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enabli n g

a handbook for anyone
working with the public
on conservation

This project has been assisted
by the New South Wales
Government through
its Environmental Trust.
First published in 2003 by Humane Society International,
WWF Australia and World Conservation Union

© Les Robinson and Humane Society International 2003

about the authors
This work is copyright. It may be reproduced for study, research or training purposes
subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgement of the source and no commercial Les Robinson
usage or sale. Reproduction for purposes other than those above requires the written
permission of Humane Society International. Requests and enquiries concerning Les started his environmental career
reproduction and rights should be addressed to:
campaigning against a sand mine on the NSW
south coast. He joined Social Change Media
Humane Society International
PO Box 439 in Sydney as a campaign manager and spent
Sydney NSW 2107 the next 10 years running ‘hard’ campaigns
against megatips, the Waterloo Incinerator,
For bibliographic purposes, this report should be cited as:
and other issues, before shifting to ‘soft’
Robinson, L. and Glanznig, A. 2003.
Enabling EcoAction: a handbook for anyone social marketing programs on waste, water
working with the public on conservation. and ‘eco-living’.
Humane Society International, WWF Australia,
World Conservation Union, Sydney. He now runs his own consultancy which
Acknowledgements advises and trains council staff, agencies
ISBN 1 875941 46 0 and activists on the design of community
The authors are grateful to
WWF Document Number: Guide 03/04
the following individuals participation and change programs.
Photo credits for front and back cover: and organisations for their
©Klein-Hubert/WWF, ©Les Robinson assistance in providing infor-
©Queensland Tourism Queensland, ©Viewfinder mation, images or comments:
Alison Colyer, Andreas Glanznig
Artwork and design: Sophie Verrecchia, NSW Coordinator, Threatened
Zebra Communication 0409 321 963 Andreas has been involved in biodiversity
Species Network;
Richard Davies, NSW National community education and communication
Produced on 100% Australian made Suits Paper. since the early 1990’s, first with the
Made with 70% recycled content, the balance Parks and Wildlife Service;
being peroxide bleached virgin fibre, Louise Duff, Commonwealth Government’s Biodiversity
from Dalton Fine Paper. The Wetlands Centre; Unit, followed by five years as national
Geoff Doret, coordinator of the Community Biodiversity
For copies of this report, please contact Sutherland Shire Council; Network.
WWF Australia at: or Frits Hesselink, IUCN
call (02) 9281 5515 He is a past member of a United Nations
Commission on Education
and Communication; expert group that developed a global
Katherine Miller, biodiversity education and public awareness
Threatened Species Network; initiative under the Convention on Biological
Bianca Priest, Coordinator, Diversity, and is currently the Oceania Chair
WWF Shorebirds Project; of the World Conservation Union Commission
Julie Rudner, on Education and Communication.
City of Albury Council;
This project has been assisted
Vicki-Jo Russell, Andreas now works as the Biodiversity
by the New South Wales Government SA Coordinator, Threatened Policy Manager for WWF Australia.
through its Environmental Trust. Species Network.

enabling ECOACTION
“Knowledge alone doesn’t harm or
help the environment.
Human attitudes don’t harm or help
the environment.
This handbook aims to be a road map for anyone working with
Human behaviours, on the other hand, the community to achieve environmental change, including
have greatly harmed, yet hold a great environmental educators and managers, Bushcare or Landcare
deal of hope for helping, the environment. coordinators, local government environment officers, and
Those of us who work for environmental community development officers. It is especially designed for
sustainability must learn to address the many people with natural science backgrounds now
human behaviour.” 1 involved in community projects to conserve species, habitats
and ecosystems.
It attempts to bring together useful ideas on social change from
fields as diverse as health promotion and adult learning.

preface Protecting and restoring biodiversity depends

Although the obvious focus is on biodiversity, the concepts
and approaches will be useful for many types of community-
based environmental work.
Community education is much more than simply producing
on sustained public sympathy, understanding a brochure and poster. An important purpose of this handbook
and action. We all need to act or change our is to re-position community education away from narrow
behaviours – often in quite small ways – to ‘informational’ and natural science approaches – primarily
protect and repair life’s complexity. concerned with transferring knowledge and skills – towards
These social changes will depend on opening participative, community-driven approaches which focus on
a sustained conversation with the public about enabling collective action for change.
the nature of everyday living, and the system
of consumption and production that pervade This guide should assist you to design new projects, and also
modern life. to redirect and sharpen existing projects. The tools should be
As communicators, educators, and facilitators, useful for planning almost any form of communication activity.
you are vital agents in this process. This
handbook aims to capture the best in NOTE: For the sake of consistency we
Australian and international contemporary use the term ‘educator’ in this handbook.
1. Martha Monroe, thinking and practice to guide your work. We acknowledge that it’s often an
Brian Day, and Mona It also draws on nearly 10 years of effort to inappropriate title, however it is in
Grieser, Environmental wide use and accepted by funders
Education and increase understanding and involvement in
Communication for a biodiversity conservation. and managers. A better term might be
Sustainable World, ‘sustainability facilitator’ but that
GreenCom, 2000. GOOD LUCK !! has yet to come into widespread use.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION

PART A - REACHING THE PUBLIC 120 17 ● Start planning your program
8 1 ● On good practice 124 18 ● Crafting strong messages
Checklist: Steps to good practice 134 19 ● Designing an integrated communication campaign
12 2 ● The diversity of biodiversity education
140 20 ● Always pre-test
18 3 ● Getting in touch with people’s values
144 21 ● Communication pitfalls
22 4 ● Using the word ‘biodiversity’
148 22 ● Reaching Non-English speaking background audiences
26 5 ● Making the leap from awareness to action
152 ● New Backyard Buddies Program
32 6 ● Why people do, or don’t, act
153 ● A few final thoughts
38 7 ● Some useful change models
48 8 ● The human touch
58 9 ● The natural touch PART C - FURTHER INFORMATION
62 10 ● What social research tells us 156 Further reading and websites
158 Appendix 1 - Tips for talking about biodiversity
161 Appendix 2 - Key biodiversity concepts
PART B - IMPLEMENTING A SUCCESSFUL PROJECT 162 Appendix 3 - Making a communication plan
80 11 ● Formative research 164 Appendix 4 - Findings from NSW research
86 12 ● Audience participation in design 166 Appendix 5 - Findings from interesting US attitude
Checklist for a successful participatory project research
98 13 ● Setting do-able objectives 170 Appendix 6 - The priority matrix
104 14 ● Making your program measurable 172 Appendix 7 - Talking about bugs
110 15 ● Know your audience 174 Appendix 8 - Myths and facts
118 16 ● Designing your program as a cycle 176 Appendix 9 - Glossary of key terms

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION

the public
enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
ON GOOD The word ‘enabling’ is an important

1 practice guide to our role. Traditionally, the

educator was seen as a source of expert
knowledge and the educational process
was complete when that knowledge was
passed on. Instead, an ‘enabler’ does
whatever is required to bring people
In this handbook we define
together and make possible collective
‘biodiversity education’ as:
learning and self-directed action. In this
Enabling communities sense, the educator is a facilitator who
depends as much upon their people-
to act to conserve or skills as upon ecological knowledge.
restore nature. The word ‘communities’ reminds us that
This definition reflects a vision humans are social animals and that the
of informed and inspired groups most meaningful and sustained action is
and individuals working in a done by groups of people working in
variety of ways to restore unison. Empowerment, in particular, is
ecological balance on the earth. never a quality of individuals – it comes
from people working together to achieve
a common vision.
The word ‘act’ implies that the goal is
active participation by people in change.
We’ll talk more about action as a
strategic concept below.
©WWF Australia

The word ‘nature’ is defined widely to

include ecological systems wherever they
are found in the backyard, on a balcony,
in a canalised creek, in a park, as well as
Social factors ‘natural areas’, local and far away.
underpin successful
community projects.
Behind every good
project are facilitators
that bring people
together and create
experiences that
motivate them to act.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
In this handbook we’ll be emphasising
principles of good practice in the design of
community programs. The checklist below
summarises these principles:

1) Have you understood 5) Have you really 8) Will it be fun? 12) Have you approached
the problem and critically understood the situations, Check that your activities will partners?
reflected on your proposed current practices and needs excite and stimulate. Does it What other organisations,
solution? of your audience? involve tactile, experiential and agencies, and businesses have
Have you talked to experts, Have members of your audience interactive learning? Could there similar goals? Who could you
and members of the intended participated in refining the target be a more fun way to do things? collaborate with? Don’t think you
audience, about the nature of behaviours and designing the have to do it all alone – build
9) Will it be social? local networks and share ideas.
the problem? Is the solution program? Does the program offer
achievable? Have you examined ways to meet their practical Check that your project will
needs, as well as yours? Do you encourage good inter-personal 13) Do you practice what you
alternative solutions?
understand the practical obsta- relationships. Is there food? preach?
2) Have you researched cles to the behaviour? Do you Is there time to socialise? Are there Have you thought about the
similar programs? have answers for the doubters? group activities? Have you created environmental impact of your
Have you (at the very least) ways for diverse players to share program? Is your operation an
done an internet search to find 6) Is the solution compatible views, including activists, exemplar of environmental
out about similar programs? with your audience’s councillors, managers, responsibility?
Have you contacted other personal values and norms? business-people, and planners.
educators, agency staff or
14) Will you leave something
Does your audience perceive 10) Have your pre-tested
academics to locate relevant the same problem? Have you
your communications? How will you build the capacity
social research? Have you explored the ‘common ground’
checked out academic journals? Is your message presented in a of your community to act after
between your proposed solution
vivid and interesting way? Have your program is over? Have you
and audience values, perceptions
3) Have specific target you pre-tested messages and helped existing groups to grow
and needs?
audiences been identified? materials on the audience? stronger? Have you facilitated
Who needs to act? Have clear 7) Have you planned how to new relationships? Have people
11) Have you thought about practiced new skills? How could
target audiences been defined? collect evidence?
access? you support a sustained
Consider how you will capture
4) Are your behavioural Have you offered a range of program? Have you developed
evidence about the impact and
objectives actionable? opportunities suitable for new knowledge? If so, how can
results of your program. Have
Are these objectives realistic? different audiences? – both you share it?
you planned for time to reflect
Are the audiences reachable? sexes; all ages; people from non-
on the evidence? How will you
Are the actions measurable? English speaking backgrounds;
report back to the community?
people with disabilities.

2.Adapted from Education for

life – guidelines for biodiversity

education, UK Council for
enabling ECOACTION Environmental Education, 1997. enabling ECOACTION

©Reefwatch SA, CCSA


National Threatened Species Day,
South Australia

ed ucation
Communities around Australia have
The number of threatened species in Australia
continues to grow, and more community
support and involvement in on-ground
conservation projects is needed.
designed and put in place some Approach
fantastic projects that mirror the The Threatened Species Network (TSN) facilitates community action
principles of good practice on the to conserve threatened species yearly on 7 September, the date the
previous pages. The five examples last known Tasmanian Tiger died. Each year different flagship species
below show different solutions to are used to rally community support. Groups are encouraged to view
various problems. the day as their own and use it as a platform to promote what they
are doing to help conserve threatened species. All activities are
CASE STUDY 1 social, and line up well with the interests of the audience.
National Threatened Species Day, South Australia Actions
In South Australia, a recent National Threatened Species Day aimed to
CASE STUDY 2 highlight the need for better understanding and conservation of the
leafy sea dragon and its sea grass habitat. This unusual and beautiful
Mackay Shorebirds project, Queensland flagship species was used to focus community attention on marine
CASE STUDY 3 ● The TSN promoted the Day well in advance, arranged State level
Greenweb program, Sutherland Shire, New South Wales media, and encouraged community groups in the Network and
schools to take part
CASE STUDY 4 ● A guide on how to help conserve sea dragons was produced and
Garden Guide for Albury Wodonga, New South Wales distributed through major outlets including The Body Shop
CASE STUDY 5 ● 35 groups, including dive clubs, bush-, fish- and dune-care groups
Frogs project, The Wetland Centre, Newcastle, and coastal schools, staged over 50 community activities over the
New South Wales month of September. Activities included seadragon searches, pre-
sentations, art shows and displays, beach clean-ups and on-ground
vegetation works in coastal dunes
● Over 30 education and media activities. The Day is part of
the on-going efforts of the TSN to get communities engaged in
threatened species conservation.

More information - Contact your State


Threatened Species Network
enabling ECOACTION Coordinator or ring 1800 032 551 enabling ECOACTION

©Maureen Cooper
Mackay Shorebirds project, Queensland Greenweb program, Sutherland Shire, New South Wales

Problem Problem
The wetlands and intertidal areas in the Sydney’s bushland is diminishing and fragmented preventing the
Mackay region are coming under increasing movement of native animals along habitat corridors.

©Geoff Doret
Approach The Sutherland Shire, located on the southern
The Queensland Wader Studies Group (QWSG) aimed to increase outskirts of Sydney, developed its Greenweb
community support and conservation of shorebird habitat through program as part of a regional approach to the
its Mackay shorebird project. The broader Mackay community were conservation of the Sydney basin’s remaining
engaged by providing social opportunities to see and learn about biodiversity. The Greenweb program aims to
shorebirds, and how to identify them. People that participated in the protect and enhance native plant and animal
initial surveys were encouraged to regularly monitor the number and populations by identifying key areas of bush-
type of shorebirds in important sites in the area. land habitat and then working to link these
habitats in order to make it easier for animals to move between habitats.
The program uses various incentives to encourage people to take part.

©Maureen Cooper
The project identified important shorebird
areas in and around Mackay. The QWSG Actions
promoted the project through the local The Shire promoted the program through media releases, displays and
newspaper and radio media. presentations (including a video).
● Introductory hands-on shorebird surveys ● The Greenweb officer provided free inspections of resident’s property,
were held at key shorebird habitats including a free “Garden Consultation” that identified suitable native
● A follow-up wader identification training plant species for the area, landscaping that encourages native
session was staged at a high tide roost in central Mackay, animals, identified weed species and answered any questions.
followed by a presentation on shorebirds at the local surf life This personal face-to-face contact is crucial

©Geoff Doret
saving club. Follow-up events after other surveys include slide to mobilise interest and involvement in the
shows and a barbeque to allow local residents to meet and mix. program.
● Follow up newsletter.
● Participating residents were able to access
Attendance at both the survey and identification sessions
free native tube plants from the Council’s
were excellent
nursery and in some instances a second
greenwaste bin and/or bush regeneration
bags for free weed collection. They also
More information
received a free Greenweb sign to acknowledge their efforts.
WWF Shorebirds Project,
The response have been overwhelming. In 6 months, over 100
property inspections were held with residents wanting to take part
in the program

More information - Greenweb Officer,


Sutherland Shire Council, (02) 9710 0463
enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION

©Mike Swan
Garden Guide for Albury Wodonga Frogs Project, The Wetland Centre,
Newcastle, New South Wales
Environmental weeds are an increasing problem in the area, hastened Problem
by the sale of weedy species by local garden nurseries. Lack of suitable habitat for the threatened
Approach Green and Golden Bell Frog
AlburyCity Council aimed to encourage nurseries to remove environ- Approach
mental weeds from sale, and increase consumer interest in buying non- The Wetlands Centre aimed to build three enclosed ponds to provide
weedy native and exotic plants. Initial efforts to convince nurseries to habitat for Green and Golden Bell Frogs. The project relied on the
stop selling environmental weeds in exchange for free merchandising good will of many people and organisations, and excellent leadership
and marketing was unsuccessful. An alternative approach was to work skills to mobilise volunteers.
with nurseries to implement a community education initiative.
The communication strategy was strongly influenced by National Actions
Parks Service social research that showed the promotion of lifestyle The project is a testimony to how a range of partners pooled their
choices is more likely to produce results than marketing expertise and efforts:
environmental messages. ● the National Parks Service provided plant and crew to dig the
The project is an example of a Council working through intermediary ponds

©Louise Duff
groups to reach an audience, providing multiple access points, and ● Paddy, a long-time member of the
aligning with audience values. Australian Plants Society (APS) and
supervisor of the local Landcare group,
persuaded APS members to donate the
● Nursery Support Program where the Council’s Noxious Weeds plants that were needed to vegetate the
Officer and a nursery expert engaged 14 nursery managers on ponds. His Landcare group planted them.
environmental weed issues. This effort was underpinned by a
● the Newcastle Rotary Club came to the Wetlands Centre looking for
garden guide, information about noxious weeds, local native plant
a project, and built the frog-proof fence. Centre staff held a briefing
wholesalers and further contacts. Nurseries were encouraged to sell
meeting and provided a sausage sizzle and a case of beer for the
the guide at cost, receive free merchandising and use of a ‘helpline’
workers. And of course a thank-you letter afterwards.
for six months. This worked.
● the good people from the Society of Frogs and Reptiles gave lots of
● Production and distribution of the Garden Guide
advice and practical help
for Albury Wodonga. The guide was promoted in
papers and at festivals. Radio and television ads ● a frog specialist from the University of Newcastle managed the rein-
were also aired. troduction of the frogs.

Results Results
● 12 local nurseries are interested in the program ● Three enclosed ponds with a thriving Green and Golden Bell Frog
colony, and a lot of satisfied people
● Over 150 guides have been sold in the first 2
months of the program
More information
More information The Wetlands Centre,
Environmental Planner, AlburyCity
(02) 6023 8111 or

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
GETTING The starting point in involving

people is to find ways to speak
about the natural world which
reflect the values and aspirations of
WITH PEOPLE’S that particular community or group.

val ues All people have aspirations for a better

life, for dignity, for well-being, for healthy
© Les Robinson

families, for safer communities, for

security and so on.

These aspirations combine with valued

experiences, places and qualities, to
make sets of values which are common
to a particular community or group.

Meanwhile, policies are developed by

managers, scientists and politicians to
protect the natural environment.

Values and policies often seem to inhabit

different universes and speak different
languages. Values tend to be human-
centred and holistic (‘I value my
memories of that lake’, ‘I value the health
A key to successful of my family’), whereas policies tend to
projects is matching
be abstract, neutral, passionless,
your approach and
messages to the universal (‘the enhancement of
values and aspirations biodiversity’, ‘the protection of endangered
of the people you will habitat’).
be working with.
The language of policy tends to be
bloodless, managerial and scientific.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
The role of the educator starts with How do you explore this intersection
searching for the common ground zone? The only sure way is to have face-
between the funding agency’s policy to-face conversations with members of
framework, and the values of real people your community, either in focus groups,
living in real places. or through a Participatory Action
Research approach (see more on
One way to imagine this chapters 11 and 12).
is with overlapping circles.
For instance, you may wish to involve a
COMMUNITIES particular neighourhood community in
GOVERNMENT restoring biodiversity in a local creek.
However if you find that the neighbours
a share of perceive the creek as dangerous,
a healthy the good life polluted and unhealthy, and only useful
finance as a dumping-ground, then these people
POLICY-DRIVEN friends VALUE may oppose the project. Instead you
BEHAVIOURAL DRIVEN comfort may need to define the project as about
time creating family-friendly outdoor spaces
for healthy recreation, or about
a clean, attractive neighbourhood beautification. Once the
safe community neighbourhood
project begins and people are working
beauty together you can begin to ask the
participants to imagine ways the creek
could be made more natural. Only
then is it appropriate to introduce
ecological concepts into the discussion.
educator’s job:
find the
Albury City Council educators
intersection zone
discovered this when they sought to
encourage people to purchase non-
The educator’s job is to discover weedy garden plants. They found
and find words for what lies in the lifestyle choice messages were more
intersection zone between the funder’s persuasive than environmental ones.
policies and the values of an audience.
Locating your project within the existing
strongly-held values and aspirations of
your audience is the first step in sound
program design.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
4 u si ng
Despite considerable educational
effort over several years, ‘biodiversity’
continues to be poorly known and even
more poorly understood.

BIODIVERSITY The evidence from many sources is that

technical terms such as biodiversity and
sustainability are abstract and remote
‘Biodiversity’ is a powerful from most people’s lives. They lack the
organising concept for ‘flesh and blood’ associations which
policy-makers, however the motivate passion and commitment.
term has proven to be a poor This handbook takes a different
mobilising concept for the public. approach to conventional educational
efforts. We propose that ‘biodiversity’ is
a term which can best be understood
through personal experience of nature,
and through conversations which
connect experiences to ecological realities
and values. Biodiversity education is
therefore about bringing people together
to experience nature in the company of
their peers and experts, and about
designing situations that allow for
discussion and reflection. Simply writing
or talking about biodiversity will not work.
Once people are participating in
projects, we can explain ‘biodiversity’ to
them and respond to their questions.
A conversation may result where people
have a chance to interpret ecological
concepts into their own lives.
A consequence of this approach is that
we believe ‘biodiversity’ should be
avoided in the ‘top line’ of mass media
communications like news stories,
advertising or letterboxing. Instead

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
mass communications should focus
on concrete events and images which A FORMAL DEFINITION OF BIODIVERSITY
people can immediately relate to.
The National Biodiversity Strategy
So, try to avoid headlines like: describes biodiversity as the variety
‘Protecting our biodiversity’ of all living things; the different
‘Celebrating biodiversity’ plants, animals and micro-
‘Protecting the web of life’ organisms, the genetic information
‘It’s biodiversity month’ they contain and the ecosystems
Instead try to be imaginative, they form. It is usually considered
intriguing, relevant or useful. at three interconnected levels:
genetic diversity, species diversity
A simple test is: Is my message about and ecosystem diversity. Biodiversity For more on
things people can see and touch? stresses the connectedness of the the language of
living world. biodiversity, see
Here are some examples ‘Tips for talking
of non-ideological about biodiversity’
biodiversity ‘Mollymook rainforest harbours rare beauty’ at the end of this
headlines which ‘Come to the tree planting at Spooneys Bay’ book. (Appendix 1)
have been used ‘Attract birds to your garden’
in real-life projects. ‘Take a walk on the wild side this Saturday’
‘Keep your garden wildlife-friendly’
‘Swamp’s abuzz with life’
‘Students go green for a day’
‘Hear tales from the trees’
‘Bush reserve reveals its secrets’
‘Sanctuaries in the suburbs’
‘Green farmers hit pay dirt’
‘The secret of life’
‘Saving wildlife starts in your backyard’
‘Family tree planting day’
‘Survey of natural wealth’
‘It’s a bug’s life’
‘Take a leaf out of our book’
‘Jurassic bark a lark in the park’

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
MAKING THE Research tells us that awareness and

attitudes alone do not lead people to
undertake voluntary actions or

change their behaviour. Nowadays
most people who are capable of
acting positively for the environment
probably know enough about the
costs and benefits of their actions to
make the necessary personal
©Alison Colyer

changes. And yet the damaging

behaviour continues.
There is obviously much more to the
ecology of personal change than merely
possessing knowledge. Focus group
respondents often say ‘advertising will
3. Advertising is mostly not
never get me to change’. Even about changing
advertisers doubt their work leads to behaviours; it is about
changed behaviour.3 Our work as changing brands. Many
advertisers even doubt
educators therefore needs to focus on the ability of advertising to
the enabling actions or behaviours by achieve that. For instance:
our audiences, rather than simply trans- ‘Most marketers confuse
brand building with brand
fering knowledge. maintenance.While a hefty
“Research in the field of advertising budget might be
As researchers have noted, there is no needed to maintain high-
environmental education and in
necessary cause-and-effect progression flying brands like
commercial marketing has shown McDonald’s and Coca-Cola,
from knowledge to attitudes to action. advertising generally will
that there is no cause-and-effect The relationship between these elements not get a new brand off the
progression from knowledge to remains mysterious. There is also ground.’ – Al Ries and Laura
attitude to behavior as educators Ries, The 22 Immutable
evidence from studies into ‘cognitive Laws of Branding,
have long believed.” dissonance’ that the progression may HarperBusiness, 1998, pg.25.

Martha Monroe, Brian Day, often be exactly the reverse: actions help 4. Leon Festinger and
and Mona Grieser, form attitudes, which then encourage James Carlsmith, Cognitive
Environmental Education knowledge-seeking.4 Consequences of Forced
and Communication for a Compliance, Journal of
Sustainable World, Abnormal and Social
GreenCom, 2000.
As we will see actions can be both an
Psychology, 1959,
end and a means to personal and social Vol. 58, pg.203.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Actions are vital because they are what One-on-one conversations with members
make a difference for the environment. of the intended audience or an informal
Secondly, actions are measurable, so we focus group may be enough to help you
can observe the impact of our work. focus on a feasible behaviour. A more
Thirdly, and even more importantly, powerful approach is Participatory
people learn best by acting: hence our Action Research (see pages 86-97).
most effective work as environmental
NOTE: In practice, typical ‘environmental’
educators will be when we facilitate
Experiential lear- behaviours are deceptively complex.
experiential learning by the participants
ning lets us, too, as A direction to ‘remove fruit from intro-
in our programs: learning by doing.
educators, enjoy duced plants in your garden’ may
Privet and cotoneaster
the enthusiasm of mystify and confuse many people.
FOCUS ON SPECIFIC shrubs are bushland
people who are They may reasonably ask: ‘What about weeds, whose seeds
inspired by their my nectarines and lemons?’, ‘How should are spread by birds.
Probably the single most important step involvement with I dispose of the old fruit?’, ‘Are berries Additionally, the avail-
in designing an effective change program nature – and that fruit?’ ‘What time of year should I do it?’ ability of winter fruit
is choosing specific, action-oriented, strengthens us in ‘Why not just chop down my tree – but is is contributing to an
realistic and achievable behavioural our own work. that legal?’ or ‘I just don’t understand the increase in the
objectives. This handbook includes some point of this practice’. number of currawongs
practical tools to ensure your objectives in some urban areas,
When we negotiate this behaviour with which leads to their
are achievable (see pages 98-103).
an audience, we may discover that it’s increased predation
It’s vital to ask: How feasible is a desired far more practical to break down fuzzy of small native birds.
behaviour likely to be from the point-of- poorly-defined behaviours into a simple,
view of the particular audience? The specific behaviour that makes common
answer depends on that audience and sense to real people. For instance, after
it’s situation. talking to members of your audience,
you may decide to narrow your message
Experienced educators recommend
to simply asking people to remove Privet
carrying out research with ‘doers’ (people
and Cotoneaster shrubs. You could back
who are currently performing the action)
this up with step-by-step instructions
and with ‘non-doers’ (those who aren’t).
and use an interesting theme like
The aim is to figure out if the behaviour
‘Chop ‘em before they drop ‘em’.
makes sense in people’s lives and what The next sections of
The action is narrower, but it is more
the obstacles may be. In effect, we often 5. Booth, E.M. 1996. this book focus on
Starting With Behaviour: likely to be taken up, and it’s likely that change models and
need to negotiate the behaviour with the
A Participatory Process for people will extend the principle to other tools for designing
people we expect to do it.5 Selecting Target Behaviours
in Environmental Programs,
introduced berry species. programs that
GreenCom. inspire action.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION

Here are some typical biodiversity-related behaviours. But

note that behaviours should never be imposed on a community.
They should always be careful tailoring to local needs and
values in consultation with members of the target audience.

In the home: In the community:

● Plant lots of native trees, shrubs and grasses to attract and ● Come to a tree-planting day
feed native birds
● Join a Landcare, Bushcare, or
● Remove weeds and garden plants that could invade native Coastcare group
● Participate in biodiversity-related events
● Remove fruit from Privet and Cotoneaster shrubs in your garden
● Enjoy the outdoors - visit a national park
if you don’t want to remove the plants and go bushwalking or have a picnic
● Install a cat-safe bird bath
● Stick to tracks when walking in the bush
● Keep your cat safe by keeping it indoors from dusk to dawn
● When fishing, stick to size and catch limits
● Train your kitten to be an ‘indoor cat’
● Report illegally dumped rubbish
● Get your cat desexed
● Provide a safe ‘cat park’ enclosure for your cat
On the land:
● Switch to natural gas or slow combustion heaters (to avoid
using native firewood) ● Leave dead and fallen timber to provide
homes for reptiles and other animals.
● Replace some of your open lawn with garden beds which use
natural mulch. Make hiding and sunning spots for lizards ● Plan tree corridors and wood lots
● Create a frog-friendly habitat in your garden ● Protect wetlands
● Recycle paper (to save trees) ● Fence stream bank vegetation
● Attract butterflies and native bees by planting bottle brushes, ● Use Integrated Pest Management techniques
banksias and other plants that produce nectar
● Retain pesticide-affected water on-site
● Create shelter and nesting sites for small native birds 6.These are taken
● Apply fertilisers at recommended rates mostly from Earth Alive!
● Install a nest-box for native birds and possums Action Guide,
● Carry out regular soil testing. a publication of the
● Plant a native tree on National Tree Day (July). Community Biodiversity
Network/Humane Society
International, 2001.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
6 people

Since you are an agent of change,
it’s important to know that change is
a process with stages. Theories of
change give us valuable insights into
how we can influence this process
for individuals, communities and
ACT society.

Try this do-it-yourself change experiment.

Start with a simple exercise. Pause for a

moment and think about a positive
change you’ve made in your life some-
time in the past year. For instance: taking
up bicycling, recycling, changing your
job, spending more time with your family,
joining an environment group.

Many voluntary Now answer these questions:

changes happen
through conversations ● What hopes or aspirations did you
with people they trust need to have before you could even
– friends, family or think about making the change?
● What frustrations were you
©Natasha English experiencing about your life?
● What skills did you need?

● What information?

● What services or products?

● Was there a trigger moment?

● What people were involved?

● What words were spoken?

● What unexpected benefits did you

discover afterwards?

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
When we ask people about how they come to adopt 2) People were in a time of change
voluntary changes in their own lives, we find some
Many people adopt positive new behavi-
common themes:
ours during major changes in their lives:
leaving work, shifting home, becoming
1) People were dissatisfied
ill, being divorced, having children,
People were experiencing frustration starting a new job or business.
between their ideals and the realities of
This may explains why only small num-
their lives. A working mother realised
bers of people are ready for change at
she was not spending enough time con-
any given time. A seismic shift is often
necting to others, a young woman
necessary to open spaces for change in
realised she was doing nothing to
our lives. This is one reason why popula-
improve her household environmental
tion-wide changes appear to be very
impact, a young man realised he could
slow, unless they are driven by events
not face the destruction of nearby bush-
that are experienced by many people
land for a freeway.
simultaneously. For instance the
In other words, the participants saw a Chernobyl explosion and the disastrous
yawning gap between their visions of life Sandoz chemical fire on the Rhine in
as they dreamed it (ie. their personal 1986 are often credited with driving a
norm), and life as it was. This gap caused society-wide shift in environmental
a nagging psychological discomfort. values that eventually led to The Greens
sharing power in Germany. Other social
This reminds us of the importance of
changes are cumulative and slow. The
norms, visions and aspirations in the
gradual adoption of sustainable living
ecology of change. It may not be enough,
practices may be an example.
or even necessary, for people to know
rationally why they should change. A change agent therefore needs to focus
But people definitely need desirable, on people who are moving home,
holistic models of how their lives could changing jobs or experiencing other
be better lived. People’s fantasies need changes in their lives.
to be engaged!
3) Trusted others were involved
A change agent therefore needs to
address people’s dissatisfactions. A great many voluntary changes are
triggered by conversations with other
people – usually ‘trusted others’ like
friends, family or neighbours. ‘A friend
sat me down and told me I was working

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
too hard.’ ‘Talking to my children I THE 7 ELEMENTS OF AN EFFECTIVE CHANGE PROGRAM
realised they loved enjoying nature with
me.’ ‘My wife talked to me about the
pesticides we were using.’ Strong visions that connect the
Clear costs, benefits,
behaviour with people’s hopes,
reasons, causes and
This reminds us that so many of our aspirations, values
effects (rationality)
decisions are socially-based. Face-to-face and norms
conversations with credible people seem (imagination, VISIONS
aspirations) NORMS
to be how we formulate and test many of
our views and values. It appears that
face-to-face interactions or conversations
I wish
are an essential ingredient of personal
change. I know
Celebrations, rewards, A chance to look,
A change agent therefore needs to be an
acknowledgement feel, experience,
introduction service. (feedback)
THE 7 ELEMENTS play (motor
4) The right skills, tools and knowledge PROGRAM That was mimicry)
were available REINFORCEMENT
great! I can
It’s possible to
There are many other background factors collect all these
which enable people to change: the elements into a
possession of skills, knowledge to weigh checklist which It’s easy
the costs and benefits, and having access reminds us that
to convenient products and services that our work as change It’s low risk CONVENIENT
facilitate the change. agents involves and fun SYSTEMS
much more than
In appears that change needs an infra- simply communica-
structure – a convenient train service ting information. MOMENTS I’m not alone Accessible
to reduce car use, a course in organic systems,
The concepts in this products and
gardening to increase our confidence, diagram may prove TRUSTED services
a low Phosphorus detergent, a plant useful when design- times and places OTHERS
nursery that explains how to grow native ing your action where new connections
species. When this vital infrastructure is projects. You should can be made and comfy
absent, all the communication in the use it as a checklist zones safely challenged
Connecting with credible,
(face-to-face events)
world may make little difference. to make sure that passionate people
you have included (endorsees, leaders, peers)
A change agent therefore needs to be a all the ingredients
broker of convenient products and services. of change.
© Les Robinson 2001

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
It’s good to be aware of some
of the current thinking in social
CHANGE change and communication.

models These models suggest a staged

approach that first focuses on
innovators followed by more
mainstream audiences.
©Queensland Tourism Queensland


The most popular current theory of

voluntary change is the Stages of Change
or Transtheoretical model.7
This model assumes that people act
intentionally according to their
perception of the balance of costs and
benefits in a decision. As we saw from
the change cycle on page 37, the
‘ecology of change’ can be much more
complicated than this, but in terms of
Connecting people to large populations, this is a widely used
nature can be helped and accepted theoretical model.
by understanding
several social change
models, particularly This model suggests that we pass
the Stages of Change through a sequence of four stages as we
model, and the adopt voluntary changes in our lives.
Diffusion of
Innovations model.

7. Prochaska, J.O. and

DiClemente, C.C., 1984.
Stages and process of
self-change of smoking:
Towards an integrative
model of change,
Journal of Consulting
and Clinical Psychology,
Vol.51, pp.390-395.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Stage The educator’s role MODEL

Another valuable thinking tool is the

1) Pre-contemplation ● Education. Diffusion of Innovations theory,
popularised by Everett Rogers, which
treats change like a wave passing
2) Contemplation ●Increase benefits (esp. immediate, through society.
short-term, personal benefits)
Rogers’ model looks at the way innova-
●Decrease costs (benefits must tions are taken up in a population. An
outweigh costs in minds of audience) innovation is an idea, practice, or object
that is perceived as new by its audience.
● Increase the positive influence of
trusted others Diffusion researchers found that, for any
given behaviour, an audience could be
●Increase self-efficacy (skills and broken down into 5 segments, based on
confidence) their propensity to accept the new idea
or behaviour. Adoption begins with
●Decrease influence of competing visionary, imaginative innovators, attracts
messages experimental early adopters, and
eventually sweeps in majority audiences,
●Clarify your promise: ie. if you do this, with laggards holding out to the bitter end.
you’ll get these immediate benefits, and
we’ll be there to support you

3) Trial action ● Reward the action

majority Late
●Improve the ability to act majority
(convenience, gaps in skills)

4) Maintenance ● Reward adopters
● Reduce negative consequences
● Remind Innovators

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Segment The educator’s role Segment The educator’s role

Innovators – these are committed ● Directly involve innovators Early majority – these are ● Offer free give-aways or
‘global visionaries’, often imagin- in the design of the pragmatists, comfortable with competitions to initiate
ative and evangelical. They lead the program through moderate environmental ideas, a first trial.
way for others and are the test-bed Participatory Action but they will not act without solid
for original environmental innovat- ● Use mainstream adver-
Research. proof of benefits. They are influ-
ions. Their ideological approach tising and media stories
enced by other pragmatists and
often frightens off pragmatic featuring endorsements
● Recruit and train by mainstream fashions and fads.
people, and yet no environmental from credible, respected,
innovators as peer They have no time for risks, but
education program can thrive conservative players.
educators. will accept simple, proven, better
without their energy and commit- ● Guarantee performance.
ways of doing what they already
ment. They are the ones who have
do. They need easy solutions ● Provide strong customer
already personally adopted the
with minimum discontinuity and service and support.
new behaviour, often investing a
great deal of time and effort.
like to hear ‘industry standard ’ .

Early adopters – these are ‘private ● Promote your program through Late majority – these are environ- ● Refine the product to
visionaries’: imaginative people face-to-face methods, such as mentally conservative pragmatists,
who are open to new ideas that information nights and peer increase convenience
education. uncomfortable with green ideas. and reduce costs.
provide personal benefits. They They hate risk but don’t want to
● Create opportunities for
are often on the lookout for a ● Diversify the product
experimentation, be left behind, hence they will
strategic leap forward in their lives e.g. demonstration events. to satisfy niche needs.
follow the mainstream and
or businesses and are quick to ● Offer strong face-to-face support
established standards. They are ● Respond to criticisms
make connections between clever for a limited number of early
innovations and their personal adopters to trial the new idea. often influenced by laggards. from laggards.
needs. They have no time for ● Study the trials carefully to
‘ideological purity’ – they want real discover how to make the idea
more convenient, low cost and Laggards – Sceptics or ‘brown ● Regulate compliance.
results. They are fashion-setters.
marketable. bombers’ will act to block pro-
They may have big egos and need ● Reward participants’ egos, ● Actively enforce
a lot of personal support. They are esp. through media coverage.
gressive change. Their arguments
need to be taken seriously – often regulations.
less cost-sensitive than other ● Promote early adopters as
groups – seeing their time and fashion-leaders (beginning with the they identify real problems which ● Publicise prosecutions.
money as an investment rather cultish end of the media market). need to be solved before the
than a cost. They are open to risks ● Maintain relationships through majority segments can accept the
and like to hear “state-of-the-art”. regular feedback.

Rather freely adapted from

Rogers, E. 1995. The Diffusion

of Innovations, The Free
enabling ECOACTION Press, New York, 4th edition. enabling ECOACTION
This model suggests that social change
is a process, which begins with the most
imaginative and committed people, and WHAT MAKES AN INNOVATION ADOPTABLE?
then diffuses through society. According to Rogers and his followers, the rate of adoption
One of the most valuable aspects of of an innovation depends on the following qualities
Rogers’ theory is it’s advice about the (as perceived by its audience):
design of successful innovations. 1) Relative advantage
Why do certain innovations spread This is the degree to which an innovation is subjectively
more quickly than others? perceived as better than the idea it supersedes – measured in
Why do others fail altogether? economic terms, social prestige, convenience, and satisfaction.
The greater the perceived relative advantage of an innovation,
the more rapid its rate of adoption is likely to be.

©Viewfinder Australia
2) Compatibility with existing values and practices
This is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being
consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and
needs of potential adopters. An idea that is incompatible with
the values and norms of a social system will not be adopted as
rapidly as an innovation that is compatible.
To ensure a project 3) Simplicity and ease of use
leaps to mainstream
credibility, it must
This is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as
fulfil real needs, not difficult to understand and use. New ideas that are simpler to
be expensive or risky, understand are adopted more rapidly than innovations that
and be fashionable. require the adopter to develop new skills and understandings.
4) Trialability
This is the degree to which an innovation may be experimented
with on a limited basis. An innovation that is trialable
represents less uncertainty to the individual who is considering
it for adoption, who can learn by doing.
5) Observable results
The easier it is for individuals to see the results of an innovation,
the more likely they are to adopt it. Such visibility stimulates
peer discussion of a new idea, as friends and neighbours of an
adopter often request innovation-evaluation information about it.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
The progress is not inevitable, THE ROLE OF FASHION
however. There are two yawning
Don’t forget that most successful ideas start as a trendy fashion
‘chasms’ which every new idea or
item. An example is native plants, which became a fad in the
product must bridge:
early 1990s, before achieving mainstream acceptance.
a) The challenge of b) Winning mainstream The same is true of recycling. Currently, organic foods are
supporting early adopters credibility becoming fashionable, meanwhile mobile phones have passed
through high fashion into mainstream acceptance.
Early adopters will often The second stage, one
seek out new ideas, so where most new ideas fail, Many pundits have tried to figure out the
contacting them can be easy. is making the leap from underlying principles of fashionability.
But the challenge is to experimental to mainstream.
provide the adequate A fascinating attempt is Faith Popcorn’s 16 Trends
● Firstly, the ‘product’ must
one-on-one support that early
beat it’s competition at
adopters expect and the If you have a hankering for social change theories
answering genuine public
recognition they crave. you could look at Theory at a Glance
There is also a challenge for
the program managers to ● Secondly, mainstream It’s rather dry, but it’s a good compendium
see this as a development audiences are cost of social marketing models.
phase, in which ideology sensitive and hate risk.
must give way to flexible, They require guaranteed
practical solutions. We need off-the-shelf performance, COMFY ZONES – an important concept
to remember that people minimum disruption,
minimum commitment of The Theory of Cognitive Dissonance was devised by
adopt things for their own a psychologist, Leon Festinger, in 1957. The concept is
reasons, not ours. time, minimum learning,
endorsement from that people experience discomfort when presented with
Early adopters will often tell conservative leaders, and ideas or demands outside their usual experiences.
us how to change our prod- either cost neutrality or When testing the theory he found that when people did
uct to make it marketable to rapid payback periods. take small voluntary steps outside their comfort zones, they
majorities – our challenge is could experience dramatic shifts in attitude in favour of the
to respond. ● Thirdly, ‘take-off’ depends
new behaviour or thinking, making further steps easier.
on word-of-mouth
promotion. Your new idea The theory suggests that people are best led to new
must become, for a period behaviours by small steps which don’t challenge their
at least, a fashion item. basic self-image or world view.
It also suggests that attitudes may often be the result
of actions, not vice versa.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Most environmentalists come from
8 h uman a biology or environmental manage-
ment background. Hence it can be
easy to neglect the human element.
TOUCH The danger of focusing on the natural
environment is that we emphasise the
problems but not the solutions.
Environmental damage is a symptom of
human choices, human behaviours and
human-created systems.

To ‘save the planet’ we therefore need to

focus our understanding and professional
skills on human beings, human society,
and its economic and political systems.

To fly, successful In fact, to effect change, our human

projects rely on
human touches such
skills and understandings are probably
as gentle facilitation more important than our ecological or
and leadship. scientific knowledge.

©Andrew Ley
These kinds of ‘people skills’ come under
a few headings:
● Team-building:
A good starting
point is to buy a
book on leadership8
or teams.
● Group facilitation
● Conflict resolution
and negotiation
● Change facilitation 8. James M. Kouzes and
Barry Z. Posner, 1996
The Leadership Challenge,
Jossey-Bass Publishers..

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
For environmentalists there is an GOOD FACILITATION
excellent guide that brings this knowledge
together: In the Tiger’s Mouth - an At some time you may find yourself
empowerment guide to social action by working with a group of peers or citizens
Katrina Shields. Katrina lives in Byron to achieve change. You may be
Bay, but her book is published by New organising a community garden or a
Society Press in Canada. You can order tree-planting day. You may be part of
it through their website.9 a lobbying campaign. You may be
coordinating a peer education team.
In the Tiger’s Mouth focuses on sustaining
change by sustaining ourselves and the These people will expect to be treated
people we work with. It’s full of practical like competent, interested, motivated
exercises for bringing people together, adults who have as much to say and
exploring experiences and concerns, offer as the ‘leaders’ or trainers. They
listening, leadership, communicating, will include highly skilled and experi-
becoming empowered, organising, and enced people, as well as naîve and
planning and sustaining collective action. energetic ones. There will, inevitably,
Its best aspect is that it is illuminated by be one or two eccentrics or ‘prophets’.
a hopeful ethic of self-care, which is vital You will need to treat all these people
if we are to last long enough to repair the with respect and provide structured
earth. avenues for their ideas and energy to
make a difference to the work of the
Perhaps the most important human group.
skill of the biodiversity educator is
effective facilitation, so let’s look at Facilitation means ‘to make easy’.
what makes a good facilitator. Facilitation is the glue – often invisible –
that holds a group together. It’s different
to leadership, although good leaders are
invariably good facilitators.

Facilitation is an aquired skill.

It can be worthwhile taking some
training in facilitation.

The cost is US$19.95 plus postage.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
A good facilitator is an ‘introduction Most visibly, a facilitator may organise
agency’ – they bring people together meetings and activities, especially in the
and help good interpersonal early phases of a group. They make sure
relationships to bud. they, or someone else reliable, takes
responsibility for:
● They establish an atmosphere that 1) Ensuring that venues are suitable, with disabled access,
supports respectful, informed, equal food and drink, toilets, shelter, access by public transport
exchange and discussion. etc. (Checking the seating arrangements to make sure they
● They take responsibility for encourages easy discussion.)
monitoring the collective health 2) Conducting introductions, presentations and ice-breaking
and energy level of the group. exercises, so people are put at ease.
● They ensure that efforts are rewarded Facilitation can
be almost invisible. 3) Seeing that agendas are formed and agreed upon – including
and achievements celebrated.
It can be shared time allocations for each item and realistic finishing times.
● They support the expression of new between a number
knowledge and points of view. 4) Making sure members are identified by name tags,
of people, yet a or by frequently addressing them by name.
● They call for time out in cases of group where no
conflict. one takes these 5) Ensuring that other roles, e.g. Chair, scribe, timekeeper,
responsibilities is spokesperson, activity or sub-committee leaders, are filled.
● They recognise burn-out and
doomed to a short
encourage exhausted people to 6) Ensuring that all have an opportunity to speak and no one
and difficult life.
move off the front line. dominates the discussion.
● They may do these things without 7) Maintaining focused discussion – don’t let the group be
being the obvious ‘leader’ of the distracted. Move the agenda along so people don’t feel time is
group. being wasted.
©Les Robinson

8) Ensuring all decisions are actionable, that is, someone is

allocated to perform each one by a certain deadline – and
commitments are followed-up!
9) Offering interesting discussion tools, such as brainstorms,
Facilitators ensure mapping, small group discussion.
that individual
efforts are 10) Optimistically summing up and set the time for the next
rewarded and team meeting or activity.
celebrated. 11) After the meeting, circulating the minutes, following-up
and making sure decisions are acted upon.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION

Katrina Shields10 suggests these desirable Environmental groups often become

qualities for a good facilitator: unstuck over conflicting notions of lead-
Neutrality. Though you may contribute to ership. ‘Leadership’ is not one person’s
the discussion and make suggestions, you job. It’s something the whole team does.
should not manipulate the meeting to bring In fact the oft quoted definition of good
about a particular outcome. leadership is that every member of the
group is able to say ‘we did that’.
Good listening skills. Including reflective
listening and strategic questioning. Centralised, directive, charismatic
Respect for the participants and confidence models of leadership are probably not
that consensus can be reached and good suitable in any situation these days, but
solutions found. they are certainly wrong when dealing
Interest in what people have to offer. with environmental volunteers.
Assertiveness that is not overbearing – to
know when to intervene decisively and give
some direction to the meeting. Good leaders spend
time negotiating a
Clear thinking and observation of the common vision and
whole group. This requires a split attention purpose with all
to the discussion and the process members of a team.
(ie. how this is affecting group members).

©Northern Areas Council (SA)/WWF Australia

An understanding of the overall
objectives of the group.

Facilitators are the ‘glue’ of social

change. They create safe face-to-face
encounters where real personal change
is most likely. Most importantly they can
also create empowerment by bringing
people together to work to a common
vision and experience success. If you are 10. Katrina Shields,
In the Tiger’s Mouth – an
a newcomer facilitation may seem rather empowerment guide to
intimidating. But the important thing is social action, New Society
just to start. It’s best learnt by practice. Publishers,1994, pg.95.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
It’s worth keeping in mind the qualities Good leaders make supportive and
of good leadership. This list is broadly rewarding environments where people
adapted from Kouzes and Poster’s can grow in the skills, knowledge and
survey into hundreds of leadership confidence required for their roles.
As you can see, these qualities could
An ideal leader: ● Is honest and open. apply to every member of a team.
● Is willing to challenge the status quo
Notice that all this is the opposite
and pioneer new approaches to doing
of ‘management’ which is often
things. Is an early adopter of
top-down, aloof, analytical, risk-averse,
innovation. Values experimentation
focused on control, and so on.
and risk-taking.
● Is passionate, enthusiastic and
● Is imaginative. Encourages other
people to imagine. Builds other
people’s ideas into an inclusive vision.
● Listens. Understands the hopes,
dreams, and aspirations of the people
they want to enlist.
● Is an enabler. Lets the people own
the process. ‘We’ not ‘me’. Builds
confidence. Delegates. Trusts people.
● Rewards creativity and initiative.
● Celebrates success.
● Loves people. Is kind.
Puts the people before the vision.
● Is humble. They are there to serve
and support.
11. James M. Kouzes and Barry
Z. Posner, 199. The Leadership
Challenge, Jossey-Bass
Publishers: San Francisco.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
THE Images of the green and golden bell

9 natural frog heralding the successful

rehabilitation of the Sydney
Olympics site is but one of many
TOUCH great examples of how
organisations have used “flagship
species” to promote their
©Mike Swan

conservation work.

The flagship species approach uses

appealing species to create a rallying
point for wildlife conservation.
Some, such as the panda bear, whales,
elephants, tigers and rhinos are now
international wildlife icons, and have
become potent symbols for conservation.

Flagship species tend to be big,

beautiful, cute, powerful or much loved.
Research has confirmed that people
The Green and Golden
mostly appreciate big, charismatic
Bell Frog wears the
Australian colours, wildlife,12 so it’s important to recognise
is threatened, and lives the power of this tactic.
at Homebush – a
perfect flagship species People also have sympathy for big,
to communicate the
green Sydney Olympics.
round, baby-like eyes, used to great
effect by conservation organisations to
promote the conservation of numerous
mammal species, ranging from baby
gorillas to threatened Australian
12. Kellert, S.R., 1985.
Public perceptions of
predators, particularly
the wolf and coyote.
Biological Conservation,
Vol 31, pp.167-189.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
The flagship species approach is a Examples of flagship species used to
useful means to communicate broader promote habitat conservation
biodiversity conservation. The key is to
select a flagship species whose individu-
als have a wide range that embraces the Species/Species Group Habitat
habitat of many other species. Many of
these flagships tend to be top order
Whales Oceans
predators. Messages should strongly
Sea turtles Tropical beaches and oceans
relate the survival of the flagship species
Cassowary North Queensland rainforest
to the protection of their habitat, and be
Richmond birdwing butterfly Rainforest
used as stepping stones to communicate
Koalas Forests and woodlands
broader arguments for habitat
Powerful Owl Forests
protection. A good example is how
Murray/Mary Cod Rivers
the conservation movement used the
Frogs Wetlands
powerful owl as a flagship species to
Lyrebird Temperate forests
promote forest conservation in New
Flame robin Woodlands
South Wales.

Additionally, the flagship approach is

increasingly being applied to promote Summing up
invertebrates, which make up nearly all
of the Earth’s species diversity but tend Flagship species can be a potent Mallee fowl
to be forgotten in many conservation tool to promote the protection of conservation has
efforts. Research has shown that people a broader ecosystem. rallied landholders
favour invertebrates that have unusual For more to conserve this
aesthetic or practical value, such as information, see threatened species
through fox control
butterflies and bees.13 Appendix 7. and other measures.

©WWF Australia
13. Kellert, S.R., 1993.
Values and perceptions
of invertebrates.
Conservation Biology,
Vol.4, pp.845-855.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Australians still have a very low aware-
ness of the term, biodiversity, and a poor
RESEARCH understanding of the concept.15 A national
AC Nielson phone poll undertaken in
TELLS US 1999 found that while about 4 in 10
Australians thought they had heard of
the term, only 1 in 10 understood the
Opinion polls and social research
concept. The remainder thought the
provide valuable guidance in term was concerned with financial
designing a communication or planning (buy-diversity) or an alternative
action program. lifestyle (bi-diversity).16 Recent focus 15. Consumer Contact.
group research suggests that most of 1998. Biodiversity
Here are some findings from research, those who understood the biodiversity Communication Campaign:
Market Research Report.
with their implications for biodiversity concept had learnt about it through the Commissioned by
educators.14 school or university system. Environment Australia.

This 1 in 10 awareness rate has remained 16. AC Nielson. 2000.

Phone poll to gauge
static since the early 1990’s when a awareness of the term,
major national quantitative study found biodiversity. Commissioned
that the term, biodiversity, was virtually by Environment Australia.

unknown.17 Additional social research 17. ANOP (Australian

undertaken in 1993 found that where National Opinion Polls).
1993. Community Attitudes
there is awareness, it tends to be associ- to Environmental Issues.
ated with conservation. This qualitative ANOP Report on 1993
study found that most participants National Research Program
prepared for the Department
thought that biodiversity was vaguely of Environment, Sport and
related to plants and animals, with Territories. DEST: Canberra.
a stronger association with animals.
18. Michael Gill and
Insects and bacteria, either as species Associates Pty Ltd. 1993.
or as part of an ecosystem, were rarely Community perspectives
14. The following section on biological diversity:
draws heavily from research raised, even after prompting.18 a qualitative report.
sources quoted in David Report prepared for the
Bidwell and Susan C, Barrow, This is consistent with various US Commonwealth Scientific
Roadblocks to Understanding sources that suggest only 1% to 30% of and Industrial Research
Biodiversity, Chicago Region Organisation (CSIRO).
Biodiversity Council: Chicago.
people know what biodiversity means.
CSIRO: Canberra.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
A 1995 analysis of 10 focus groups in four What this means for educators
US cities concluded that:
These findings suggest we should try to
“the public’s real concern over habitat avoid using the term ‘Biodiversity’ when
or species extinction is paper-thin and badging or promoting programs in public.
public understanding of biodiversity is Rather the term should be introduced
superficial…initial lip service to the and explained once participants are
importance of the ‘circle of life’ or of not involved in a program.
breaking a chain quickly disintegrated While biodiversity links to public values,
when any number of other issues it is clearly not a meaningful value in
entered the discussion. The participants itself - hence ‘biodiversity’ needs to be
showed themselves to be poorly translated into terms which are more
informed about biodiversity and compelling to ordinary people e.g. “a
unconvinced of it’s importance.”19 healthy river”, “a rich native bushland”,
“sustained fish catches”, “sources of new
This was confirmed in a 1996 Biodiversity medicines”.
poll of US citizens.20 Only about 20% of
By the mid 1990s, social marketing
people had heard of ‘biodiversity’.
approaches and cognitive research was
However the majority were concerned
emphasising the limits of the science and
about loss of species and saw humans as
environment education approaches used
the primary cause. When the term was
to date. In 1995, for example, Raymond
explained 87% said that maintaining
Chipeniuk challenged the lasting value of
biodiversity was personally important to
educating the public about a complex
scientific concept such as biodiversity:
But this support proved shallow when …little evidence suggests that teaching
competing issues such as jobs, property 19. Belden and Russonello, biology to lay citizens actually transfers
rights, comfort and convenience were Research and
lasting concepts, much less that it is the
Communications, 1995.
introduced. For example, 48% said Communicating best way to equip lay people with the
protecting jobs was more important than Biodiversity: Focus Group ability to think appropriately about
saving habitat, and 49% agreed it was Findings,Washington DC.
biodiversity. On the contrary, cognitive
acceptable to eliminate some species of 20. Elder, J., Coffin, C. and scientists are starting to find that, for
plants and animals, especially pests. Farrior, M., 1998. Engaging
purposes of daily life, folk-generated
Hence, for about half the public, the Public On Biodiversity –
A Road Map for Education 21. Chipeniuk, R., 1995. common-sense ideas about the
conserving nature is highly conditional. and Communication Educating the public environment can be superior to those
Strategies, The Biodiversity about biodiversity.
Project: Madison,Wisconsin, half-learned from the sciences.21
Global Biodiversity,
1996, pg.19. Vol. 5, No. 2, pp.24-26.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
While most government agencies were AUSTRALIANS RESPOND STRONGLY TO
designing their environmental education ‘QUALITY OF LIFE’ ISSUES
programs based on the assumption that
Most Australians are concerned about
increased knowledge will lead to a
the environment (69% in 1999) and this
change in attitudes and behaviour, the
level of concerns has varied little over
poor relationship between information
time (75% in 1992; 69% in 1994;
driven campaigns and behavioural
68% in 1996; 71% in 1998).23
change led environmental marketing
experts, such as David Said of the However, when compared to other con-
Environmental Marketing Unit, to cerns, the environment has a relatively
critique this approach: low priority (of people nominated as
Because Australians invariably register a ‘most important issue’ in 1999):
high level of environmental concern, we
● Health 30%
tend to assume there is a groundswell of
popular support just waiting to be tapped. ● Crime 26%
All the evidence is, however, that peer ● Education 17%
group pressure, stand out advertising and ● Unemployment 13%
Biodiversity is best a catchy jingle may be more effective than
appreciated through
the kind of sensitive, information-rich ● Environment 9%24
personal experiences
than as an abstract campaigns government bodies like to run.22
concept. Amongst environmental issues, 23. Australian Bureau of
Statistics. 1999.
Australians appear focus on those which Environmental Issues –
©WWF Australia

directly affect their wellbeing and the People’s Views and

economy. The 1999 ABS research found Practices, March 1998.
ABS Catalogue No. 46020.0.
that freshwater pollution was the main ABS: Canberra.
concern nominated by people living in
non-metropolitan areas, while air 24. Australian Bureau of
Statistics. 1999.
pollution wad the greatest concern of Environmental Issues –
those in metropolitan areas. People’s Views and
Practices, March 1998.
The NSW EPA’s 2000 Who Cares About ABS Catalogue No. 46020.0.
ABS: Canberra.
the Environment 25survey provides a
more detailed snapshot. 25. NSW Environment
Protection Authority, Who
22. Said, D 1996. The True Cares about the Environment
Identity of the Green – Environmental knowledge,
Market. Australian attitudes and behaviours in
Environment Review. NSW, EPA Social Research
Vol 11, No.1, pg.11. Series, 1994, 1997 and 2000.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
When NSW residents were asked what What this means for educators
they thought was the single most
Australians are clearly more concerned
important environmental issue they
about tangible issues which immediately
● Water quality - 27%
affect their lives.
● Air quality - 22% When framing messages it therefore
● Land degradation, soil erosion etc - 10% makes sense to make links between
biodiversity and health, economic
● Waste - 9% and quality of life issues.
● Protection of trees, forests, bushland - 5%
Examples of ● Giving rural communities a bright
● Pollution generally - 3% such messages future.
● Urban sprawl/development - 3% could include:
● Keeping families on the land.
● Logging/wood chipping - 2%
● Sustaining our local fishing industry.
● Noise - 1%
● Sustainable farmers bank on
● Other - 4% biodiversity.
● Not stated/not sure - 9%

©Nathan Chan
Land degradation is increasing in
prominence, jumping from 2%
recognition in 1994 and 1997 to 10%
in 2000.
The EPA’s 2000 survey then asked
respondents to rank 5 issues of
concern about the environment.
The responses were:
Australians are most
● Concern for future generations - 29%
concerned about
● Quality of life - 20% issues that affect
them directly.
● Health - 18% Messages should
● Sustainability of ecosystems - 17% motivate people to
action by linking
● Long-term economic sustainability - 15% biodiversity to the
future of our children,
quality of life, health,
and economic issues.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
ENVIRONMENTAL ATTITUDES DO NOT What this means for educators
The implication is that the primary aim
One way statisticians value people’s envi- of the educator is to get people perform-
ronmental knowledge and attitudes is ing the desired behaviour, irrespective of
through a composite measure called the their reasons. In the beginning it matters
New Environmental Paradigm (NEP). little why people recycle, join a Bushcare
Analysis of the NEP results from the Who group, pick up litter, or go bush walking.
Cares 1994 survey found that people with The act of performing these things is
the highest NEPS were better educated, what is important. It amounts to a per-
came from higher income households, sonal commitment. People then seek
were young adults of both sexes, and came rationalisations for their behaviour, and
from large regional towns or rural areas.26 if the educator is present with a strong
set of reasons, some of these reasons
However when the Who Cares results may be adopted by the actor as the
were later analysed there was found to justification for the action. The learning
be no provable correlation between NEP follows the action.
scores and behaviour and vice versa.27
The educator is then freed from having
This suggests that vague appeals to ‘the to constantly ‘ram the environment
environment’ or ‘ecosystems’ are unlike- down people’s throats’. Instead we can
ly to motivate many people. Instead we promote events to meet people’s imme-
need to focus on the genuine personal diate tangible needs. For instance a tree
advantages offered by specific actions planting day could be promoted as ‘free
such as tree planting or creek preserva- fun for kids’, ‘free B-B-Q’, ‘meet your
tion - things like getting to know like- neighbours’, or ‘learn about bush foods’.
minded people, having healthy family 26. TAVERNER Research
Once people are engaged, they are then
Company. 2000. Who Cares
activities, and learning new skills (not to more likely to be open to ideas about
About the Environment in
mention food, fun and prizes!). 2000? NSW Environment species protection, biodiversity and the
Protection Authority: Sydney.
The Who Cares researchers did find that pg.74. needs of future generations.
the relationship between attitudes and
27. Black,A.W. and Reeve, I.
behaviour was stronger when the attitude 1994. The relevant impor-
was highly specific, ie. it amounted to an tance of various factors in
intention to perform exactly that behaviour. explaining or predicting
environmentally responsi-
This reinforces the idea that we should ble behaviour. Prepared for
be promoting specific eco-actions, rather the NSW Environment
Protection Authority. The
than making general environmental University of New England:
appeals. Armidale. pp.14-15.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
HOW DO PEOPLE LEARN ABOUT What this means for educators
It means that at the heart of our
programs should be the direct experience
Raymond Chipenuik believes that
of nature: tree planting days, tours and
‘childhood foraging’, that is, informal
walks, family-friendly picnics beside the
childhood rambles and playful,
creek, outdoor games in nature.
accidental explorations of nature, is
how many people learn sympathy and “Using people’s existing relationship to
understanding for biodiversity in their nature - even if it is an urban, humanly
home region. constructed and controlled ‘nature’ – may
“In fact, research indicates that it is direct,
help connect them to the biodiversity issue.
informal experience of nature that attunes
For instance using a garden as an example
individuals to biodiversity in the bioregions
of the larger ecosystem is a convenient,
they actually inhabit...”28
understandable way for persuading
Another researcher looked at the gardeners who already think of themselves
personal histories of 40 people working as stewards of their own little plots…”30
for environment groups. He concluded While much of our communications work
that a conservation ethic is encouraged inevitably involves printed materials or
by solitary exploration in natural places, mass media, the purpose of those mate-
and that small groups of children should rials should nevertheless be to promote
be allowed to explore nature in an real-life experiences in the environment.
unstructured way.29
Remember that nature need not be
City dwellers, however, often have pristine – the same lessons about
limited opportunities to experience interconnectedness and complexity can
nature directly. Instead they rely on be found in a suburban backyard,
28. Raymond Chipeniuk,
television, newspapers, magazines, 1995. Childhood foraging
a vacant lot, a football field, a farm,
books and visits to the zoo, botanical as a means of acquiring a school landscape, even a crack in the
gardens or a natural history museums. competent cognition about sidewalk.
biodiversity. Environment
None of these mediums are likely to have and Behaviour.Vol. 27, No.4,
the power or immediacy of time spent in pp.491-512.
natural environments with expert guides 29. Tanner,T, 1980.
or informed peers. A combination or Significant life experiences: 30. Belden and Russonello,
structured activity and free exploration A new research area in Research and Communications,
environmental education. 1995. Communicating
of the environment is also strongly Journal of Environmental Biodiversity: Focus Group
encouraged. Education.Vol. 11, No.4, Findings,Washington DC.
pp.20-24. pg.18.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Most Australians consider that biodiver- Recent research commissioned by the
sity loss is a rural problem. Focus group NSW National Parks Service33
research found that biodiversity does suggests that people tend to mentally
not clearly relate to the urban ‘construct’ four natural realms:
environment, except in association with
1) Urban spaces – neighbourhoods,
protecting urban remnant vegetation.31
yards, streets.
This is consistent with the general
These are places made by humans for
perception that most biodiversity loss
humans to live in. Only attractive,
is due to land clearing and loss of trees
beneficial or harmless forms of wildlife
in rural Australia.
are considered appropriate here –
small/attractive birds, ladybugs, blue
tongue lizards, kookaburras, frogs,
What this means for educators
butterflies, earthworms.
Many Australians living in cities and
2) Urban nature – local parks and
towns believe nature conservation is an
‘out there’ issue. As such, educators
These are constructed leisure places,
need to make a strong association
with lawns and manicured trees. Their
between the importance of local natural
purpose is human recreation. A wider
heritage and local actions that can be 31. Michael Gill and range of wildlife is appropriate here,
taken to conserve it. Once this associa- Associates Pty Ltd. 1993.
but needs to make room for humans.
tion is made, such as the need to restore Community perspectives
on biological diversity:
local bushland, broader issues such as a qualitative report. 3) Accessible ‘bush’ - urban bushland,
on-going loss of native vegetation can be Report prepared for the bush parks.
made. Commonwealth Scientific
and Industrial Research
These are accessible, managed ‘bush’
Organisation (CSIRO). areas which should be reasonably safe
Piggy-backing biodiversity on big picture
CSIRO: Canberra. for humans to visit. Nevertheless they
issues like salinity, clean air or forest
are basically there for wildlife.
conservation may have limited success. 32. Michael Gill and
Associates Pty Ltd. 1993.
For people living in urban areas, appeals Community perspectives 4) The natural environment – unspoilt,
to these issues as a spring board to a on biological diversity: 33. Woolcott Research. 2002. original nature.
a qualitative report. Urban Wildlife Renewal
biodiversity campaign is likely to simply “Growing Conservation
Not really meant for people. Visits
Report prepared for the
place biological diversity as yet another Commonwealth Scientific Urban Communities”, may involve discomfort and a degree
background issue.32 and Industrial Research Prepared for the NSW of danger (snakes, spiders, wasps).
Organisation (CSIRO). National Parks and Wildlife
CSIRO: Canberra. Service: Sydney.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
What this means for educators WHY DO SOME PEOPLE EXHIBIT
It may be worthwhile keeping these ‘con-
structs’ in mind when developing pro-
grams. Mixing inappropriate messages
may cause incomprehension or hostility
Most Australians live in cities and many
from a local community, especially in
have no regular direct experience with
urban bush regeneration or creek
nature, nor the threats affecting native
restoration projects. You may want to
species and ecosystems. On top of this,
restore natural creek bank vegetation,
nearly all Australians don’t have a good
whereas neighbours might want to dump
understanding of basic ecological principles,
dirt on it to make a better place for
which undermines a sound understanding
swings and picnic tables. This may make
of how threats relate first to the decline
perfect sense if residents see the creek
and finally to the extinction of a species.
as part of ‘urban nature’ - a place whose
purpose is human recreation. Unlike an oil spill event, it is far more diffi-
Overcoming such pre-conceptions can cult to see biodiversity loss. The process
be a gradual process which takes a great of extinction is subtle and can take
deal of listening, sensitivity, compromise, decades or even centuries before a species
not to mention local champions. disappears forever. The death of the last
individual of a species is normally not
witnessed but detected years later when
a plant or animal can no longer be found.
These factors, sometimes combined with
a frontier mentality, can lead to skepticism.

Recommended reading
If you are designing a conservation
communication program we strongly
recommend that you read Engaging
the Public on Biodiversity, an
accessible US publication which
discusses issues in public communi-
cation of biodiversity in depth.
See Further reading pp.156-157.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
B Implementing
a successful
enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
No one knows for sure whether a
11 research particular promotion or program
will work. All our work is
essentially experimental.
So it makes sense to write our
©Julie Rudner

‘change strategy’ as a hypothesis.

“If we offer [these proposed benefits],

then [this specific audience] will
respond by [the desired action].”

For instance, for promotions:

● If we offer a fun Family Tree Planting
Day in South Creek, at least 50 families
will participate, and 5 people will sign
up for our creek rehabilitation project.
Failure to reality test
● If we provide a Sustainable Farming
your work through
formative research training course to farmers around
greatly increases Dubbo, at least 50 farmers will attend,
the risk that your and at least 5 will be recruited into our
project will end up
low-chemical farming program.
being a dud.

Once you have a hypothesis, you

need to reality-test it. That is the role
of formative research.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Formative research means talking to
experts about the nature of the problem TO CARRY OUT FORMATIVE RESEARCH
and the workability of proposed
solutions. And it means talking to mem- 1) Talk to experts.
bers of the intended audience about the
workability of the solution and barriers ● ‘Experts’ means others who have
to participation. It also means doing struggled with the problem – scientists,
desk research to check on similar academics, agency staff, and ‘expert’
programs or relevant academic studies. members of the community.
● Use the phone or call a special
Formative research may tell you, for advisory meeting.
instance, that no individual action could
affect the problem. There may be noth- 2) Talk to members of the intended
ing an individual or group could do audience.
because the issue is beyond individual
control, e.g. regulation of toxic sub- ● Focus groups are an effective tool.
stances. You may need to put other Don’t be afraid to run your own
elements in place before you think about (see page 114). An even better tool
communicating with the public, for is Participative Action Research
instance, changing the policies and fund- (described in the next chapter).
ing priorities of the local council. Your
communication strategies might better 3) Do desk research.
be targeted at internal managers and ● Do an internet search, especially to
policy-makers than the public. check for similar programs.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
We’ve included the Achievability Test
(page 84), as a guide to the questions ● If you can, go to a major research
you need to ask in the formative stage. library, and look up the online serials
catalogue. There is an amazing world
Once your have reality-tested your of academic research out there, and
hypothesis, and feel it is achievable, much of it can be freely downloaded.
it becomes your program goal ● Good databases to start at are
(see page 121). Sociological Abstracts and Web of

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION

Is the proposed solution achievable?

Ideally, your targeted behaviour(s)
should meet all of the following tests.34

1) Is it likely to impact on the problem? Yes / No 3) Is it compatible with cultural norms and Yes / No
Ask: do your behaviours attack the real problem? It’s no good current practices?
asking people to weed local bushland when the locals are Behaviours need to make socio-cultural sense. For instance, in
routinely dumping garden waste all over it. Experts can often middle class western cultures, electricity consumption is
be out-of-touch with conditions on the ground. So it’s usually virtually synonymous with success and comfort. People have
best to test the idea with members of the audience, to test worked hard to achieve a certain income, and gadgets and climate
whether it really makes a difference. control are the benefits from that income. They may see electricity
Your audience are practical people – getting something this conservation as incompatible with accepted social norms.
basic wrong will seriously damage your credibility.
4) Is it cost-effective? Yes / No
2) Will it have immediate and Yes / No Avoid behaviours which are costly in time, money or effort.
obvious consequences? Small businesses, for instance, have no time to carry out
Behaviours with immediate tangible benefits are more likely complex environmental audits. Nor do they have the surplus
to be adopted than those with distant vague benefits. cash for expensive environmental purchases. Any surplus
For example, if water is expensive, water conservation money or time is sure to be spent on higher priorities than
measures may significantly lower the water bill, but if improving the environment. Innovations suitable for small
electricity is cheap, energy conservation measures may business need to be cost-neutral and very simple to implement.
produce little benefit, except for the far-off, benefits
of reducing climate change. 5) Is it simple to do ? Yes / No
Keep proposed behaviours simple to explain and easy to do.
Why is recycling effective? Because the collection services
34. This test is adapted from make it easy and convenient to do. Why is home composting
Environmental Education
and Communication for a lagging? Perhaps because the more you learn about it, the more
Sustainable World – complicated it sounds.
Handbook for International
Practitioners, Brian A. Day The best way to answer these questions with confidence is to
and Martha C. Monroe, Eds, involve members of the target audience in identifying the
GreenCom, 2000. pg.10.
desired behaviour (see Action Research on pages 89-91).

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
12 audience
Involving the audience in design is a
great way to inject local knowledge, local
flavour and imagination into a project. It
also ensures that we sensitively address
a community’s own perceived needs –
IN DESIGN not simply the funders. It may also allow
us to facilitate a powerful kind of com-
When is the right time to involve munication – one where a community
the public in your programs? effectively has a conversation with itself
The answer is – from the very about what it means to be leading a
start. In fact, there are good responsible life, looking after the health
reasons for involving members of both present and future generations.
of the intended audience in the
Another advantage of such partnerships
design of your program.
is that they can generate greatly
increased legitimacy for the council or
agency that initiates them.

It’s important to recognise that the

most sustained kinds of environmental
learning occur when we facilitate others
to discover their own truths, to learn
new skills, and to work together to
experience success. This truth has long
been understood by adult educators.

Adult education draws part of it’s

inspiration from the work of Brazilian
educator, Paulo Freire, who in the 1970’s
challenged the top-down, control-oriented,
technological model in Western
education. For Freire, adult education
was inherently about empowerment.
It involved groups of people working
together, sharing and questioning their
own experiences and exploring the
foundations of economic and social
systems that made manipulation and
exploitation possible.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
It’s valuable to keep in mind the principles PLANNING AN ACTION RESEARCH
of adult learning when designing your PROGRAM
program (see page 94).
The essential features of a PAR project
Freire’s ideas fit in well with the concept are: ● reasonably representative
of Participative Action Research (PAR).
This is a general term for many tech-
niques which directly involve members ● participantsdefine the ‘problem’
of an intended audience in the design of and possible solutions through
a strategy or program. PAR is now a reflection their own experiences,
mainstream practice in fields such as knowledge and research;
health service planning, architecture, ● thegroup commissions or carries
urban planning and rural sustainability. out additional research;
This philosophical shift away from ● the
group reports back to it’s larger
purely top-down design is based on the community.
realisation that local people know better
than anyone else what their problems Although the group should have a high
are and what solutions might work. Also, degree of control over the PAR process,
professionals in many disciplines now it’s important to start with a detailed
recognise that projects can only be plan. Of course it can be later amended
sustained when local people have the by the group – provided it stays true to
commitment that comes from genuinely the project’s purpose.
owning a project.

©West Hume Landcare Group/WWF Australia

If you are interested in learning more on
Participative Action Research, a good
resource is Southern Cross University’s
Action Research Resources web site at Good participation
should happen way
before people get
their hands dirty –
it should start from
the earliest stages
of project design.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Here is an example of a typical plan out additional research to fill gaps in
for a conservation-based Participatory knowledge.
Action Research project: Exploring and testing possible solutions
The group researches solutions, then
1) Invite members of the local community to a B-B-Q, together discusses advantages and disadvantages
with local leaders, experts, councillors and council staff. of each solution. Use a simple effort-versus-
impact matrix to prioritise solutions
2) Graphically describe the issue, with presentations from (see Appendix 6 for the priority matrix).
experts and local residents.
Forming an action plan
3) Invite members of the audience to nominate for an ‘action Test and prioritise interventions; develop
research team’ (or ‘steering committee’ or similar name). Also a practical campaign plan (who does what,
advertise for nominations. when, with what resources); decide how the
program will be monitored and evaluated:
4) Select a balanced group that is relatively representative of who will collect evidence of progress?
the affected community (including both sexes, youth, elders, Report back to the community on progress.
indigenous people, the disabled). Involve experts as technical
advisers. Don’t be afraid of one or two mild eccentrics – provid- 7) The group meets regularly to review progress on the action
ed the group is well facilitated, they can be the spice in the stew! plan.

5) Obtain agreement on the purpose of the group and the 8) The community receives feedback on progress, through
process to be followed. It’s important that the group guides letterboxing and media stories.
the process to be followed.
9) Celebrate each milestone - preferably with the whole
6) A typical action research process may involve: community. Offer rewards to the hardest working members –
they’ve put in a lot of work and deserve the recognition.
Clarifying the problem
Site tour, review environmental statistics, 10) Collect evidence at every stage. That’s how you measure
experts discuss natural processes. your success, report to others, and prove that the project was
Exploring the causes worthwhile.
Use sketch maps on butchers paper to
map community behaviours, the make-up of A participatory process depends on
the community; the source of impacts. Use skillful facilitation. If you feel unconfident
timelines to capture historical changes like in this area, you may consider having
droughts, floods, land clearing, urbanisation. some training or involving a professional
With the assistance from experts, the group facilitator, at least as an adviser.
may design a community survey or carry

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
CHECKLIST FOR A SUCCESSFUL Here is a checklist for the underlying qualities of an effective
PARTICIPATORY PROJECT participation project, as identified by participants.35

PAR is an example of a deliberative

participation project. That is, members of ❑ Do the participants represent all significant sectors of the
the public are involved in deliberating on community?
solutions to problems – just as a jury or ❑ Does the process focus on the common good?
parliament does.
❑ Do the participants communicate in person, face to face?
There are innumerable models for public ❑ Does the process involve citizens, as opposed to
deliberation - including progress individuals hired to represent citizens?
indicator projects, citizens juries, consen-
sus conferences, deliberative polls, and ❑ Do participants have genuine power to influence
stakeholder forums. the process, agenda and outcomes?
❑ Does the process encourage dialogue?
Don’t be intimidated by these different
models. The choice of model is far less ❑ Does the process encourage good inter-personal
important than three factors: relations and respect civic virtue ie. openness, honesty,
understanding, listening and trust?
a) good facilitation
❑ Is there a friendly atmosphere: e.g. food, neutral
b) the genuineness of the organisers facilitator, sensitive seating arrangement.
❑ Is there good physical access at times and places that suit
c) the underlying qualities.
the participants.
❑ Is there good access to information, ie. participant requests
for information are satisfied.
❑ Are there resources for new research and adequate analysis
ie. moving beyond assertions to empirically
test and verify facts.
❑ Does the process promote a sense of place?
❑ Does the process engender reflection of the values
underlying the discussion?

35. This list brings together lists from two studies:

Poisner, J., 1996. A civic republican perspective on the
National Environment Policy Act’s process of citizen
©Big Scrub Rainforest Landcare Group/WWF Australia participation. Environmental Law,Vol. 26, pp.53-94.
Tuler, S. and Webler,T., 1999. Voices from the Forest:

What Participants Expect of a Public Participation
enabling ECOACTION Process. Society & Natural Resources, Vol. 12, pp.437-535. enabling ECOACTION

● Involve learners in planning and Although all groups are different, some
implementing learning activities distinct stages of group development
have been noted by researchers. They
● Draw upon learners’ experiences begin with ‘getting started’ and ‘getting
as a resource to work’ followed by ‘maturity’ and
‘ending’ where the group has reached
● Cultivate self-direction in learners37 a point of fulfilment. This process has
been referred to as forming, storming,
● Create a climate of trust and norming/performing and dorming.
mutual respect that encourages A supportive facilitator helps a group to
and supports learning move through these stages. They help
define a clear purpose, to support the
● Foster a spirit of collaboration group to identifying action steps, and
in the learning setting maintain motivation. Without facilitation
and support a group may to flounder
● Use small groups midway, losing its initial enthusiasm.
Loss of purpose can lead to conflict and
division. The following table suggests
the role of a facilitator at each stage.


● Lots of questioning ● Patient explanation of the

about thepurpose of the purpose of the group
36. Reproduced from Susan Imel, 1998. Using Adult Learning
group and what tasks ● Identifying and agreeing group
Principles in Adult Basic and Literacy Education. are to be performed goals, and objectives
● Looking for leadership. ● Setting up the process,
37. Brookfield, S.D., 1991. Understanding and Facilitating e.g. how decisions will be made
Adult Learning: A Comprhensive Analysis of Principles and
Effective Practices, Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco. and who will make them
● Establishing leadership in the
38. Based on Allen W., Kilvington, M., and Horn C., 2002.
Using Participatory and Learning-Based Approaches for group.
Environmental Management to Help Achieve Constructive
Behaviour Change, Landcare Research, New Zealand, pg.44.
Note: If this stage is not done thoroughly it is likely to have
to be revisited as the group loses sense of direction.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
STORMING STAGE FACILITATING STORMING The group can then go in one of two directions:
● Disagreement over ● Reiterating the purpose – A. DORMING/ENDING STAGE FACILITATING ENDING
goals or objectives. reminding members of the
● The group purpose has ● May require a redefinition
● Conflict between goals.
been achieved, or of goals if the group wants
group members. ● Checking on achievements
● circumstances have to continue together, or
● Absence and so far – celebrating them,
changed and the group ● acknowledgement of
withdrawal however small.
no longer continues. achievements in order to
by group members. ● Checking on tasks – reassigning
leave participants with a
● Frustration over lack them if necessary and reviewing positive experience of
of achievement of resource needs to carry them group work.
goals etc. out.
● Carrying out conflict resolution
– using professional facilitation. ● The group has a clear vision ● The facilitation role of an
● Possibly rotating the leadership of the future and a real external agency is dimi-
to encourage involvement by sense of purpose. nished and the group does
other group members. ● The group is empowered to most of the day-to-day facili-
deal appropriately with tation itself. However, an
Note: This stage is a common sticking point for many groups. external facilitator may still:
issues, conflicts, resource
needs and other changes as - assist the group to establish
they emerge. good networks with their
NORMING/PERFORMING STAGE FACILITATING ● The group is innovative and community and beyond, for
NORMING/PERFORMING moves from solving one support, information and
problem to creating a learning from the experience
● Group attendance is high Maintaining momentum by: desired future by identifying of others;
and enthusiastic. ● ensuring resource needs and tackling related issues. - help the group undertake
● Tasks are being performed are met ● The group has strong part- good evaluation of its
regularly. ● noting achievements nerships and networks with process, outcomes and
● Optimism about relevant agencies and other networks so they can learn
● learning from failures.
achievements. groups. from experience;
● Individuals in the group con- - maintain a supportive
fidently reflect on and environment for the group to
appraise their actions. try out ideas and take risks.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
SETTING This may sound dry, however the

most common cause of ineffective
communication programs is fuzzy

objectives and unachievable objectives.

It’s important that your objectives are

measurable, because that’s how you
prove and track success, and provide
feedback to your audience.

To start with, there is a big difference

between a vision, a goal and an

A vision is a hope or dream

for the future
For instance: ● A healthy Salt Pan Creek

● A restored Yarrahapini Wetland

All project paths
should lead to a
tangible action. ● A sustainable Murray-Darling Basin

©Mt Gibraltar Reserve Management Committee/WWF Australia

A goal is your preferred practical
strategy to achieve the vision.
For instance: ● A healthy Salt Pan Creek: through
a council audit scheme to reduce
polluted runoff from businesses.

● A restored Yarrahapini Wetland:

by supporting a community
campaign for re-innundation.

● A sustainable Murray Darling Basin:

by advocating a government
investment plan with binding,
measurable targets.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
An objective is a measurable action, The ATRACT-ORS tool (next page) is a
by a specific player, which is necessary simple checklist to ensure that your
to achieve the goal. objectives are do-able.
For instance:
● To reduce polluted industrial run-off in WORKING WITH YOUR MANAGEMENT
Salt Pan Creek: COMMITTEE
- Bankstown Council inspectors to carry
out stormwater audits on at least 20 It’s good to involve your management
businesses per month. (or committee) in formulating your
objectives so they are in full agreement,
● To re-innundate the Yarrahapini understand the rationales, and don’t just
Wetland: arbitrarily add new objectives.
- The Department of Land and Water
Conservation agrees to fund a Here’s a process
consultation and education process you can use: 1) Freely brainstorm campaign
with local landholders; objectives with your team, managers
- Local government seeks funding for the and/or committee.
necessary works.
2) Write up all the objectives you can
● To ensure the adoption of a Murray- think of on a white board or butchers
Darling Basin salinity investment paper. All objectives must take the form
framework: ‘Player A does specific action X’.
- The Commonwealth State Governments 3) Use the ATRACT-ORS tool to filter out
to establish an acceptable framework; non-actionable objectives.
- The Murray-Darling Basin Commission
promotes a vision for sustainable rural 4) If you still have more than three
landscapes; objectives, then use the Priority matrix
- Business Leaders formally agree to (appendix 6) to choose ONLY ONE major
support the framework. objective, and no more than two
secondary objectives to pursue during
any one planning period.
A little rigour goes a long way. If you
have not defined an objective which is 5) Document this process and obtain
genuinely actionable, and measurable, management sign-off to work on only
then you won’t know whether you have these objectives for a definite period
achieved it and you won’t have any way e.g. 6 or 12 months (after which you’ll
of measuring the impact of your efforts. evaluate progress).

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION

Does your objective pass each of these tests? Even if your objective fails one of these
tests, it may still be acceptable if it meets
❑ Achievable one of the following exceptions:
Has it a reasonable chance of success given the
context and history of the players? ❑ Opportunity value
(Not sure? Use the Achievability Test below) Is the opportunity is too good to miss even
if the outcome is unclear (ie. it’s a calculated risk)
❑ Targeted
Is there a definite, reachable actor? ❑ Recognition value
Is it a major opportunity for exposure and
Reachable means you can say exactly how to each
this audience, e.g. particular magazines, or networks. profile-building for the campaign or your organisation?

❑ Realistic ❑ Strategic value

Are you and your allies likely to have the resources Is it strategically essential to support existing
to make a significant impact on this actor? relationships or allies?

❑ Action-oriented
Is a definite, measurable action or decision
required from the actor?
Measurable means you know when it’s happened.

❑ Compelling case
What are the non-ideological benefits of your
campaign goal that will make it personally
compelling for the actor?

❑ Timely
Is there is enough time to plan, prepare and
implement the intervention, and for the actor
to respond?

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Evaluation is now a science, with
14 it’s own journals and professional


bodies. Formal project evaluation
can be a complex and expensive
project in its own right.

However such professional-level

evaluation is not appropriate for small-
scale conservation programs.
©Queensland Tourism Queensland

In this context, evaluation need not be

seen as a particularly complicated or
taxing process. Essentially it involves
setting objectives which are easily
measured and collecting evidence as
you go.
Measuring the progress
of your project is You get three strong benefits from
important to ensure evaluation: 1) You can report back to your funders –
it does not go off track
when it reaches
and possibly get re-funded!
the sea of issues
2) You can reflect upon and improve
implementation. your program.
3) You can report back to participants
and the public – to acknowledge and
celebrate their success.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION

First, have you got an actionable There are three different aspects you can
objective? OK…go and do the aim to measure:
ACTRACT-ORS test above.
That helps you choose objectives which a) Performance measures ie. the amount
have a good chance of success. of work you did.

Second, have you defined the objective The example of Bankstown Council above
so that you know exactly when it’s is a performance measure. Examples:
happened? Look at these examples: ● number of stalls held
● number of people interviewed
Non-measurable objectives: ● number of brochures distributed.

● Save Salt Pan Creek

b) Impact measures ie. how the audience
● Improve Water quality in Salt Pan Creek responded.
● Reduce industrial runoff into Salt Pan Examples: For a public event:
Creek ● number of people attended
● Convince local businesses to control ● number who requested more
run-off into Salt Pan Creek information
● results from feedback forms distributed
Measurable objective: at event.
● Bankstown Council inspectors to carry For a media event:
out stormwater audits on at least 20 ● number of stories published/broadcast
businesses per month in the Salt Pan ● number of calls received in response.
Creek catchment For advertising campaign:
● number of people who could recall the
This is an achievable and measurable brand or message (you would need to
objective. At the end of six months you do a telephone survey to find this out)
can know exactly whether you have ● number of calls/coupons received in
achieved it. response.
For a survey:
● number of responses
● number who indicated interest in
joining a Bushcare group.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
c) Outcome measures, ie. how the ● Keep a list of calls received from
environment changes. members of the public, especially
This can be often be difficult to measure, during a particular campaign.
partly because of the cost, and partly ● Count heads relentlessly.
because many different programs and
events contribute to large scale environ- ● Keep records of all materials printed
mental changes. For instance, waste and distributed.
reduction is influenced by economic ● If you are using advertisements,
cycles. Water pollution is affected by
always include a measurable call
weather events. Changes in community
to action, for instance:
behaviours can reflect passing fashions.
Some outcome measures are feasible, Call this number for your free Native Gardening
e.g. recycling rates in a particular local booklet.’
government area are continually NOTE: often it’s Call this number to reserve your place at the
measured by the local waste contractor; best to focus on Family B-B-Q and tree planting day’.
litter counts can be easily organised; the changes you Clip this voucher to enter the competition’.
Streamwatch projects can measure water achieved with a Come to the Save our Bush Park public meeting.’
quality in a particular creek. smaller group of
Generally, the measurement of outcomes people – those ● Distribute feedback forms at all
is best left to major efforts by other who actually participatory events. Consider survey-
organisations, such as State of the participated in ing participants about changes to their
Environment Reporting or State your project, or confidence, knowledge and values.
Government social research projects. were reached
directly. You can ● Take photographs at all events. Try to
best do this by capture people’s facial expressions –
COLLECTING EVIDENCE AS YOU GO simple pre- and this will look great in your report or
post- surveys that future presentations.
It’s worth planning from the beginning measure changes
how you will collect evidence from your ● Keep a press clippings file.
in knowledge,
project. Here are some simple actions to Keep videos of any TV coverage.
attitudes and
keep in mind: self-reported
● Keep a record of verbal comments from behaviours. 39. Stokking, K., van Aert, L.,
Meijberg,W. and Kaskens,A.,
members of the public. This ‘anecdotal An excellent guide to evaluating 1999. Evaluating
evidence’ (even though it is not statisti- environmental education projects Environmental Education,
is available by the IUCN: Evaluating World Conservation Union:
cal) can be very valuable, simply Gland, Switzerland and
because it is considered and expressive. Environmental Education 39. It can be Cambridge, UK.
downloaded from

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
KNOW The more you know about your

15 audience, the greater your chance

YOUR of meeting your objectives.

It’s important to be as specific as

possible about defining your audience.
The idea of reachability helps. You know

©Alison Colyer
your audience is reachable when you’ve
defined it so succinctly that the
definition alone immediately suggests
the ways to reach it.

For example: Unreachable audiences:

● The general public
● Householders
● Residents of Kogarah local
government area

Reachable audience:
● Families with young children in
A well received
conservation message southern parts of Kogarah LGA
relies on good
understanding of This is a reachable audience because
what your audience you can immediately guess that specific
thinks is important.
child care centres and medical centres
could be good ways to reach this

Similarly, ‘People with gardens living

in Campbelltown’ would be reachable
through a limited number of local
nurseries, plus the gardening feature in
the local newspaper.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
THREE KINDS OF AUDIENCE Advocates Advocates are your immed- They need to be:
iate program team. They can motivated and know the
No matter what your objective, include fellow workers, important reasons for
counter staff, community the program. They need
it’s worth being aware of three quite
supporters, peer educators to know their roles and
different kinds of audience: advocates, or members of your what arguments to use
intermediaries and targets. management committee. with the target audience.
They take the message
They may need
Generally you’ll need to communicate directly to the public and
technical skills like
different messages to each of these have real face-to-face
bush regeneration,
audiences. conversations with the
composting and water
target audience.

Inter- Intermediaries help spread They need to know:

mediaries the message, magnifying the how the campaign
work of the campaign team. serves their own
ADVOCATES target They should be credible agendas, why it’s
people your target audience important, the goal,
respects and listens to. the key arguments, and
They may include staff from what they need to do.
allied organisations, media
commentators, celebrities,
local community or business
Targets The targets are the ones They need to know:
who need to act to achieve what the benefits are,
the objective. Targets can who else is involved,
INTERMEDIARIES include members of the and what the action is.
public, or decision-makers.
They may need
You can even plan a
some practical ‘action’
campaign to target your
skills – so you might
own management!
need to plan demonstra-
tion events or stalls
target where people can
experiment with new
products or substances.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
RESEARCHING YOUR AUDIENCES Focus groups are not difficult. At their
simplest, they are just a friendly discus-
a) Running your own focus groups sion around a cuppa. As the focus group
facilitator or moderator, your job is to:
The best way to understand your
audience is through running your own ● clearly explain the purpose of the
informal focus groups. gathering and the ground rules;
This is called qualitative research and ● keep conversation flowing,
it provides insight into an audience’s don’t let one person dominate,
attitudes, barriers and opportunities for encourage the quiet ones;
● stay neutral: don’t provide information
For reliability you should run at least
or take sides;
2 focus groups for each particular
audience segment. How you segment ● ask probing, open questions that
your audience depends on your needs, explore people’s experiences:
but generally you’ll want to separate For instance:
doers from non-doers. You may have a What have you heard about .........?
separate group for lapsed doers. What do you think about ........?
Occasionally you may want to separate What’s your view on .........?
men from women, or different age
Have you experienced ........?
How would you respond to .........?
You can employ a professional firm to
recruit randomly-selected participants, Focus groups are
or you can invite your own participants. an effective way ● stay focused: be prepared,
to make sure your have a script and stick to it;
If you work for a council, you can project does not
approximate a random selection by end up being a ● don’t dismiss anyone’s comments out
inviting a range of non-environmental laughing stock. of hand;
council staff to a lunchtime focus group
(free lunch provided of course!). ● keep notes (or have a note taker, or
tape record with permission);
● provide feedback to participants: how
their ideas will be used and what’s next;
● reward the participants (a small
payment plus light refreshments).
©Queensland Tourism Queensland

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
You can use the focus group to b) Social research
answer formative questions like:
Another tool to get insight into your
● How the audience understands the audience is through social research,
problem and their role in it. based on random surveys of the target
● How they understand the solution
and their role in it. This is called quantitative research and
● What role models, aspirations, values, it aims to provide statistically reliable
hopes, fashions and movements can data on what people do or think.
you work with? Beware of post-back surveys –
they are not statistically reliable as
● Who are their influencers? the respondents are self-selected.

● Is the desired action realistic? Quantitative surveys let you find out
what people are doing now. When
● What barriers exist?
repeated they can track changes over
● Are there competing messages or time. When highly targeted they can be
misconceptions? valuable evaluative tools. What surveys
do not do is help you creatively design
● What real benefits can you offer new programs – that’s where focus
someone who makes the change? groups come in.
● What’s the most direct way to reach When designing your own survey,
them? it’s good to repeat questions which
have been used in similar surveys in
Focus groups are also the best tool for the past, or in other geographic areas,
pre-testing different messages, images because this comparison provides 40. Stokking, K., van Aert, L.,
and materials. valuable information on how people Meijberg,W. and Kaskens,A.,
1999. Evaluating
have changed over time, or how your Environmental Education,
population differs from others. World Conservation Union:
Gland, Switzerland and
Cambridge, UK.

For advice on designing surveys see:

Evaluating Environmental Education 40
which can be downloaded from

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
16 Research with your audience and experts Set out your vision,


about causes of the problem, possible
solutions, barriers to change, and
audience values
and norms.
‘change hypothesis’,
action objectives,
defined audiences,
situation report,
research findings, and
FORMATIVE how you’ll collect
RESEARCH evidence.

Review evidence, assess
impact, report back to
public and funders,
REFLECTION refine objectives.

It’s a good idea to imagine your 3
program as a cycle, so that the Who does
results of the first year’s program what, when, PLAN
feed into the second year, and so on. 6 with what
Some communicators recommend doing DELIVERY
audience testing at every stage, however,
at a minimum, you should do audience 4
research (e.g. focus groups, telephone Roll
survey) at two stages: the formative out your 5 PRODUCTION
stage, when you are planning your program, CREATIVE DESIGN
program; and the pre-testing stage, collecting
before you spend money on printing. evidence
as you go.

If you can afford formal evaluation,

you’ll be doing focus group research in Test
effectiveness of
the reflection stage as well.
products, images
and messages.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
START 1) Write your

vision here

That’s your
hopeful vision

YOUR for the future.

Use this section to plan

out your program.

2) Write your
goal here.

That’s your
practical strategy
to achieve the
vision. You’ve
already ‘reality-
tested’ it and feel
confident that it
is the most work-
able solution to
the problem –
refer back to the
Research chapter,
from page 80.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
3) Write your 6) Name at least
major objective 2 influencers.
Make sure it’s in They need to be
the form “Player A highly specific,
to do action X”. e.g. would you
Check: know how to ring
Does it pass the them up?
Is it measurable?

4) Write your
objectives here.

Make sure they

are in the form
“Player B to do
action Y” and 7) Now list your
pass the advocates or
ATRACT-ORS test. sales force.
Are they
measurable? They are people
you already know,
or you might need
5) Write down to recruit and
the primary train them.
target audience
for the major

Is this audience
The next steps are to craft messages
and tactics for each audience.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
CRAFTING You’ll need to have a short, sharp,

compelling case, interestingly presented,
which connects immediately to their

messages personal concerns.

You’ll need to grab their attention with

a colourful personally-relevant word
picture. Then be ready with answers to
Imagine you meet a stranger in
the street… you have one minute their concerns and doubts. Then finish
with a simple solution that offers
to engage them and convert them
realistic benefits and appeals to the
to your cause. What do you say? listener’s common sense.

At the end of this chapter is a Message

Matrix tool you can use to design com-
pelling messages, but before you use it
there are some points to keep in mind.


Restoring a local Humans have been telling each other

waterway to bring stories for hundreds of thousands of
back the platypus
proved to be a simple
years. We love a good yarn. Human
and powerful message brains seem to be naturally adapted to
to motivate residents. learn through storytelling. Think about
what makes a good story: a hero or
victim, a threat or a perilous passage.

NSW Farmers Association campaigners

recently distributed anti-green leaflets
to people in rural towns in NSW. They
featured an elderly woman who said
she was terrified of being sued $1,000,000
for mowing her lawn, because of the
Threatened Species Conservation Act.
If readers were concerned they should
come to a public meeting to find out

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
more. This is powerful propaganda ANATOMY OF A COMMUNICATION Theme image
because it has an immediate and Graphically illustrates
Supporting facts and stats and personalises the
compelling story, and accords with rural Specific facts and statistics are vital for your problem. But beware
people’s distrust of central government. credibility. What others are successfully doing. of harsh or excessive-
It also provides an action people can ly negative images -
take to express their concerns. don’t crush hope.

Having a story like this that vividly

illustrates your message and accords
with your audience’s values is vital for A reasonable solution
Your credibility is your
a successful communication campaign. greatest asset. Your
audience are pragmatic
US campaigners fighting to save the people - if you can’t
Endangered Species Act used adverti- offer them a common
sements with a story which featured sense solution to a
problem, they won’t Vivid statement
a story about Jackie Buckley, who as She’s alive take you seriously. of the problem
a young child was diagnosed today because An anecdote that
with Leukemia. of this flower. makes people sit
up and take
©Endangered Species Council /

Three years ago Jackie

notice. Links
Bucklie was diagnosed
with leukemia. Today she
the problem to
is in remission and has an audience values.
80% chance of survival
thanks to the medicines
derived from the flower of
the rosy periwinkle.
Half of today’s medicines
come from natural
sources. The Endangered
Species Act is the best pro-
tection these sources have.
But now the Act itself is in
Tell Congress to save the
law that saves lives. Use
the [coupon] on this ad,
or for more information,
call (202) 547-9009. The Grab or Hook
The audience’s
Quotes from Grabs attention, suggests what
credible the message is about (cues
witness(es) help the reader to decide it’s
addressed to them)
©WWF Australia

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Gloom and doom lead to despair. Be wary Avoid abstractions like the plague!
of negative ‘eco-horror’ messages. It may Avoid technical words like habitat, eco-
be true that ‘XX % of species are being system, sustainability, and biodiversity.
wiped out each year’ and that ‘extinction
Don’t be fuzzy.
is forever’. However messages that blame
Instead of ‘huge amounts of trees’, say
humans without showing what an
‘Over 400 hectares of forest per year’. An
individual can do the fix the problem can
even better idea is to convert hectares to
simply cause disempowerment or denial.
average house blocks or football field
When communicating general biodiversity equivalents.
messages, it is better to focus on posi- Facts and stats
Simplify your statistics.
tive stories about people planting local need to be as
Don’t say 77.8%, say ‘3 out of 4’.
native plants, creating shelter for birds ‘touchable’ as
and lizards, and using recycled paper, Try to create a word picture. possible.
and certified wood products. These Not ‘3,000,000 cigarette butts’,
are easily comprehended, common sense but ‘3 million butts – enough to fill an
activities which are within people’s olympic swimming pool’
‘comfy zones’ and are compatible with
their lifestyles. It may then be much
safer to introduce the ‘eco-horror’ AVOID JARGON
argument, because you have already Convert jargon into plain English. With species, always lead
Actions are how
offered readers an easy-to-do vision of with common names where they exist. Some alternatives to
you measure your
practical remedy. biodiversity jargon are below.
impact and actions
are how people
learn ... always Biodiversity jargon Plain English version
Always ask your readers to do something. include a call to
but don’t overburden them with lists of action. Biodiversity Diversity of life/Web of life
complex actions. Keep it simple – just one Ecological processes Circles of life
or two things to do. Ecological relationships Web of life
Easily measurable calls to action can be Bioregion Landscape
as simple as: Habitat Home for wildlife
● Call this number for a free copy of...
Ecosystem management Managing the land
● Clip and send this voucher
Remnant vegetation Patch of bush
● Enter the competition
● Come to the family-friendly picnic day
Contiguous vegetation Intact bushland
● Come to the council meeting

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Be prepared. Conservation has enemies

©Network Ten
You don’t want your message to be dis-
and many of their arguments are pre-
missed as ‘just what I expect from those
dictable: ‘this development means jobs’,
greenies’…or ‘it’s just the council again’
‘regrowth forest has no ecological value’,
or ‘that’s a typical NIMBY statement.
‘home composting is a health risk’. See
Readers always assess the credibility of Appendix 8 for some common myths
a message by trying to figure out who about biodiversity.
is speaking it. So it’s vital that your
Sit down and think of the arguments your
message does not appear to come from
opponents may use. Then carefully
a ‘voice’ with an obvious ideology or
prepare your answers. Then you’ll be ready
with a defence, or better still you can raise
So a vital question is: ‘Is your voice Hayley Chapman,
the issues first and defuse the attacks.
credible?’ a presenter of the
Many worthy communications are tainted Totally Wild is the YOUR MESSAGE
by being ‘from the government’ or ‘an face of WWF Australia
expert’. The most powerful communica- and Network Ten’s Put yourself in the audience’s place.
schools conservation Ask: “What’s in it for me?”
tions today are peer-to-peer. Remember
competition. Since
all those four-wheel drive advert which winning schools Try to find out: What are their needs?
feature farmers talking to farmers about appear on Totally Which of their needs can you meet?
their new vehicle. These adverts mimic Wild, Hayley helped
Why should they bother responding?
peer communication. entice schools to
enter and have a What key points will make the difference?
So consider highlighting quotes from chance to be on TV.
trusted others in your communications. Remember to ● You don’t buy an air conditioner, you buy
Try to find believable, independent see benefits from comfort.
people with no immediate vested the audience’s ● You don’t buy circus tickets, you buy thrills.
interests: use parents to talk to parents, view: ● You don’t buy a newspaper, you buy news.
farmers to talk to farmers, business ● You don’t buy glasses, you buy vision.
people to talk to business people, ● You don’t buy a child restraint, you buy
conservatives to talk to conservatives,
safety & protection for your child.
sportsmen to talk to young men.
● You don’t buy insurance, you buy security
And of course, use celebrities to talk to
for your family.
people who recognise and trust them.
Be clear on the broad type of benefit.
Locate what your audience will perceive
as value.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
This planning tool was developed by Social Change Media, Competition! Giveaways!
a Sydney-based public interest communication agency.
It’s been used to develop messages for hundreds of social Remember, people act for their own
marketing campaigns and products over the years, from HIV reasons, not ours. It’s often more
education to home composting. important to get people to act than for
It’s good to use when brainstorming with your team. them to understand the exact reasons
we think they should act.
Activists Influencers Targets
List specific activists, allied organ- community As we noted on page 27, some
trained staff isations or or decision- researchers suggest knowledge and
Copy this from or professionals, makers attitudes may be best learnt as a result
your ‘actiona educators, celebrities, of acting or trialing a new behaviour, first.
objective’ board local leaders,
members commentators Hence it can be a very good idea to
include more universal, immediate
Behavioural objective incentives e.g. free vouchers, competition
the specific action
entry, give-aways, prizes, meet the stars,
you want them to take
fun for the kids, free food, free how-to
Barriers booklets.
what’s stopping them
from doing it?
what’s some desire,
belief, fashion we
can ride on?
Competing messages NOTE: When
what’s the opposition brainstorming,
saying? make sure it is
based on the
Audience benefits
what can we offer that
is important to them? feedback you
received from
Theme/messages your formative
how best to frame a research
convincing case
(pages 80-85).

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
You’ve worked out your objectives and
messages, now it’s time to plan out the
practical details of your campaign.
Remember that effective communication
campaigns are multi-faceted.
campaign They involve a range of efforts that
reach people from a different angles,
are repeated, and continually reinforce
the basic message.

Simply put, there are three fundamental

kinds of communication available to us:
1) Face-to-face communications or
‘learning moments’. Person-to-person
meetings can be the most credible kinds
of communication - where conversations
occur and people can formulate new
views under the influence of peers or
‘trusted others’.

2) Information tools such as printed

materials. They rarely achieve change
A communications in themselves, but can be important to
plan will help you
connect all your reinforce face-to-face efforts
campaign elements. (e.g. advertising, billboards, posters) or
to answer an audience’s needs for more
©Queensland Tourism Queensland

in-depth information (brochures,

booklets, kits).

3) Media stories. These add a vital

atmosphere of credibility, importance
and immediacy to the issue, reinforcing
other communication efforts.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
This model shows their relationship USING THE CAMPAIGN MATRIX

IL ITY This tool was also developed by

C R EDIB Social Change Media. It works like
I A BUIL E ISSUE this: List your specific audiences
FOR NEWPAPERS down the left column. Then,
depending on your available
RADIO resources, list ways that you can
realistically reach each audience.

Face-to-face contact




An integrated campaign aims to make

simultaneous use of all three types of
communications. The Campaign Matrix
tool, on the right, is an effective way to
map out the suite of initiatives you need
to match the different needs of your
different audiences.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Here are some examples of methods MAKE YOUR ACTION PLAN
that you could choose from to meet AND TIMELINE
your audience needs.
Once you have listed the elements of
your campaign you need to decide who
in your team is going to be responsible
for each one, when, with what resources.
This calls for a simple project plan and
timeline. It’s a good idea to choose a
Activists briefings, background info exciting, launch date and work backwards to make
involve, phone contact, kit, how-to info, motivation,
inspire, training, news updates, credibility
sure you leave enough time for each
inform, check-lists, e-mail, for campaign activity. If you haven’t done any of the
reward e-mail in-depth web site activities things before, ask an
experienced person how long each
Influencers delegations,phone leaflets, the importance activity should take. It’s easy to
obtain their support direct,address brief papers/kits, of campaign, underestimate production times and most
by demonstrating their gatherings, newsheet, common goals things will take longer than you think.
the benefits to seminars, web site with NOTE:
THEIR agenda broadcast e-mail targeted info
A communication
Even a small public communication planning process
Targets public events, direct mail, who else is project takes at least 3 months from is summarised at
who you workshops, e-mail, changing,
want to delegations, posters, banners, how they planning to implementation. Appendix 3.
change stalls mouse pads, benefited
rubik cubes...

Try to fill in each square.

This is a simple tool that lets you lay

out the elements of your campaign
so you don’t forget the needs of any
particular audience.
Before your project
can fly, use the
campaign matrix
so the needs of your
audience are met.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
20 always
Focus groups are the best tool for
pre-testing. Make sure the members are
reasonably representative of the
intended audience (remember: for a
quick-and-dirty pre-test you could select
Always pre-test your messages and members of council staff who are similar
products on members of the target to the target audience).
audience. It’s best to use informal
focus groups. Give people time to Begin by discussing the problem you are
addressing, then show your messages,
read the products, then ask them
images and materials. Once they have
questions. had time to review them, ask questions
©Viewfinder Australia

to probe their responses. A list of

Pre-testing always pays off. At the very possible questions is included below.
least you’ll sharpen the language and
impact of your product. More probably It’s a common mistake to only show a
you’ll discover and avoid major flaws or pre-test group a single version of the
ambiguities in the messages or imagery. messages/images/materials. This is
almost a complete waste of time and
reflects laziness from the design team.
To offer useful comments people need to
be able to compare different alternatives
of the message/images/materials. With a
single set, people really only have an
‘accept’ or ‘reject’ choice, and no points
To avoid being of reference.
startled when your
intended target
audience doesn’t So always provide a range of examples
respond to your to discuss. You should prepare at least
communication three different sets of messages/slogans.
product, use pre- Your designers should make at least
testing to make
sure your product three different versions of the logo and
is on message and layouts of materials.
well received.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Examples of pre-testing questions41

For a communication product, ask For a school education product,

the intended audience: ask teachers and administrators:

● What do you think the main message ● Is this activity/poster/film/booklet

of this poster/advert/radio spot/etc something you could use in your
is? class?
● To whom is the message directed? ● For what grade level is it most
● Could it be you? Why or why not?
● For what subject is it most
● Do you find this product interesting?
Why or why not?
● Are the illustrations appropriate?
● What grabs your attention most?
Gender bias or ethnic bias?
● Where did you stop reading? Why?
● Is the vocabulary appropriate?
● What do you like most and least?
● Will the activity help you meet your
curriculum objectives?
● Does the main character remind you
● Would you use this? Why?
of someone you know? Why or why
not (which may be promoted by ● Would you need to be trained to be
specific questions about hairstyle, comfortable using this?
clothing, gender etc.)?
● What would prevent you from doing
the suggested behaviour? For any product, ask experts:

● Is the information accurate?

● Is the message appropriate?

41. Questions adapted from
those in Environmental ● If people adopted this behaviour,
Education and could it make a difference to the
Communication for a
Sustainable World –
Handbook for International
Practitioners, Brian A. Day
and Martha C. Monroe, Eds,
GreenCOM 2000, pg.58.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Here are some mistakes commonly
21 pitfalls
picked-up in pre-testing, together
with some suggestions to avoid

Answering your own question,

not the audience’s
This is probably the most common and
damaging communication mistake.
It’s good to imagine that all communi-
cations are part of conversations.
Ask: “If my message is an answer – what
Several common is the audience’s question?” Then check
communication that your audience is REALLY asking
mistakes can result in that question.
your project ending up
as a mere shadow of For instance, members of a new housing
its original intention. estate are probably not asking how they
can protect a local creek from litter and

©Barry Traill
runoff. Intead they are asking things like:
How can we meet our neighbours? How
can we find activities for the kids?

Too much information

The complexity of the book/article
should not be greater than the readers’
own needs. Build your writing at the
level of your readers’ knowledge, not
your own.
Try the ‘yellow-highlighter test’.
Take a yellow highlighter, browse
through your text and mark only the
parts that really grab your attention.
Consider deleting the rest.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Boring Using questions as headings
It’s a stimulating world. There are lots of A heading like “Why is mulch good for
interesting things to do and look at. Ask: your garden?” communicates virtually no
‘Why should anyone spend time reading information. Such headings are a waste
my booklet or poster?’ Then think of of space. Better to make your heading a
ways to put on a show. positive assertion, like: “Mulch brings
your soil to life”.
Have you just been a little too ideologi-
cally pure by asking people to do things Your audience doesn’t think like you – at
which are simply impractical? (Like least half of them will get the meaning you
composting all their grass clippings or didn’t expect. Pre-testing picks this up.
reusing all their milk cartons.)
Pre-testing helps you pick this up. Weak captions
Captions, along with headings, are the
most read parts of a publication. So put
Replace vague abstractions with real things them to work. Don’t just describe the
you can touch. Replace ‘a domestic photo, point to the bigger story, sell an
green waste education program’, with idea, have fun, be poetic, hint at the
‘free classes in better home composting’. grand epic of life. For instance, instead of
Remove jargon and acronyms. Imagine writing “Nick and Marcy Bloggs visit the
you are speaking it to a non-expert. new community garden.” You could write
“Get in touch with the good earth at the
HINT: Everyone gets stuck in a grammatical new Rocklea community garden.”
quagmire from time to time. One way to write
Or “Budding green thumbs get the
an idea clearly is to speak it. A good way out
is to imagine an audience and to try to organic gardening low down at Rocklea’s
explain yourself to them verbally. friendly new community garden.”
‘Off’ images
Audiences really focus on images. They’ll Incorrect information
be easily turned off by photo subjects
Wrong names, phone numbers or facts,
with inappropriate gender or ethnicity,
or spelling mistakes can be disastrous.
inauthentic people or scenarios (like the
At the very least they make you look
dirty curling linoleum in the corner of the
unprofessional. At the worst you’ll have
supposedly modern kitchen). Pre-testing
to withdraw and reprint your publication.
helps you avoid this loss of credibility.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
There are many examples of
people from non-English speaking
backgrounds getting involved in
environmental activities.
SPEAKING Here’s a story which may be informative.
A Landcare officer in western Sydney
BACKGROUND tried for over a year to involve people

audiences from NESB communities to tree planting

activities. Special community days were
held and few if any people attended.
Then, by chance, the officer talked to a
member of a Samoan church, who
offered to organise a picnic day. Much to
the officer’s surprise over 100 people
turned up with a great supply of BBQ
food. Parents, children and elders all got
to try their hands at tree-planting.
The story points to the importance of
face-to-face contact with local groups,
and also to the value of mixing environ-
mental action with on-going social
NESB audiences may have weaker than
average environmental knowledge and
values. But this is not necessarily a
disadvantage. As with any mainstream
audience, you’ll need to wrap the
environmental issue into people’s actual
needs and experiences. Many NESB
groups are also quite suspicious of
government. Remember that there are
big cultural differences between
language groups – don’t try a ‘one size
fits all’ approach.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Here are some general points to
keep in mind when communicating
with NESB audiences42

● Work through community ● Avoid information-heavy approaches

Workshops, training seminars and other
It’s important to work in partnership information-centred approaches are less
with NESB organisations (e.g Migrant likely to be relevant to NESB audiences
Welfare Centres). Spend time talking with since people may feel intimidated by
community workers and form a picture technical information requiring high
of the community needs, priorities, levels of English proficiency.
networks and popular media.Where
possible, train bilingual peer educators ● Use interpreters where appropriate
to communicate with members of their
While English is the appropriate
own communities - this has proven by
language for many European NESB
far the most successful approach.
audiences, communities from Asian
backgrounds will generally require
● Focus on the audience’s priorities
interpreters or translated materials,
Strive to identify and answer the needs as these groups have a more recent
of a particular audience – don’t just settlement history.
lecture them. Try to link your project to
family health and well being, to cost ● Check written materials
savings, legislation, and to existing
To ensure accuracy, check written
cultural priorities (e.g. household
materials with bilingual staff in
cleanliness is very important in Chinese
community associations before
production. But note that even
translated materials may sometimes
● Use face-to-face communication
be inappropriate since not all NESB
Programs should rely as much as groups are particularly literate in their
possible on face-to-face meetings, for own language.
instance through social groups or stalls 42. EMD Consultants. 2000.
at community festivals. Involvement of Non-English
Speaking People in Natural
Resource Management,
unpublished literature

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
New Backyard Buddies Program A few final thoughts
The new NSW Government “Backyard 1. Planning focuses your energies
Buddies” Program aims to underpin and ALWAYS saves time and money.
the efforts of local councils and
individuals wanting to mainstream 2. People change for their own
conservation attitudes and reasons, not yours.
behaviours beyond those who
are “keen and knowledgeable”. 3. Explore the issues with your
Over time Backyard Buddies aims to audience.
become a popular movement, one that
is easy and enjoyable to take part in. 4. Link your campaign to your
A movement that leads people in urban audience’s deeply held positive
areas to positive experiences of the values, and to current fashions and
native plants and animals living around trends.
them, a starting point for positive
attitudes and more positive behaviour. 5. Find out what the barriers are
The Backyard Buddies brand, graphics from the audience’s point-of-view.
and educative materials are available for
use on appropriately designed 6. Reflect on your work and
community education and involvement experiment.
projects. Local governments, museums,
and community organisations are already 7. Pre-test before you jump.
using backyard buddies concepts and
approaches to reach a broader audience
than their existing programs.
For further information,
Research report:

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION

Bonk, K., Grigg, H. and Tynes, E. 1999. Weinrich, N.K. 1999.

The Jossey-Bass Guide to Strategic Communications for Nonprofits. Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide
Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, USA.
[Can be purchased on-line at:] [Information at:]

Chipeniuk, R. 1995. Woolcott Research. 2002.

Educating the public about biodiversity. Global Biodiversity, Urban Wildlife Renewal “Growing Conservation Urban
Vol. 5, No. 2, pp.24-26. Communities.” NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Research
Report. NSW NPWS: Sydney.
Day, B.A., Monroe, M.C. (eds.) 2000. [Free download at:
Environmental Education and Communication for a Sustainable]
World: Handbook for International Practitioners.
GreenCOM and Academy for Educational Development: Washington DC.
[Free download at:]
Dempsey, D. et al. 1999.
Life. Nature. The Public. Making the Connection. A Biodiversity FURTHER WEBSITES
Communications Handbook.
The Biodiversity Project: Madison, Wisconsin, United States.
[Free download at:] GreenCOM. The Environmental Education and Communication
Project of US Agency for International Development
Elder, J., Coffin, C. and Farrior, M. 1998.
Engaging the Public on Biodiversity: A Road Map for Education and
Communication Strategies. Environmental Communication and Public Participation
The Biodiversity Project: Madison, Wisconsin, United States. Interactive Course
[Free download at:]

Jacobson, S.K. 1999. Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society (Canada)
Communication Skills for Conservation Professionals.
Island Press: Washington DC. The Biodiversity Project (US)
Sattler, P. and Creighton, C. 2003.
Australian Terrestrial Biodiversity Assessment 2002. Social Change Media
National Land & Water Resources Audit: Canberra.
World Conservation Union Commission on Education
Stokking, K., van Aert, L., Meijberg, W., Kaskens, A. 1999. and Communication
Evaluating Environmental Education.
International Union for Conservation and Nature: Gland, Switzerland
and Cambridge, UK.
[Free download at:]

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
appendix 1 Nature’s pharmacy: Potential
loss of future sources of medi-
cines interests some audiences
5. If the value fits, use it

Not everyone looks at the natu-

Tips for talking about biodiversity (younger adults) and not others. ral world the same way. Some
But, do not just talk about think we should protect it
medicines that might come because it is the responsible
When you need to talk songbirds, destruction of a local someday from exotic places. thing to do for the next
about biodiversity keep the wetland or patch of remnant Instead explain common generation, others because it is
following things in mind. vegetation, habitat loss by bitou medicines that have already beautiful, others, because it is
bush, habitat restoration by come from nature to illustrate God’s creation, others because
local Bushcare groups. how important natural sources they believe in the intrinsic
1. Make it real, not conceptual of medicines already are. An value of nature, etc. Know which
or abstract Avoid focussing on the example is corkwood found in values your audience embraces
exotic and distant: biodiversity Queensland which produces before you invoke a particular
Talk about biodiversity in terms is not just about what happens hyoscine (or scopolamine); value in your argument. When in
of real places, real ecosystems, in Amazonian rainforests a treatment for motion sickness, doubt, rely on stewardship.
real species and real issues. anymore! If appropriate, place stomach disorders and the
Ground the abstract concept of your local issue into a regional effects of cancer therapy.
‘diversity of gene pools, species or national context to highlight Start with the familiar, bridge 6. Explain how humans are
and habitats’ in real places and its broader significance. to the possible. responsible for loss of species
experiences. Illustrate with and natural areas, but also
forests, rivers, deserts, coast- explain how humans can help
lines, wetlands etc. and the 3. Make the human connection: 4. Find common ground with reverse this trend. Offer hope!
variety of life that depends on health and human services common values. Lead with
them. Minimise use of statistics values – follow with facts There’s nothing like the immi-
about global species loss. Thanks to nature, life itself is nent collapse of the planetary
possible. Illustrate and explain Most Australians believe that we life support systems to really
how healthy ecosystems sustain have a responsibility to maintain turn off an audience. Do not
2. Localise whenever possible; human life, from fresh air and a clean and healthy environment sugar coat the bad news, but
stress place clean water, to providing food, for our families and for the future always offer hope, alternatives,
fibre and fun. In short, life generations that will inherit the options: “there’s another way of
Make the connection between supporting life. world we leave behind. This doing things.”
people and place – focus on local sense of “stewardship” provides
habitats. Healthy natural systems keep us common ground for starting Keep hope alive with success
healthy: Balanced ecosystems conversations, after which the stories and messages that
Use local examples, experiences promote human health, from facts can be introduced. celebrate the values and benefits
and anecdotes to provide supplying clean water to of biodiversity: do not limit
context and meaning – a real protecting us from exotic messages to just the threat
place or problem that people can viruses, exploding insect about its loss.
identify with, eg. loss of local populations, and toxic pollution.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
7. Connect the dots…
make the relationships and
interdependence of nature clear
9. Speak in plain English.
Avoid scientific, technical and
other jargon
appendix 2
Key biodiversity concepts
Talk about species or particular
habitats in terms of Here are some basic principles of conservation
relationships: explain the links
biology which can be used to build on simpler
to human well being whenever
possible. (For example, we need concepts such as the ‘variety of life’.
spiders because they eat insects
and keep the insect population 1. To protect species, we must 6. Within an ecosystem, certain
in balance, which in turn protect their habitat. species may be “keystone
protects humans from out-of- species”, and the survival and
control insect populations.) 2. Conserving and protecting success of many other species
People understand that nature large intact landscapes is depends on the survival and
is an interdependent system, essential to protecting a success of the keystone species.
but do not know much about diversity of species and the Cassowaries are considered a
the specific relationships. habitats on which they depend, keystone species of the north
as well as the ecosystem services Queensland rainforests due to
that nature provides humans. their key role in dispersing the
8. Take advantage of a basic seeds of many plant species.
3. Wildlife need corridors and
appreciation of the balance of connections between core
nature to expand ecological 7. Extinction is forever.
areas, such as parks and
literacy reserves, to allow them to find 8. The greatest numbers of
food, mates, and follow threatened and endangered
Most people appreciate the migratory pathways. species and highest extinction
concept of nature as a balanced rates are concentrated in
system, but many do not know 4. The more species diversity “biological hot spots”, typically
what it takes for nature to stay there is in an ecosystem, the found in highly productive
balanced. Explain basic concepts more resilient that system is areas, such as tropical and
such as diversity provides likely to be; similarly, the more coastal zones. However, saving
resilience/lack of diversity makes genetic diversity within a these spots alone will not save
systems more vulnerable; species, the more successful biodiversity.
explain the value of predators, that species is likely to be.
scavengers and other “undesir-
able” species in terms of the Based on Life. Nature. 5. Not only is an ecosystem
The Public. Making the dependent on a diversity of
whole system. Starting with well Connection. A Biodiversity
known species, such as earth- species, there must also be
Communications Based on Engaging the
worms, explain the role of inver- Handbook. sufficient populations within Public on Biodiversity,
tebrates in maintaining the circle The Biodiversity Project species to sustain both the The Biodiversity Project, US.
(see Further Reading) species and the system. (see Further Reading)
of life. Explain, explain, explain.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
appendix 3 Step 8 Determine objectives, ideal behaviours, and
outcomes. What do you want to achieve?
Making a communication plan What do you want your target group/s to do?
Step 9 Consider resources and funding
Clear, purposeful planning is vital to the How many staff are needed, how much will it
success of your project. Time spent in cost, and who will pay?
planning always pays off by avoiding Step 10 Develop a framework action plan
wasted time and effort down the track. Specify who, what, when, where, how!
Inform and involve stakeholders
Here is a suggested approach to
planning a conservation communication Step 11 Design methods and measures to monitor and
project. evaluate the action plan
How will you know if your project has been
STAGE 1 - Research and Identify Goal/s
Step 12 Determine the best method/s of communication
Step 1 Identify the need and goal from a biodiversity What methods should you use?
Step 13 Develop a message and enlist messengers
Step 2 Identify stakeholders
Who are the main organisations and people who Step 14 Anticipate any opposition. Will any stakeholders
need to be involved or on-side? oppose and attack your message?

Step 3 Analyse the issue/problem and its context from Step 15 Develop draft products
biodiversity and human perspectives Step 16 Pre-test education and communication products
What’s the issue or problem?
Step 17 Revise products (if necessary)
Step 4 Modify the goal (if necessary)
Step 5 Define the overall approach to achieve the goal, STAGE 3 - Implementation
and the role and context of the communication/
Step 18 Implement the action plan
education plan as part of an integrated strategy

STAGE 4 - Monitoring and Evaluation

STAGE 2 - Planning
Step 19 Monitor. Does your program or project need
Step 6 Develop education/communication goals to
to be modified?
support the overall conservation goal
Step 20 Evaluate. Have your education and communica-
Step 7 Identify and know your target group/s
tion objectives been achieved? Is your project
Based steps 2 and 3, who do you want to reach?
integrated with the overall goals? Provide
feedback to stakeholders and community.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
appendix 4 birds and butterflies followed
by lorikeets, earthworms and
kookaburras. The next cluster
About a third of people
Findings from New South Wales research included koalas, blue tongue interviewed in the study said
lizards, frogs and cockatoos. they supported council efforts to
The NSW National Parks Service has undertaken new research The least popular animals were regenerate some parks back to
which, for the first time, investigates community knowledge, spiders, bats, moths and snakes. natural bush and seek out
attitudes, needs and practices relating to conserving wildlife information to better
and their habitats in urban areas. What this means for educators understand how to live with
native birds and other animals.
The study published as Urban Wildlife Renewal “Growing When designing general biodi-
Conservation Urban Communities” reveals important points that versity conservation programs, The research showed that
should be taken into account in designing programs, and its findings use these popular species as having information on the
are mirrored in the approach taken in this handbook. communication flagships. Any environment and wildlife on hand
programs to encourage native was not enough to drive interest
UNDERLYING COMMUNITY RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN animals into suburban yards within the community, and that
NEEDS NATURE AND URBAN AREAS should be sensitive to people’s local motivators were needed to
need for safety and security and create relevance for people wan-
The most important underlying The study found that people ting to participate in programs.
not challenge their need for
community needs to fulfil when divide the world into areas that
control and order. The demographic of people
encouraging behaviours that are considered “right for
contribute to urban wildlife humans” and others that are Many people think that the with a high likelihood to adopt
renewal centre around the need “right for wildlife”. People natural elements in urban areas conservation behaviour tended
for independence and freedom, strongly believed that native are left over bits and pieces, to have a native garden, were
and safety and security. Also animals should be encouraged rather than a connected “extremely concerned” about the
important are the needs for into local bushland and unspoilt ecosystem. This means that environment, over 35 years old
self-actualisation, social bushland. They are more educators should use visual aids and household income of
interaction and the need to be reserved about encouraging to highlight how suburban yards $20,000 -$29,000 or $100,000+.
a nuturing person. native animals into suburban connect to street landscapes Local councils and wildlife conser-
backyards. The circumstances which connect to local bush- vation groups appear to be the
What this means for educators
where people are happy to land, etc. An example is a most widely nominated groups
This suggests that educators encourage wildlife into their own Sutherland Council brochure to taking an active role in conserving
should aim to create safe backyards tend to be when the promote its Greenweb Program, native plants and animals.
situations where people can animals are not dangerous, which includes an aerial
enjoy and explore nature at unattractive, dirty or harmful photograph showing how Eric What this means for educators
their own pace, preferably in and as long as the type of the koala has moved along a
the company of their peers and wildlife was felt capable of living native bush corridor in the Shire The findings show the importance
friends. Special attention should unthreatened in an urban (see Case Study 3 on page 15). of engaging people where they
be paid to lowering people’s environment. expect to find action and expect
natural fears and anxieties to have access to information.
The species people most wanted Programs need to develop
about being in the outdoors.
in their backyards were small strategic partnerships between

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION

National Bio-connectors (8%)

Findings from interesting US attitude research
People in this segment belong to national and international
The 1996 Biodiversity Poll Cluster Analysis (USA) environmental groups and are educated, affluent, and engaged in
society. More than all other segments they value nature’s right to
There has never been a cluster analysis of
exist, appreciate nature’s beauty, and feel that a healthy environment
Australians’ attitudes towards biodiversity
is important for their own productivity. They are the most familiar
issues. The following cluster analysis from
with the term biodiversity and are the most likely to disagree that the
the US may not be directly comparable
world would be better without mosquitoes and poison ivy. Most of
to Australia, since Americans have rather
them vote, and many contact their elected officials. They go to
different sets of values, however it can
national and state parks and zoos, and they enjoy outdoor activities
still provide some useful insights.
like hiking and gardening.

A computer analysis identified eight Patriotic Local Bio-connectors (15%)

population clusters with common
This group was defined by allegiance to local and state environmental
attitudinal characteristics within the
groups, political moderation, and community involvement (through
biodiversity poll data. Support for school age children). They also enjoy outdoor activities, go to zoos
biodiversity conservation was solid and aquariums, garden, are the most regular TV news watchers (76%)
among two clusters, totaling 23% of the and also read newspapers and use computers. The patriotic value—
population. Potential support protecting “America’s natural resources”—is important to this group.
(sympathetic attitudes, but not strong While they support maintaining biodiversity, they are less sure about
commitments) can be found in three saving all species.
“middle” clusters totaling 34% of the
sample. The remaining 43% are found in
three other clusters, which are less likely SYMPATHETIC/PERSUADABLE GROUPS
to support biodiversity protection. Each
Young Cross-Country Skiers (5%)
cluster is likely to respond to different
messages, although concern about This is a small, but distinct group. All of them—100%—cross-country
ecosystem services and widely held ski. Most also engage in other physical outdoor activities, such as
stewardship values provide a basis for hiking and biking. The group is largely male and under 40, and more
educated, affluent, and Republican than the other younger segments
overarching messages. The clusters are
of the public. They use computers and the Internet and are
briefly profiled below and in the follow- newspaper readers. Their interest in the environment is secular (this
ing chart. group was the least likely to value nature as God’s creation), but they
also believe strongly—more than other groups—in protecting nature
for future generations. They are not particularly concerned about
environmental issues (or other issues, for that matter), but they do
tend to be frequent voters.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
This group was defined by marital status. All are divorced, widowed,
Disconnected Religious Conservatives (14%)
or separated. Predominantly women (69%) and older (60% over 45),
this group also has the lowest incomes. While not outdoor-sports This group is clustered around a convergence of religious involve-
enthusiasts, most have visited a park or museum in the last year. ment, political conservatism, and lack of engagement in public affairs.
They are the most likely group to watch TV news regularly (81%). A large proportion are Born-Again Christians (44%). This group
This group values protecting the environment for future generations contains more women (63%) and tends to be older and less educated
and family, but places high value on God’s creation and the beauty of than other segments. This group is the least active in society, and
nature. They are particularly concerned about water quality, and 21% are not registered to vote. This is the least likely group to pursue
while they believe we should prevent extinctions, a majority believe outdoor recreation or belong to environmental groups. 47% attend
it is all right to eliminate some species. They are also willing to place religious services weekly and a majority listen to talk radio. They
jobs ahead of environmental concerns. place high value on God’s creation but give lower priority to
protecting the Earth for future generations than other segments.
Disconnected Singles (14%) Protecting the environment for one’s family is important, but
environmental concerns are lower for this group than others.
This group was defined by the highest proportion of single Americans
Maintaining biodiversity is not very important to a majority of this
(95%) and by its relative youth (92% are younger than 45). This group
is slightly more male (57%) and is less affluent than most other
segments. Three in 10 are minorities—more than any other segment.
Disconnected Outdoorsmen (14%)
This group also is distinguished by their non-participation in politics.
Many do not vote, or vote infrequently, and this groups members are Unlike their “connected” fellow outdoorsmen, who most likely fall in
the least likely to have written a letter to the editor or to have the first two clusters, this group of hunters (95%), anglers (87%), and
volunteered for a political party or candidate. This group is unlikely campers (70%) is defined by non-participation in politics and church.
to regularly read a daily newspaper. They enjoy going to beaches and Of the group, 31% are not registered to vote, and 75% attend church
lakes (89%), parks, and to a lesser extent, zoos and museums. They infrequently, or not at all. Even so, they express a strong belief in
are concerned about the environment, but only about half (51%) nature’s connection to God. While they care about the environment,
consider maintaining biodiversity very important. This is an impor- it is not a high priority, and they are more likely to agree that not all
tant “persuadable” group for biodiversity. species are worth saving.

Engaged Property Owners (16%)

This group is comprised of married (91%) homeowners (87%) who
tend to be (but are not all) upper income. It includes a considerable
block of professionals (36%) and is predominantly Republican. These
are frequent voters (88%), and they are engaged in public affairs.
Their gardens may be a primary connection to nature, as 76% of this
group gardens. They are computer users (61%) and church goers 51%.
God’s creation, future generations and family anchor environmental
concerns, but this group gives less priority to environmental issues
than any other cluster. Maintaining biodiversity is not an important
concern for this group.

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
appendix 6
The priority matrix

How to interpret
Use this matrix to
the matrix
prioritise actions

large large

ir o
small small

small large small large


enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
Alternatively, lead with
‘mini-beasts’ such as aquatic
invertebrates and the role as an
Talking about bugs indicator of waterway health.
The flagship species approach
Invertebrates make up nearly all of the species diversity found in can be readily be used to increase An excellent source of examples
Australia and on Earth. They play key, but mostly hidden roles, community empathy, awareness of bio-technology blueprints
in keeping ecosystems healthy and functioning. This includes and understanding of discovered in invertebrates is
fertilising and structuring soils, nutrient cycling, regulation of plant invertebrates and their habitat Wild Solutions by Andrew Beattie
diversity, seed dispersal, pollination, regulation of animal numbers, conservation needs. In general, and Paul Ehrlich. Beautiful and
as well providing food for vertebrates. flagship species need to be either: beneficial flagship species should
be used as the foundation in
Invertebrates, however, have a huge image problem. This presents ● Beautiful.
invertebrate communications as
one of the most challenging aspects to the biodiversity education Lead with colourful butterflies
these will have the greatest
and communication agenda.
● Beneficial. Lead with native impact on the public.
PEOPLES PERCEPTIONS OF 2) their basic biological bees, lady bugs and earth
INVERTEBRATES characteristics; 3) venomous worms highlighting their SUMMING UP
characteristics and the respective roles in pollination, ● Use a butterfly, or other
While limited research has been transmission of diseases. keeping pests in check, and
undertaken in Australia on com- colourful non-threatening inverte-
creating fertile soil/compost,
munity attitudes to invertebrates, It concludes that we need a brate as a flagship species
followed by the critical role
an informative US study found “more compelling depiction of invertebrates play in maintain- ● A primary focus on the vital
that the general public and farm- the extraordinary contributions ing the health of ecosystems. role of invertebrates as mini
ers showed feelings of aversion, to human welfare and survival eco-engineers keeping ecosys-
dislike and fear, as well as made by invertebrates” and that ● Blueprints. Many bio-technol-
tems working, whether it be the
describing the unattractiveness this will greatly assist to reduce ogy ‘blue prints’ have been
food web, or keeping soils
of specific groups, while prevailing negative attitudes. discovered in invertebrates.
fertile. Start with worms (soil
acknowledging the beauty of This includes the discovery of
fertility) and bees (pollination)
others. The attitudes least Another attitude that can added an antibiotic in a secretion from
and work out from there.
expressed were affection, ethical to those identified by Kellert is a bull ant, and a potential
concern or scientific curiosity.43 the “tyranny of numbers”. How sun-screen discovered in coral ● A secondary focus is the role
There was little understanding can there be a problem with polyps. of invertebrates as sources of
of the taxonomic differences invertebrate conservation when bio-technologies, eg. sunscreens
● Bountiful. Lead with lobsters
between invertebrate groups. there are always too many flies from corals and antibiotics from
at the picnic, too many jellyfish and other luxury crustaceans
The best known invertebrates bull ants.
in the water, or too many and shell fish.
were butterflies and moths. ● Do not focus on numbers of
spiders in the garden? How can ● Bizarre. Lead with quirky
Most knowledge among the there be a problem with invertebrates.
species such as the Giant
general public could be classed invertebrate conservation when Gippsland Earthworm, Lord ● Build on local Waterwatch
as relating to: 1) invertebrates there are so many species? Howe Island Stick insect, or the macro-invertebrate monitoring
in agriculture and in gardening; Tasmanian Giant Crayfish. activities.
43. Kellert, S.R. 1993.Values
and perceptions of inverte-
brates. Conservation

Biology,Vol. 4, pp.845-55.
enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
appendix 8 MYTH 2:
Scientists disagree about
whether biodiversity is being
Current conservation efforts
are adequate.
Myths and facts44 lost and what should be done
about it. Despite enormous community
willingness to improve
The controversy generated by the release of The Sceptical The Australia: State of the environmental performance,
Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg45 is one of the most recent Environment Report 1996, government efforts in the form
attempts to undermine the strong case for additional biodiversity prepared by more than 200 of incentive schemes and
conservation by promoting several unfounded myths. scientists, found that the regulations to discourage
continuing loss of biodiversity is polluting and destructive
“probably the most urgent issue practices, need to be rapidly
MYTH 1: Many frog species are also in
in the whole field of environmen- accelerated. The Australia: State
There is no evidence that rapid decline. About 60 of an
tal management. In many cases, of the Environment Report
species are becoming extinct at estimated 200 species have been
the loss of habitat is continuing concludes that adequate
increasing rates; extinction is a reported to be in various stages
at an alarming rate, with measures are not yet in place
natural process of decline – nearly one third of
associated inevitable loss of to combat the threats to
all known Australian frogs. One
While extinctions are a natural biodiversity.” The 2001 State of biodiversity. Tree planting
senior Australian scientist has
part of the evolutionary process, the Environment Report found schemes, for instance, are
predicted that about 250 bird
the current global rate of human- that many of the key threats to useful but not a cure-all, as
species, that is 50 per cent of
induced extinctions is far greater biodiversity identified in the replanted areas are a species-
Australian land-based birds, will
than what could be considered SoE (1996) persist. poor substitute for remnant
become extinct next century if
the ‘natural’ background rate. For native vegetation, as they lack
current rates of land clearing There is general consensus that
mammals, the human induced many habitat elements
and habitat depletion if current the best way to conserve
extinction rate is about 100 times required by native species. In
trends continue. The decline of biodiversity is by protecting and
the background rate; for birds it any case, revegetation efforts
our better-known vertebrates managing species habitat and
is about 1,000 times greater.46 are labour-intensive and have
suggests that many as yet ecosystems. An action program failed to keep up with the
In the 200 years since European undiscovered invertebrates will needed to conserve Australia’s massive scale of native
settlement, Australia has also be in trouble – the number biodiversity is set out in the vegetation loss.
experienced the extinction of of arthropods, for example, National Strategy for the
27 mammal species and sub- (mites, spiders and insects) that Conservation of Australia’s
species, more than any other will disappear due to habitat Biological Diversity.
country in that period. Almost loss can only be speculated.
half our marsupials are either
extinct, endangered or vulnera-
45. A series of critiques of The Sceptical Environmentalist,
ble, and about one-third of including one by the renowned biodiversity scientist E. O.Wilson
freshwater fish are classified 44. Adapted from Biodiversity Baloney: is at:
rare, endangered or vulnerable. Some Popular Myths Undone.
Union of Concerned Scientists. 46. Groombridge,B.and Jenkins,M.D.,2000. Global Biodiversity: Earth’s living resources in the 21st
biodiversity/page.cfm?pageID=393 century. World Conservation. Monitoring Centre: Cambridge,UK

enabling ECOACTION enabling ECOACTION
appendix 9
(Version 1.1 February 2000) - Developed by the Community Biodiversity Network/Humane
Society International, with funding support from Environment Australia.
Glossary of key terms This CDROM contains a relational database that To install insert into CDROM drive and double
includes information on over 4,500 biodiversity click “setup.exe”. To search type a word that you
education and action products, over 100 programs think will appear in the name of the product,
ADVERTISING - Those ENVIRONMENTAL needs to identifying and nearly 1,000 organisations. program or organisation. To do an advanced search
forms of public relations EDUCATION - audiences, developing
and marketing communica- Environmental education is products and measuring
use the various fields to tailor your search query.
What you will need to use this CDROM:
tion aimed at influencing a process of encouraging results. But it is also quite To find out what products or program were
PC computer connected to a CDROM drive, 45 MB
and/or promoting people to be aware of, and different. The aim of social of free disk space, Windows 95/98/2000/NT 4. produced by an organisation or vice versa, click on
purchasing behaviour concerned about the envi- marketing is not just a one the name of a record that appears from your
relating to the services or ronment and its associated time business transaction The CDROM may result in screen freezes in some search. To check out the details of a record,
products of an organisa- problems, and be enabled – it is to build a long-term older computers. click on the Details button.
tion. Advertising tools through knowledge, skills, relationship between your
range from billboards and attitudes, motivations and organisation and its THE ON-LINE VERSION OF THE EARTH ALIVE DIRECTORY CAN BE FOUND AT:
TV spots to direct mail. commitment to work different audiences.
individually and collective-
BIODIVERSITY - The ly towards solutions of STAKEHOLDERS - Those
variety of life forms: the current problems and the people or organisations
different plants, animals prevention of new ones. that are vital to the
and micro-organisms, the success or failure of an
genes they contain, and FOCUS GROUP - Focus organisation or project
the ecosystems they form. groups are a way to collect to reach its goals. The
It is usually considered at useful qualitative data that primary stakeholders are:
three levels: genetic explores the general atti- 1) those needed for
diversity, species diversity tudes, motivations, and permission, approval and
and ecosystem diversity. behaviours of your audi- financial support, and
ence. They are used to 2) those that are directly
CAPACITY BUILDING - improve planning and affected by the activities
Strategies which seek to design of new products of the organisation or
empower, motivate and or programs by obtaining project. Secondary stake-
enable communities and background information holders are those who are
provide them with the about people’s perceptions indirectly affected.
necessary skills, resources, of a specific topic; develop Tertiary stakeholders are
networks and information new ideas or effective those who are not affected
to allow them to pursue approaches for introducing or involved, but who can
their own conservation a new service, product or influence opinions either
and development goals. program; stimulate new for or against.
research hypotheses or
COMMUNICATION - interpret previous results TARGET GROUPS -
A process of exchanging from quantitative research. A group of people that you
ideas and sharing need to reach with your
information. The ideal SOCIAL MARKETING - communication to achieve
form of communication is Social marketing is the a result. It is best to
a two way process aimed creation, execution and segment the target group
at mutual understanding, control of programs as far as possible, and
and the sharing of values designed to influence identify the opinion lead-
and action. social change. It uses many ers (name, organisation
principles of commercial etc) to whom face to face
marketing – from assessing communication is possible.

enabling ECOACTION