The concept of interlinked practices views lifestyles as a network of interrelated practices consisting of competencies (knowledge, skills), materials (objects, infrastructure) and meaning (expectations, shared meaning). It has been suggested that these practices could provide the targets of interventions aiming to change unsustainable behaviours or parts of them.

The ultimate aim of interlinked practices is to identify some critical shared elements that can be changed to catalyse greater societal change across a range of behaviours.

The aim of this research was to explore how the Scottish Government can apply the concept of interlinked practices to improve net zero policy development and enact societal change. It focused on research with Scottish Government staff and external stakeholders, including a literature and evidence review, interviews, exploratory and testing workshops, and a mapping exercise.

Findings

  • The interlinked practices concept is untested and theoretical in terms of policy development and implementation.
  • The research found policy interdependencies and interlinked practices in the following sectors: Transport, Agriculture and Land Use Change and Forestry, Waste and Circular Economy, and Buildings. These are key pillars of the Climate Change Plan and have significant powers devolved to the Scottish Government. These sectors have practice-based elements and are crucial in making progress towards net zero targets in key areas.
  • Interlinked practices can help to reframe a behaviour problem and help policymakers and practitioners work towards positive societal shift. However, the end point of using social practice related tools is to identify the factors influencing behaviours or practices rather than to prescribe a policy or intervention.
  • Of the three social practice elements, material and competencies were often considered in policy development, but meaning was not.
  • An interlinked practices approach could be beneficial, but policymakers would need support with developing and implementing it.

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