take action and contribute to sustainability at school through teamwork in a competitive manner.
A clickable application was evaluated with participants using qualitative methods of observation and interviews, and quantitative methods of survey. It is experienced as motivating and encouraging for participants with an easy-to-use interaction. Participants were motivated and encouraged by diverse features of the final concept. The practical information provided in the application related to detailed descriptions of the energy-saving actions was clear for participants. They also motivated each other in the group.
The design research and practice conducted in this project prove that social dynamics can play a big role in engaging users with the topic of energy conservation. Furthermore, it showed that the information on indoor climate and energy can be used to evoke motivation and confidence, which offers interesting directions for future work. To be more specific, the research suggests the potential for further development of the functioning system that links to the energy use data and the indoor climate data in ENERGE data dashboard to make sustainable actions more down-to-earth.