“We Have the Power to Change Things”
“When you become conscious of what you are doing [and] the impact it has, it motivates you to keep on doing it,” explains Kavindra Horil, an Economics/Business Major at Queens College in Flushing, NY and a student in the PIPs for School (P4S) Scholars program offered by the nonprofit PIPs Education Fund (PEF).
It’s a fundamental goal of the P4S Scholars program to bring forward in students’ consciousness a sense of personal agency and an understanding that their actions matter. Utilizing the PIPs Rewards™ App (the PIPs App), an action motivation and tracking platform, and applying the 3 Rs of behavior change, the P4S Scholars program recognizes, rewards, and reinforces through repetition a set of good behaviors, all of which deliver a measure of personal, community, and/or planetary benefit.
It may not be exactly Jungian—the philosophy of C.G. Jung who is quoted as saying, “Until you make your unconscious conscious, it will direct you and you will call it fate.”—but it does follow that if something feels out of our control or fated, we’re not likely to change our minds or our actions in ways that could alter the outcome.
Climate change is a good example; it looms so large that it can seem out of our hands. We condition ourselves to feel there is nothing we can do, and then doing nothing becomes what we do. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. But, with conscious effort, we can change how we perceive our power to make a difference, and by turn change our behavior.
P4S Scholars get special access to the PIPs App, a uniquely versatile platform which can go anywhere and can recognize and reward a wide range of behaviors from the everyday, like taking public transit, biking, and recycling, to bigger actions like volunteering, completing a shift at work, joining in leadership training, or meeting with a mentor.
The platform uses a mix of action tracking tools, including artificial intelligence and integration with other apps, to capture, verify, and reward when one of the good actions has been completed. The app also displays in real-time the impact of one’s actions, such as the climate-altering carbon that has been reduced by walking, taking public transit, and recycling.
“I was surprised to see the calculator of the amount of CO2 reduced by me just walking. It’s crazy. It really makes you more conscious of the fact that making little decisions in life can affect all of us,” explains Chrisber Vasquez, a senior at the Academy for Careers in Television and Film.
Knowing it’s good is just the first step, and as behavioral scientists will attest, for most of us, it’s not enough. Once the novelty wears off, it’s the hard work of conscious repetition that increases “muscle memory,” notes Dawn Lugo, a P4S Scholar and Nursing Major at Long Island University. Then, “you just do it…It becomes second nature.”
The P4S Scholars program incentivizes this learning process by awarding Positive Impact Points, or PIPs, each time an action is completed. Then, when the student has accumulated a certain number of PIPs, they can convert them into high value rewards, such as grants for school.
There is no doubt that the grants are a key motivator for the students selected to be P4S Scholars, as all are low-income. However, the program also taps into a deeper striving on the part of young people to better themselves and the world around them. The P4S Scholars program may seem like “such a simple thing, [like] ‘Oh, if I do this, I’m going to get money,’’’ explains Kevin Persaud, a pre-med student at City College of New York. “But in the long run, it’s about you developing skills and being open to the world, being more aware that there are problems in the world, and we have the solution; we have the power to change things.”
President, PIPs Education Fund