Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Wednesday 30 December 2009

Stakeholder analysis

Do a telephonic survey with experts on the issue to make a list with the major stakeholder groups and ask who could be invited for an informal brainstorm. Then invite (6 - 9) people you know and or who have been suggested to you for a short session ending with a reception. Make together again a list of stakeholder groups, write the names of groups, organizations etc. on cards and then place all the names of the groups on the stakeholder map (see illustration). Try to come to a consensus about each placing. Finally discuss shortly which are key groups that if their position would change, would help solve the issue. Identify key leaders of these groups are in each group, key messages and the best communication channels and events for these groups. This was - in a nutshell - my advice recently to a client who spent months on commissioning a stakeholder analysis to a content expert and finally got a 100-page report that brought up more questions than answers.

Survey users before updating a website

Email outdistances all other communication channels in importance. This is one of the outcomes of a survey we just did among the CEC members (700). Research and advice, training and professional updating are core focus of most of the organizations where respondents work. Users indicate that web searches, web sites and online social networks are more important information channels than radio or television... perhaps even greater importance than print publications. The 120 respondents also indicate a preferred interest for a CEC website that provide links to key publications, expertise among CEC members and links to key training/e-learning resources.

Friday 18 December 2009

New segmentation, new strategy

In 'Sell the Sizzle' Futerra shows us a new segmentation of the climate change audiences. We have seen them in Copenhagen. The global cynics: the outright deniers, the worriers about costs, the others-first, the industry lobbyists, even the radical political groups and defaitists who haved lost faith in the UN system. Then there are the global activists: the climate campaigners, the carbon realists and the carbon opportunists. They all frame the issue in their own way. Finally there are the home first: people who are next to us in the super market, in the train etc. They are the majority - the quantifications are my optimistic guesses. They feel not engaged at all. The point Futerra makes is that change has to come from the 'home first'. Who will reach this audience first? We or the cynics? How we communicate is vital. Not with a focus on imminent disasters, but by letting them dream of a life with a lighter footprint and giving them the choices we need to make to get there. Read it all for yourself.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Framing climate change

Climate change is the largest environmental issue; it's an energy issue; it's an equity issue; no it is a footprint issue! The first three are ways negotiators, lobbyists and activists frame climate change in Copenhagen. Over the news one rarely hears about the footprint. Governments have experience with environment problems; there are economic opportunities in the energy challenge; there is the political reality of the north south divide. These are things negotiators can deal with. But do they realize that Copenhagen has a larger footprint than any other UN event? This metaphor brings climate change in our daily life, our own behavior: how we live, how we travel, what we eat (e.g. how many kilometers are in our fish, meat, vegetables or fruit). If we calculate the full costs of the way we live, we have the key to solve climate change: change your footprint or pay for it. It will help the environment, drive the energy issue and contribute to a fair global distribution of the burden to solve the problem.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Sell the sizzle

Climate change is no longer a scientist’s problem, it’s now a salesman’s problem. In its latest publication Futerra calls upon government spokespeople, climate campaigners and business advertisers to stop selling visions of hell. Instead they must create and sell a vision of a 'low carbon heaven’. Futerra's reasoning: When selling a sausage, it's the sizzle that counts, the sound and smell - otherwise you're selling a dead pig. Unfortunately on climate change it's passed-away pork we've been flogging, so maybe a bit of sizzle might help... The second metaphor Futerra uses is 'hell does not sell'. Until now we have been selling climate change as hell (rising sea levels, extreme wheather events etc.) and people are not buying it. They tend to conveniently deny it. In Sell the Sizzle Futerra points out a new framework for climate change messages: a positive vision, the choice to avoid hell, a plan and first steps. I would say a must read for communicators all over the world.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Practice what you preach

In communication it matters what you do, more than what you say. If you are campaigning for climate change or biodiversity you have to be conscious of your own behaviour, your food, your energy, your leisure time. Living the change we want to see in the world, can also be the communication strategy. Let people experience the peace and happiness of a candle night. No stressing nightmare stories about the consequences of climate change, but the full experience of an intimate meeting with family or friends. Living the dream of a sustainable world - that is how I perceive the strategy of the global Candle Night Campaign of Japan for Sustainability. Join in on December 22!

Thursday 3 December 2009

Mentality differences among generations

Hedonism and individualism are increasing amoung youth, their interest for society and the environment decreases. Motivaction - a group of Dutch marketing researchers - published this week its survey on mentality, attitudes and trends of youth. They compare and analyze the response of three generations on a standard set of questions and complement the information with qualitative research. Ten years ago a similar survey showed a much higher interest (33%) in environment among young people between 15 and 23 years old. "I worry about the damage to the environment" now scores 58% among the youngest generation. Ten years ago that was 78%. The researchers see a trend of selfishness and more a-social behavior emerging among young people. I wonder what this will mean for awareness raising about climate change and the much needed behaviour change strategies?

Saturday 28 November 2009

How useful is end-of-pipe advice?

Most communication decisions were already taken, but still we were asked to give some communication advice to the global protected areas community assembled in Granada at their Climate Change Summit. After three days of listening to presentations around their new publication we were invited to share our impressions with the WCPA leadership. We expressed our doubts about the functionality of the publication to influence the process in Copenhagen. Oops - that did not feel good with them. Luckily we also had three main recommendations for the short term. To use the preface as an instrument for an e-campaign to all WCPA members and ask them to send it to the relevant policy makers in their country. To have a short article by the chair in the IHT, aimed at decision makers. To publish photos of Summit participants with testimonials of the main things they had learned. And to publish photos on the WCPA website illustrating examples of mitigation and adaptation in protected areas, each with a clear subtitle e.g. floods, landslides, storms, drought, water, food, fire, health etc. For the longer term we advised to use more personal communication, e.g. joint working groups with Climate Change experts or other groups. When my colleague shared our ideas in the plenary on the last day, only a few participants showed active interest, most seemed fully satisfied with their own communication efforts, inlcuding a long statement to feed into the Copenhagen process (even at this very late stage). It made us reflect on how useful end-of-pipe advice really is.

Personal communication channels

A testimonial from a credible source can enhance the acceptance of a proposition, or the findings of research. The prefeace by Lord Nicholas Stern in the WCPA Study 'Natural Solutions, Protected Areas helping people cope with climate change' definitely fulfills that role. In about 400 words the findings of the research are summarized in almost plain talk. Two messages: protected areas help mitigate and adapt to climate change. Policy makers should translate that positive role into policy and funding mechanisms. Lord Stern is an opinion leader and also an influential who can develop word-of-mouth referral channels to build a case for protected areas. So if 'used' in the right way, he can do more than just lend his name to the preface. Used implies here devoting extra time and effort to turn him into an active ambassador. Supplying him with the right tools and support to do such job. This is one of the recommendations we provided the organizers of the Granada Summit.

Communication analysis in advance can save money

The commissioners of the WCPA study on Protected Areas (PA) and Climate Change (CC) aimed to udate the PA community on CC and convince the CC community to give more attention to PAs. Unfortunately these two audiences are quite different in their attitude towards the subject: the PA community is not very familiar with CC, but quite favourable for a larger role and more resources for PAs. The CC community is hihly familiar with the subject, but not very favourable towards PAs: for them PAs have a rather negative image. The same messages that would update the PA community, would run a high risk of putting the CC community off. For them the communication residue would confirm their perception of the PA community as CC opportunists. Analysing in advance the beliefs, attitudes and knowledge of the audiences should have led to the conclusion that it would be better not to use the same media for different purposes to different audiences. In the end such analysis saves time and money and helps to realize the objectives.

Friday 27 November 2009

Maps give us the bigger picture

A picture says more than a thousand words and a map more than any other illustration. The newspaper this morning showed these two maps from the Netherlands. One from 1860 and one from today. They tell a story. Red dots tell about urbanization. That was what the article was about. But there is more: the white spaces tell us about the closing of inland seas, the Rhine delta and the reclamation of land. Where Schiphol airport is situated now, was a lake in 1860. Dark green spots tell about increased afforestation and the emerging conservation ideals. Light green areas tell about the disappearence of waste lands of dry peat and sand dunes. Around the turn of the century Holland had to cope with desertification. A photo illustrates an example or informs us about a detail. Maps tell the whole story, show the dynamic of change and give us the bigger picture. In communication for change: use maps!

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Include external knowledge in the project team

To succesfully capture and disseminate lessons learned it is useful to include knowledge management expertise when designing the project team. This is one of the messages of our evaluation of a multi-country forest governance project. The project focuses on a participatory approach with unpredictable and mostly intangible outcomes, depending on stakeholders outside the project. Learning on multi-stakeholder dialogues results mostly in implicit knowledge. To make such knowledge explicit you need expertise from outside the forest community. A good example of such need was the way a professor forest management was conducting a workshop to write up lessons learned (left column). The result were academic articles, with little news. Interviews with participants afterwards revealed that they knew much more and had more relevant insights than were written up in the academic exercise. In the right column a more effective approach is provided to make such knowledge explicit.

Monday 23 November 2009

Talking to the press

In the end it is the change in habits of the people that is needed to combat climate change. That was the main message I prepared for my interviews with the press when I was two days in Madrid for talks at the Casa Encendida. I also had prepared some examples of why it is so difficult to change behaviour, especially with regard to climate change. And how communication could help in changing attitudes and support new practices. The Fundación Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente had organized several interviews. Via a two press agencies articles appeared in a series of news papeers, magazines and websites. E.g. in: Europa press, 15 September 2009 and Extremadura al día, 16 October 2009. My message on Copenhagen that politicians only take adequate measures, when their voters press for it, at least came over loud and clear. In hindsight I must say that talking to the press is still quite a learning experience for me. I feel more comfortable with strategizing or organizing a press conference.

Thursday 5 November 2009

The future of disaster relief game

To get a process of peer learning going, CNA organized a game during the conference on "CLIMATE CHANGE, STATE RESILIENCE AND GLOBAL SECURITY". At the registration the over a hundred participants all got a game booklet with a scenario on climate change and global security in the year 2040. Each participant was provided with a card with the flag of the country (s)he was supposed to represent. It contained a 80-word description of the position of that country. A pannel of retired admirals played the role of a White House security advisor, the Joint Chief of Staffs, the Department of Defense Secretary, a Congressman and the Secretary of State. The audience had to vote on questions with regard to climate change and relief response: what would you do, how are you going to do it, how will this resource demand end. The panel then discussed what the response of the US administration should be. Afterwards a climate change representative of the current White House Council on Environmental Quality gave her reactions as an introduction to a lively plenary discussion.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Armed forces with a low carbon boot print

Military commanders not only have a financial budget but also have to fit their campaigns and activities within a pre-fixed carbon budget. Military planners from different countries co-operate on a regional basis on contingency plans for disaster relief in case of extreme weather events. Troops employed on peace-building missions have camps powered by wind and solar and electric vehicles. Military strategists consider weak states as weak because of failures of their environmental systems. They develop scenarios to support the ecological preconditions for human well-being as part of their mission to protect national security interests.
These are just a few of the images sketched by military strategists from different parts of the world of the changes in international security, during a conference on Climate Change and Security, organized by IES in Brussels a week ago. A hopeful dream, supported by the reality that there is no other choice. And the change is already ongoing: the military as leaders in sustainability?

What questions do people have on life style change?

"Are our messages about climate change not too much focused on fear and on problems?" "How can we change our behaviour if society continues business as usual?" "Will the economic crisis be an opportunity for change or an obstacle?" "Will climate change force us to use nuclear energy?" "How can we use the new social media to trigger behaviour change?" "What will our life style change look like?" "How do we mobilize our European societies to change towards a low carbon lifestyle?" These were some of questions from the audience last month, when I gave a lecture on 'Life and Sustainable Development' at the invitation of the Fundación Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente in the Casa Encendida in Madrid.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Calculating your footprint

Feedback on your footprint provides a nudge towards behavior change. There are many, maybe we should look at them from different angles: usability, education, feedback.
WWF Footprint calculator
WRI safeclimate calculator
An inconvenient truth impact calculator
Carbon trust Calculator (UK Government)
Carbon Calculator (EU)
Carbon calculator Yahoo Green
Best Foot Forward calculator
Ecological Footprint calculator Centre for Sustainable Economy
Earthday Footprint calculator
Sustainable Indicators Program Calculator
Ecology Fund Footprint calculator
New Zealand EPA Footprint calculator
Global Footprint Network
Carbon footprint calculator (commercial)
CO2 Benchmark: All emissions of companies world-wide, in one database

Behavour barriers to mitigate climate change

"What is unique about current global climate change is the role of human behavior," said Janet Swim, PhD, of Pennsylvania State University. "We must look at the reasons people are not acting in order to understand how to get people to act." The American Psychological Association's Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change just published their report. These are some of the findings about barriers for behaviour change:
* uncertainty over climate change reduces the frequency of "green" behavior
* most people don't believe the risk messages of scientists or government officials
* many people still believe climate change is not occurring or that human activity has little or nothing to do with it
* people undervalue the risks and believe that changes can be made later
* people believe their actions would be too small to make a difference and choose to do nothing.
* ingrained behaviors are extremely resistant to permanent change while others change slowly. Habit is the most important obstacle to pro-environment behavior.

Monday 31 August 2009

Memos do not communicate

Communication is like a sieving process, only part of what we communicate stays behind in our brain. People only remember a very small percentage of a speech, a publication, or presentation. Moreover what we remember is often ‘coloured’ by un-intended messages from body language, titles, illustrations or other contexts. So we cannot take it for granted that if we have provided certain information in a report, a brochure or speech that our audience will also remember it. They may remember other less important things, they may even have a wrong impression of what we intended to communicate. Good communication is making sure that we are in control as much as possible of what stays behind in the communication strainer. Plain talk, repetition of messages, framing, choice of words (some words sell a message better than others), images, graphics – these are some of the tools to control the communication residue. As my client wants scientific proof of what I tell him, I finally refer to the NYT article why isn't the brain green?

Friday 28 August 2009

Looking into green 'claims'

People today are inundated with products, news stories, advertisements, and reports on environmental change—an overload that has helped raise awareness and concern regarding environmental issues, but that has done little to win consumer trust.
Last week I came across the Futerra study on industries in the US engaged in greenwashing, and those environmental claims most likely to be greenwash. Earlier they had published similar research from the UK and France. Futerra shows that greenwash has boosted confusion and distrust. It found that the industry - advertizers and their clients - don't do enough to prevent this accelerating negative feedback loop. For UK consumers it designed a list to spot greenwash symptoms. For US companies a checklist to assess whether they are on the right track.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Interactive simulation games on CC

Interactive simulation games can force you to sharpen your thinking, help you to see a complex reality in more simple models and clarify what is really needed to address issues such as climate change. Dominic Stucker from the Sustainability Institute just brought to my attention some interactive system models that can provide such insights on climate change. C-LEARN let me experience that all countries have to contribute. The Bath tube taught me the fundamental difference between levelling off and reducing emissions. The Climate Momentum let me experience the difference in effect between the scenarios that are debated. And the MIT Simulator let me feel strongly that positive change only begins to take off we change consumption patterns.

Sunday 9 August 2009

From human to fossil energy

The dream of the boy who sells me slippers in the traffic jam, is to become a taxi driver. I wonder: is progress just a change in the energy we use? Immediately the street gives me the answer.

Leadership branding in Ghana

Even the district forestry manager has Obama and the Ghanese president on his T-shirt. Billboards along the roads branded the new leadership in the weekend Obama visited.

Milestones Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue

"A multi-styakeholder dialogue is a process, you cannot plan." I hear from the staff in the project, I have to evaluate. When I show them the milestones and policy life cycle, they recognize it and start giving examples from their experience. One project manager refects: "I wish we had seen this earlier, I could have planned my capacity building better. Now when the demand came for interest-based negotiations my training budget was used on less important topics."

New knowledge input into a project

Many project managers feel during the course of the project the need for external and new knowledge input. Every time a workshop is organized for such input, the project gets new perspectives and a new direction. Such changes often generate resistance from project staff as the ongoing work is disrupted and some activities have to be rethought or restarted. This model of knowledge input is called the relay model. More effcetive is the funnel model as right at the start of the project all knowledge areas are mapped and agreed upon, as are the procedures how to integrate new knowledge in the project. This model implies a feasibility study, an inception period or at least a well prepared kick off meeting.


A still life makes you think. How real is the image? When did I have such a feeling of mystery or nostalgy, the composition evokes in me? Sometimes it is the title that triggers and directs our perception. In our dicussion on his new catalogue, Marco Gasparri explains me that in his painting ‘Thoughts’ the penetration and complexity of an emerging idea is expressed through a small curling thread of rope at the edge of a marble table. The freshly picked orange refers to the spark of life. The combination of colours from orange to different degrees of amber of the glass bottle and the background supports the interconnectedness of an idea with the rest of the world. My thoughts change to beyond the painting: can we see reality without all these associations and thoughts?

Saturday 18 July 2009

Multi-stakeholder Dialogue: a panacea?

"Yes we support MSDs but we also know that they are not the panacea. I wonder if we should not add somewhere a ‘critical’ note, a reference to the challenges to MSDs to avoid being seen as overly optimistic." Says my client. We are making a video about a multi-stakeholder dialogue for a major policy change that affects a whole sector of society and even beyond. Such changes need some form of MSD. There are many different forms, ranging from one- or two-way information campaigns to joint policy planning and formulation exercises. A well tailored and managed MSD always helps, but no MSD can take over role of the government. In a policy process the decisions on technical, legal and economic measures are taken by the government. They are the different parts of the engine of the policy making. The MSD only provides the oil that makes that engine work.

Monday 29 June 2009

Presentation: target groups and objectives

What does it take to do a good presentation during a conference? As part of my job to evaluate a multi-country project, my client takes me to a two-day Chatham House conference. His project is presented in the very last timeslot. Afterwards he is worried what the donors may think. He asks my opinion. My reaction: the good thing was to have a professional facilitator with a media back ground, short introductions from different countries, a panel discussion that included the donors and voting with a voting machine for the audience (200 participants). Form was OK, but the content can be improved a next time when you brief speakers to only make one point: lessons learned that are of interest to donors and participants in the international discourse. Even for a conference presentation: be clear on target groups and the KAP objectives for each of them.

Communication strategy in a simple drawing

A communication strategy basically focuses on the most effective way to realize the objectives to change, knowledge, attitudes, skills and practices. In Public participation in the conservation of the Sava River floodplains you find a useful educational graph positioning the communication strategy in the project.

Monday 1 June 2009

The new face of Protected Areas

During the joint meeting of two IUCN Commissions (WCPA and CEC) a few weeks ago in Ecuador, we discussed the need to (re)brand protected areas. WCPA experts approached branding from the science perspective. IUCN had commissioned a study on the values of protected areas (PA) and my WCPA colleagues already came up with some slogans for us to comment on or to improve: “Benefits beyond boundaries”; “Parcs for life”; “A convenient solution to an inconvenient truth”. It almost made me also jump to conclusions. “Protected Areas: powering security, health, learning and employment” - crossed my mind. But from the communication perspective more homework needs to be done, before we talk slogans. We have to answer questions such as how do PA contribute to basic human needs; who are the clients; what really is the product or services; how do we position PA in the market; what are the core brand values etc. So I bit my tongue. We agreed that in July some CEC experts will look at the results of the WCPA study and start asking branding questions. I look forward to it.

Saturday 30 May 2009

Workshop as a mix of learning situations

To create optimal learning among professionals in a workshop a process is designed of individual assignments, working in pairs, in small groups and in the plenary group. Also a mix is created of timeslots that appeal to the rational parts of the brain and timeslots that focus on those parts of the brain that govern emotional intelligence and contain the brain's 'gatekeepers' that can open the doors to new ideas and approaches. Writing down one's learning at the end of the day helps to better remember.

Protected area issues that can change

Storytelling about positive change they had experienced in the last ten years in their PA area helped to analyze the role of behavior change. And how communication can trigger specific changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices of key audiences. A major lesson learned was that change starts with small steps. With this in mind participants worked in pairs to plan communication for an issue they wanted to change in their area. The issues included joint management of the Guanta (bushmeat); illegal fishing of the Parago (fishermen threatening biodiversity); private landowners encroaching on a Nature reserve (natural resource management); reintroduction of a species; management of forest fires; tourism development; hunting; improving relations with neighbouring communities. In most cases communication had to focus on the first step: bringing stakeholders together for joint planning, identifying leaders, researching what they already know, what they need to know to come to the workshop, what (additional)skills they need etc. In many cases it was hard to resist the attraction to solve the whole issue as experts and push their solutions through various (sometimes even participatory) communication means. During the feedback by colleagues and facilitators we discussed planning the first communication steps towards a co-creation of solutions with the stakeholders as an often more effective and sustainable approach. But in the reality of the Ecuador PAs this is often more theory than practice.

Format for communication planning

In the Quito CEPA training workshop for protected area managers in Ecuador we used this template for communication planning. Click on the matrix to read the text. The explanation in the right column focuses on the work of protected area managers. It can easily be adapted for any other kind of business. For more details on communication planning see section 4 of the CEPA Toolkit.

Are my communication objectives correct?

Communication objectives is the most frequentlty visited post of this blog. I may not have been clear enough. A reader writes: I am currently working on a highly important report for a charity organization which seeks to reach further donors in the US. I have identified the internal & external factors that affect the organization, the groups involved and now I am beginning to write the communication objectives. For example, internally the use of the communication tools between the offices is very weak and unfortunately the messages (incl. the mission, vision & values) are not transmitted clearly enough, which has quite an impact on the organization. Therefore, my communication objectives (internally for all 53 employees & board members within a 6 months period) are:
1. Increase the knowledge of what the organization stands for (mission, vision & values) as well as the importance of team spirit
2. Convey a feeling that their participation in communicating is important
3. Provide participation & communication possibilities that deliver visible results
Would you say that these objectives are 'correct'? Click for my answer on the matrix. Strategic communication focuses on change and is based on some further targetgroup research. That way we know what the audience already knows and what new knowledge we should add. Same for their current and dersired attitudes and practices. Once we have defined these changes, we know the communication objectives and it is easier to choose for each objective the right intervention or communication channel.

The five Cs of the crisis

On his way out as CEO of Shell Jeroen van der Veer draws 5 simple lessons from the current financial and economic crisis:
1. Cash should be king - be careful with borrowing money.
2. Clients - manage the risks of the different client groups.
3. Costs - always be critical of the costs, especially when business goes well.
4. Capital - be critical on capital investsments: can't it be cheaper?
5. Communication - always be transparent, internally and externally.

5 leadership tips

In his last big performance for Shell managers, CEO Jeroen van der Veer had 5 tips for leadership:
1. Everyone knows an organization has to go from A to B, but leaders often forget to make it practical. What do you do tomorrow and what on Monday morning?
2. If society and the organization are professionalising, employees need to be longer in their job. With too much staff turnover, you cannot build a strong organization.
3. People tend to make things more complex. So good leaders need to make the work more simple.
4. Leaders should first listen, then provide direction and speed things up.
5. You are never finished with culture change.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Core brand values of biodiversity

"Biodiversity is the spark of lifë", says Barry Gardiner on BBC. He writes about the values of biodiversity and how they seem less compelling to the media and the public than the issue of climate change. "Every form of life on this planet stands not on its own but is supported by, and supports, other living things.Lose one species and you lose a vital part of some ecosystem. That means you lose not just a plant or an insect but a service: you lose the medicine that comes from that plant; you lose the pollination of crops which that insect provides." Harriet Nimo made me aware of this article and sent me the image of the values of biodiversity (click on it to read), made by photographer Niall Benvie. It reminded me of my presentation for the IUCN SSC Steering Committee in Abu Dhabi. Are we getting closer to the core brand values of biodiversity?

Case study format communication stories

Communication can support the process of positive change in a protected area when it focuses on knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP). Storytelling about cases of positive change helps people to analyze the change process and discover the role of communication. In our workshop for protected area managers in Quito, we used an upgraded version of the template we developed over the years in CEC (click on the matrix). The open questions make it easy for managers to tell their story and compare their experiences with their peers. It is important though to explain what we are looking for. E.g. WHEN is not so much asking for a date, but for the description of the moment change really started to take off: the tipping point.

Monday 25 May 2009

The real issue: make it small and concrete

Management effectiveness of protected areas depends on defining the right management objectives; and this depends on the right definition of the issues a manager wants to change. Management effectiveness increases considerably when communication concentrates on how to engage stakeholders in the issue, explore change pathways and co-create solutions. Thinking strategically about communication helps to (re)define the issues managers want to change. Visualizing the change that managers want to see (click on the photo) proved to be a powerful tool to formulate small and simple first steps towards change in our CEPA workshop for 24 protected area managers in Ecuador. In this case communication can focus on knowledge, skills, attitudes and actions of stakeholders to get them around the table.

Sunday 24 May 2009

Towards viral fish campaigns?

Conservationists should not eat what they want to conserve. They should set an example, walk the talk. CEC member Harriet Nimmo had sent me a nice article about this. But then yesterday on the market - while eating a haring with my sister in law from Japan I realized that my eagerness to show off how we eat raw fish was stronger than my mindfulness of sustainability. I just did not know. Once at home I immediately looked at the Good Fish site of the North Sea Foundation: fortunately the haring was listed under the good fish. But it made me realize how useful it would be if sites like Good Fish, Fish Online and IUCN with its My Hotel in Action become more pro-active in their communication. Why not start a viral campaign among conservationists, consumers and suppliers (retailers, restaurants etc.) to spread this basic information?

Friday 22 May 2009

Website usability

How user friendly are our websites? Relevance of information for the user is not evident. Images that don't help to sell. Text is hard to read. Navigation doesn't privilege buying. Where is the "Buy" button? These are some of the conclusions of a study of 15 Brazilian e-commerce websites by CEC member Mercedes Sanchez. User behavior research is important to identify needs and wishes of website users and turn visitors into buyers or activate them otherwise, e.g. in the non profit sector. These are some of Mercedes' advices: "websites should prioritize what is relevant for their users. They should show the way to find what the user is looking for. They should not push their products. Use customers vocabulary." Today on Biodiversity Day I wonder how much this is also true for conservation websites...!