Skip navigation

Shifting Behavior for a Changing Climate



How can we mobilize individuals and society to shift behaviors in order to address climate change?

Submit Proposals:
Rules:All entrants must agree to the and Terms of Use
Deadline:Monday, May 23, 2016 at 20:00:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Judging Criteria & Prizes:See below.


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? 

People need to believe that it's in their best interest to change. The benefit 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 people are motivated to change, they need resources, tools, and a pathway to change. Resources must be available so that motivated people can overcome hurdles along the way.  Some people may be willing to write their congressman, but would not know what to write. Options for action allow individuals to choose behaviors that are best suited for them. Some people may be more comfortable changing their voting patterns, whereas others may be more comfortable upgrading to more energy efficient appliances. 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. An electric car may be available, but it's not accessible if it's too expensive and there is no place to charge it. Finally, for many people, it is important to know that they can indeed make an impact. They must believe that the effort they invest in changing their own behavior does make a real difference.

Effecting behavior change in relation to Climate Change is especially challenging. It is difficult to see how Climate Change affects individual lives on a day-to-day basis, because Climate Change is happening on a global scale over decades.  Likewise, it is hard to see how shifting one’s behavior will make a difference, because the social, political, and economic factors that set us on the course of global change are complex.   

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 policital 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: feasibility, novelty, impact and presentation quality.  Winning proposals will be especially strong in at least one of the first three dimensions, and also well presented.  For details about the judging criteria, click here.

You can find the proposal template here, and contest schedule here.


Top proposals in each contest will be awarded...

Judges’ Choice Winner – Strongest overall
Popular Choice Winner – Received the most votes during the voting period
Impact Award – Largest impact and highly feasible
Novelty Award – Most innovative

The Judges’ and Popular Choice Winners will be invited to MIT to present their proposal, enter the Climate CoLab Winners Program and be eligible for the $10,000 Grand Prize. All award winners will receive wide recognition and visibility by the MIT Climate CoLab. 

All Finalists are asked to submit a 3-minute video outlining their proposal.  Videos will be featured on the MIT Climate CoLab website and Winners will show their videos at the conference.

If your proposal is included in a top global climate action plan, you will receive CoLab Points, which are redeemable for cash prizes.  

Guidelines for shaping your proposal

Here are some questions that may guide you in shaping your proposal. Please consider these as guidelines and suggestions. Answers to these questions are not required. 

1. Does your proposal target a specific audience, population, or community?

If so, which audience does your proposal activate?
How large is this audience?
Is your proposal scalable? Can it reach and activate larger audiences?

2. How do you propose connecting with and engaging this audience?

3. How do you propose activating this audience and motivating and empowering them to shift their behavior?

4. What is the cost and what is the benefit associated with this shift in behavior?

5. If your proposal causes a shift in behavior, what would be the impact on climate change?

Is there a measurable impact or outcome that can be monitored?

6. What is the target outcome of this proposal?

Which behaviors does it promote or demote?
Does it promote shifts in individual behaviors?
Would it trigger a broad societal transformation?

Resources for Proposal Authors

General Resources


Climate Change Worldviews


Photo credit: Paranoidmonk