Environment Learning

Motivators of Conservation Behavior Change and Pathways to Tap Into Them

Watched Motivators of Conservation Behavior Change and Pathways to Tap Into Them from Eventbrite

This webinar will introduce you to social science tools to amplify strategies to motivate conservation action using a framework to explore diverse pathways to behavior change. These tools provide new lenses and resources to frame communications and mobilize audiences, as well as ideas for adaptive management and evaluation. Participants will get a sneak peek at a soon-to-be-released workbook on pathways to motivating conservation behavior change, designed by the presenters and partners.

Presented by SMANA

Presenters: Lily Maynard, PhD and Lauren Watkins, PhD

Case study: Tanzania chimpanzee habitat protection

  • problem: despite conservation efforts, land still being degraded — small-scale farming biggest contributor to river forest deforestation — they were moving where they farmed because of soil infertility
  • answer: composting!
  • started by engaging with the community
  • baseline survey & interviews: 800 households, 30 villages (who they trust, where they get info)
  • org goal = save forests; farmers’ goal = provide for family; reframing: you have everything around you
  • pilot launch in 3 villages
  • “care for the forest, care for the family”
  • football and netball tournaments; music video; dancing mascot performances; ambassador farmers — raise awareness
  • demo farms to show compost benefits; ambassador farmers trained and built demonstration compost heaps at their homes; made flyer / cartoon
  • trained 400 farmers; thousands of farmers participating — high adoption rates — 5000 compost heaps created
  • taking action good — need to sustain the action too
  • distributed 240000 kg compost samples; farming calendars; radio spots
  • 70% farmers used compost 3+ seasons; 90% farmers believe composting will become typical ag practice in their community
  • will follow up with spatial awareness to see if encouraging composting has reduced damage to habitat

Conservation messaging

What’s the point of conservation messages?

  1. inspire
  2. share info
  3. promote empathy
  4. change behavior

Framing conservation stories

Select your frame to get to action

  • Who: cast target audience as main character
  • When: problem / conflict, inspiration
  • Why: willpower / agency
  • What: waypower / pathway
  • How: overcoming barriers
  • Ending: target action

Role = facilitator, to draw info from the community because they know what they care about, how they work

Assumptions about audience –> risk (involve community from start)

“Heirarchical individualist” = filters info through lens of how it impacts them and their family first (vs. “egalitarian communitarian”)

  • for heirarchical individualsts, the perceived risk of climate change went down with increased scientific knowledge 🙁 not what scientists had expected (Kahan / Yale Climate research)

Petty and Priester 1994:

  • people with a big understanding of a topic not influenced by expert sources because they already understand the issue
  • people with little involvement in a cause will listen to

10 paths to motivate action

  1. Knowledge and cognitive processing: info + arguments –> willpower / behavior change (e.g. recycling behavior — knowing how to recycle helps people follow the behavior)
  2. Attitude towards solution: (e.g. appeal to feelings for rhino conservation “will you miss me?”)
  3. Personal norms, responsibility & identity: believes personal action can yield results and feel responsibility to act — self-driven (e.g. “only you can prevent forest fires”)
  4. Your values: make decisons based on values — how changing behavior will affect them,other people, the planet (e.g. NNOCCI – national network for ocean and climate change interpretation — “Climate Interpreter”)
    1. planet impact
    2. humanity impact
    3. personal impact
  5. Social and subjective norms: make decisions based on social norms — inspired by groups / like teamwork and group impact (e.g. research to reduce consumption of bushmeat by 60% — social norms (public commitment in form of sign in front of house) worked where giving them chickens / coupons for chickens did not)
  6. Self-efficacy, direct experience, perceived control: do best when you understand what to do (e.g. Seafood Watch)
  7. Behavioral intention: plan and follow through on intention — not acting on a whim (e.g. pledges)
  8. Sense of place / experience: draw identity from experiences in a place (e.g. community pride campaigns — “Size Matters” music video for lobster fishing campaign)
  9. Emotions and empathy: emotional investment motivates action (less reliable than other approaches) (e.g. research Jacobson et al 2019 showed positive framing yielded better willingness to engage)
  10. Connectors: do things without thinking about it — “peripheral paths” influence them and trigger action without thinking about it (e.g. ice bucket challenge)

Alternate framing

Alternate, simpler framing of these pathways: can group these into four categories:

  1. Pro-activists (7, 3a, 2)
  2. Locals (4, 8)
  3. Conecctors (5, 10, 9)
  4. Thinkers (a, 3c, 3b, 6)

Approach to using these pathways

  • Can use these pathways to evaluate progress or design campaigns
  • Segment your community to try to find the real target audience — who’s really involved in the issue? (rather than trying to reach everyone) — then can figure out which pathways most applicable

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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