Scientific Basis of Green Dot etc.

Diffusion of Innovation / Social Diffusion Theory

The social diffusion theory (Rogers, 1983) is based on the premise that behavior change in a population can be initiated and then will diffuse to others if enough natural and influential opinion leaders within the population visibly adopt, endorse and support an innovative behavior. Based on this model, popular opinion leaders (POLS) of any given population are systematically identified, recruited, and trained to serve as behavior change “endorsers” within their community and sphere of influence, resulting in a shift in the targeted attitudes and behaviors within that community. In other words, opinion leaders shape social/behavior changes by making it easier for others to initiate and maintain certain “new” behaviors.

Diffusion of innovation theory and the influence of popular opinion leaders to establish new behavioral trends has been studied extensively for decades and proven widely successful across settings and content areas (Kelly, 2004). Kelly et al. (1997) has demonstrated the effectiveness of training popular opinion leaders in increasing safe-sex practices among populations of gay men. One study targeting gay men in four cities, implemented five, weekly training sessions, and found at the one year follow-up an increase of more than 25% in condom use. Additionally, Sikkema (2000) focused on safe-sex practices among impoverished, inner-city women. At the one year follow-up they found a 12.5 % drop in unprotected sex and an increase of 17% of condom use. The strength of the community-wide behavior shift was further demonstrated, as populations where changes were made – the population still demonstrated the documented improvement at the three year follow up (despite that the actual intervention had ceased within the first year).

Application to Violence Prevention:

Given that power-based personal violence exists on scale that clearly reaches the scope of a public health concern that requires broad-based, community level change - it is imperative that a critical mass of individuals endorse and engage in targeted behaviors that are proactively and visibly intolerant of violence. Since few organizations have the resources to provide direct training to enough individuals to obtain this critical mass, strategically targeting the most respected and influential individuals becomes necessary, as these “popular opinion leaders” can then most effectively and efficiently impact the attitudes and behaviors of their peers through modeling, endorsing and engaging in the targeted behaviors.


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Senior Program Director Director, Program Developement for Underrepresented Communities Director Program Development for Underrepresented Communities


At Green Dot, etcetera,  our work goes beyond the Green Dot program itself. As leaders in violence prevention, we provide training, technical assistance, and program development for individuals, schools, and organizations both domestically and internationally as they work to foster safe communities. We are proud to be a technical assistance provider for the U.S. Department of Justice, Office o Violence Against Women Campus Program.  To learn more about that initiative, please visit our OVW Technical Assistance section.


Check out Dorothy Edwards discussing Green Dot on Kentucky Educational Television.

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