PurposeThe purpose of this paper is the development of a framework to address complex social problems. The paper proposes an integrative framework inspired in complexity sciences, using it to explain the demise of cigarettes in recent decades.Design/methodology/approachThe paper uses the method of system dynamics to represent the complexity inherent in most social ecosystems where social marketers operate.FindingsThe framework identifies the major determinants of complex problems in social ecosystems, giving emphasis to the role performed by endogenous social structures. The paper presents the results of a simulation replicating the evolution of perceived attractiveness of cigarettes in recent decades, highlighting the role of the Surgeon General’s 1964 report in the USA as a catalyst force that accelerated the process of change.Research limitations/implicationsThe limitations derive from the use of the system dynamics method, in particular the high level of aggregation of variables. Implications include the potential for increased cross-fertilization between social marketing and other disciplines concerned with social change.Practical implicationsThe eight elements that compose the proposed framework can be identified or applied to any social ecosystem, helping in the identification of points with high leverage for social change.Social implicationsProper understanding of how complex social problems arise is vital to increase the odds of success of social marketing interventions. The paper also highlights common threads in the development of problems in different social ecosystems.Originality/valueThe paper presents a novel framework for addressing the complexity inherent to the social ecosystems where social marketers operate.
Journal of Social Marketing – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 7, 2019
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