Assoc. Prof. Altuğ Akın
Prof. Dr. Burak Doğu
Sevda Kaya Kitınur

Rapor Özeti

Local governments use different communication tactics and tools to encourage positive environmental behaviors of individuals, both at the macro public level or at the micro level targeting specific social groups. In certain cases these efforts feature behaviors promoting environmental awareness such as transforming consumption habits or offering different transportation alternatives to ensure sustainable development; in other cases they publicize municipalities’ initiatives to promote an eco-friendly urban life. Consequently, the goal is to help their citizens make progress on the bumpy road to a life more at peace with nature. 

In this study, we examine the communicative practices of local governments in relation to sustainable development from the perspective of Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC). We analyze the communication flow in the online social spaces employed by the local governments in four metropolitan cities (Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Bursa), which represent a significant portion of the population in Turkey, and share our observations within the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to ecology.

In the research, we analyzed the official Twitter accounts of the aforementioned metropolitan municipalities and the tweets sent by their mayors from their personal accounts, with a particular focus on sustainable development and ecology. We determined the framework of the research based on the 7 SDGs identified by the United Nations that are directly related to ecology: SDG #6 – Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG #7 – Affordable and Clean Energy, SDG #11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG #12 – Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG #13 – Climate Action, SDG #14 – Life below Water, SDG #15 – Life on Land. In this framework, we have researched the tweets posted by the metropolitan municipalities as well as the public’s response on Twitter. In this manner, we did not limit the scope of the study to the communicative tactics employed by the municipalities to convey their messages, but also included our observations on the reception of these messages in the report to provide the whole picture of the process.

In the report, we sought answers to the following questions: Which ecology-related SDGs are on the agenda of municipalities and which ones stand out? To what extent do the communicative policies implemented by the local governments reflect on societies’ relationship with ecology? To what extent do municipalities interact with citizens on Twitter? How do citizens respond to what municipalities share? Based on these questions, we evaluated the function of local governments’ communication activities on sustainable development in promoting positive change or transformation in individual behavior and society at large.


Findings of the research

Our analysis reveals the differences in municipalities’ approach to the SDGs of their own interest, while also revealing how social messages on sustainable development are received in the online public sphere. Our main findings can be summarized as follows:

  • SDGs on ecology attract the attention of local governments, and this interest is reflected in their social media communication.
  • The response of local governments to the SDGs varies. Each municipality has specific SDGs which focus on sustainability.
  • Responsible Consumption and Production, Life on Land, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Clean Water and Sanitation are the SDGs that are more covered on the agenda of local governments. Climate Action, Affordable and Clean Energy, Life below Water are not prioritized.
  • In their social media posts, local governments generally promote their services and do not target behavioral change. In other words, the activities carried out aim to raise awareness or increase the existing level of awareness through information sharing.
  • Local governments do not apply a communication strategy for social transformation and behavior change in the SDGs. Although they set targets for social transformation and behavior change, municipalities do not have sufficient background knowledge on how to follow a roadmap in this area.
  • The research and theory-based nature of the communication approach for social transformation and behavior change is ignored in the strategies of the local governments. This results in not using the right channels and tactics in communication processes.
  • The target audience is not clearly defined local governments’ messages, and therefore the content of the messages conveyed is quite vague and generalizing in many instances.
  • Public response towards local governments’ tweets vary by city. While positive attitudes are observed in Istanbul and Ankara, a negative picture prevails in Izmir and Bursa.
  • Local governments’ tweets include suggestions for solutions to sustainability. These suggestions differ across municipalities and SDGs.