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


Monday, 19 December 2011

Awareness indicators

A recent poll for the Natural History Museum (late 2010) comes to very different conclusions than one by the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (early 2011). The latter is very optimistic, the first one much less so. At a closer look the confusion comes from the different things they measure. To develop indicators for biodiversity awareness (target 1 on the CBD Strategic Plan) we need more clarity and consensus about who to survey, what to survey and how to do it in a way that is relevant nationally and globally.
Who are we surveying: most of the biodiversity targets of the strategic plan are less relevant to the general public and more relevant to specific stakeholder groups. For public awareness we may have to limit ourselves in what we measure.
What are we measuring: cognitive knowledge seems less relevant as the word biodiversity often seems too scientific and explanations and narratives are often too abstract to appeal to the general public. It might be better to measure consciousness about the importance of the nature and consciousness about appropriate behavior choices.
How we measure: public opinion polls are one thing, hard facts (membership of conservation organizations, visits to national parks, market share certified products, commitments on social media etc.) are another thing. It seems easy to measure but who decides which organizations, which areas etc.? How also has to do with language and cultural context. In the Netherlands the concept of nature is seen by experts as a better word to use in a survey than biodiversity. In Brazil at the other hand some colleagues argue the opposite.
The matrix above offers a conceptual framework for indicators. It is taken from a recent study by Wageningen University. Although focusing on the Dutch and European situation this study together with the recent DEFRA study might be a good starting point for further discussion.

Monday, 5 December 2011

capturing learning about change

During the workshop slowly understanding emerged on how marketing communication can contibute to behaviour change of wildlife consumers. To provide participants with some conceptual frameworks that could help clarify this learning, I prepared a presentation with these three visuals as key elements. Around them I organized the content of the work we achieved. I offered the PP-report is as aftercare to the organizers.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Demand reduction wildlife products

To get participating experts already focused on the issue in advance of our workshop we did a survey monkey.
We asked them about their ideas what motivates consumers in China and Vietnam to use wildlife products, what are knowledge gaps we have to overcome and what are constraints we would have to deal with to be able to communicate effectively.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Best practices in communicating forests

Know your audience – Is your message packaged appropriately? This was one of the lessons learned by foresters. The theme of one of the plenary sessions of the Asia Pacific Forestry Week was communicating forests. The organizers had agreed to let me do an interactive session instead of yet another presentation. The two hundred people in the room turned their chairs around and started animated conversations around: What are good examples of communications that support positive change? What are do’s and don’ts? This is what they came up with.

Lessons learned
*Targeting people who will respond to your message
*Simple message
*Don’t let foresters communicate – well, not all the time
*Forest media specialists are in short supply
*Media is a participatory process

*Start young
*Have a clear goal and get stakeholders onboard
*Know your audience – Is your message packaged appropriately?
*Tailor your message for your audience and keep it simple
*Be creative
*Be positive where possible
*Offer solutions where possible
*Make technical information practical
*Get your hands dirty - make sure we capture what is happening on the ground and at the community level
*Choose your spokesperson carefully
*Get to know the media (personal contact)

*Don’t push
*Try not to be exclusive
*Keep your enemies list as small as possible
*Don’t just summarize – Focus
*Don’t tamper with the drivers of change?
*Don't threaten

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

'Stories, Sizzle, Salience & Social Proof'

Futerra Co-Founder Ed Gillespie delivers a speech for the 3 Pillars Network Sustainable Behaviour Change conference in Sydney, Australia. November 2011

Monday, 31 October 2011

Justin Hall-Tipping: Freeing energy from the grid (TED)

Solutions come through out of the box thinking. What nanotechnology can do for us: freeing energy from the grid. A clear explanation by a passionate entrepreneur and CEO of Nanoholdings of some exciting scientific discoveries and what they can do for us .

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sheena Iyengar: The art of choosing

How does our audience make choices? What is the story behind the way they practice choice: e.g. is it "happiness is in your choice" or "helping to prevent you making the wrong choice". Is freedom of choice a right of self expression or recipee for poor decisions? A nice learning exercise about framing, cultural differences and the many narratives that drive choices. Read more on brain pickings: 5 essential books and talks about the psychology of choice.

Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our decisions?

How do we take decisions: in a rational or irrational way? After three years this video is still a very actual subject when we think about how we make our financial and environmental decisions...! Pauline Verheij (TRAFFIC) pointed at this talk while preparing for a meeting on consumer behavior.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

What is the BRAND?

We persist in seeing a BRAND as the external image of a company. Instead, we must learn that branding goes straight to the heart (and comes straight from the heart) of an organisation.
sara's media: What is the BRAND?">So What is a BRAND?
A BRAND is something that you care about.
A BRAND is something that you matters.
A BRAND is something that you will stand for.

A Vision of Students Today

What do we know about the students as an audience? A video shared by Keith Wheeler gives the beginning of an answer.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The question is the message!

Anyone know why people put used tennis balls on the truck/car hitch? I just saw this question posted by the ReUseConnection. They propagate to reduce waste. Regularly they share ideas on reusing things in and around the house. Today they did so by adding this question to a post from a US blogger. With the photo the question becomes the message. It intrigues, it sticks, it is humorous - it must be easy to answer and yet you are not sure. That psychologically transmits the message of reusing things as the cool thing to do.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Girl Effect

Awareness raising is not the same as behaviour change. This two minute video has a powerful message that analyzes the issue of gender and poverty eradication. The objective is to have
the audience surf to the girleffect to learn more and join the movement. The message is: the Girl Effect is a solution to poverty. If we do our part, 600 million girls in the developing world will do the rest. This message would be even more powerful if it clearly explains what it means if we do our part - what is it I can do to help bring about positive change. Awareness itself does not lead to change. Action does.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Communicating Climate Change

In The psychology of Climate Change Communication the researchers of the Center of Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) formulate - in eight steps - guidance for effective communication:
1. Know your audience
2. Get your audience's attention
3. Translate scientific data into concrete experience
4. Beware of the overuse of emotional appeals
5. Address scientific and climate uncertainties
6. Tap into social identities and affiliations
7. Encourage group participation
8. Make behaviour change easier.
See also:
Sell the Sizzle;
Communicating Science;
Behaviour barriers to mitigate climate change;
Why isn't the brain green?
The problem with global warming is global warming.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Communicating forests

To communicate forests in a meaningful way one has to tailor the messages, their language and the media to each different audience. In general we need to appeal to positive emotions when addressing the general public and provide them with a clear action perspective. Only when addressing policy makers and the private sector we can use more rational arguments of costs and benefits. However we need to tell each audience always clearly what they can do tomorrow to contribute. This means careful target group research. Surch research always implies further segmentation of the audience. For a campaign towards whe general public we can need to look at different segments, e.g.:

A local villager looks at the forest and may think of fruits, nuts, fodder, meat; he can be more careful to use resources sustainably.
A traveler looks at a forest and may think of the shadow of the trees to rest under; he can contribute by being careful with fire.
A teenager looks at a forest and may think of the excitement of an adventure tour; they can contribute by not disturbing wildlife.
A married couple looks at a forest and may think of their first kiss there; they can contribute by joining a conservation group.
A young kid looks at a forest and may think what an amazing experience; he can contribute by learning more about nature.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Pleasing the client

A good project does not necessary please the client. Making a real impact on the ground in the sense that project beneficiaries really benefit directly from the project, is not enough to please a client. Neither is delivering value for money and satisfying all the elements of the ToR. Nor is it enough to please a client that the project becomes the talk of town in their community and beyond. To please a client - especially in international development projects - the consultant has to think beyond the client. And think how to satisfy and please the clients of his client. In the end funding for development cooperation comes from national tax payers, it might be channeled through international organizations and a national ministry.

To please the client it is important to realize their interest and that of their clients. The project management unit may like the project to contribute to the continuity of their office, or at least provide credits for their careers. The Ministry where the management unit is placed may like to see explicit added value or extra support to their policies and priorities. The international organization involved wants the project to deliver proof of the viability of its approaches and wants templates for reusability of the project results in other countries. Finally the donor country wants concrete proof of money well spent that satisfies their taxpayers. So pleasing a client means going far beyond the ToR, while staying within the budget. A matter of project planning!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Leadership equals transparent communication

Trust is essential in effective leadership. That is exactly what is missing, I notice in my interviews to advice on strengthening capacities of climate risk management. Respondents in and outside government have no trust in their leaders and CEOs. No wonder I pick up signals of lack of motivation, low productivity, absenteism, poor cooperation, increased staff turn over and talent loss.

Trust is essential in getting things done, but even more essential to prepare for climate risks. So how can a government reverse a lack of trust in senior management and the performance fallout that follows, especially when that lack of trust is complicated with the uncertainties brought about by climate change? The answers for me is in increased transparent internal and external communication.

Credibility is crucial for establishing trust. Leaders must demonstrate competence enabling staff to trust that they have sufficient skills to make sound and firm decisions. Credibility also requires consistency. People do not trust leaders who change their mind too often. With regard to my task a successful leader will have to establish a strategic risk management plan and then implement it consistently with only minor modifications.

To earn trust leaders must at the same time show they care for their people and treat them as their human capital. An open door policy helps. Actively listening and proactively responding to the needs and problems of their workforce does wonders. It also implies that leaders must trust their staff and understand everyone has a different learning style and curve and that no one is better than another. By demonstrating these qualities, leaders can inspire others. Strengthening capacities for climate risk management implies also investing leadership styles.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Branding is engaging

You hate Barcelona, you love the team, you are indifferent to football, you don’t care who wins as long as it is a good game. People look at the same person, product, organization or football team, but they do not see the same thing. Everyone views things from his or her own perspective. And there are a myriad of viewpoints and perceptions. Moreover the emotions things trigger in us, also change from person to person. They vary from attraction to disgust, from love to hate, from ignorance to apathy. To get your message across and brand your team or organization, you have to tap into these emotions in a way that audiences become engaged in a meaningful way. Communicators have to get closer to the audiences, listen and take in what they say and feel. Starting these conversations and being serious about it, is the way to spread the word about your brand.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Pew: Million-Dollar Reef Sharks

A shark has more value on the reef than in a soup. That is the message of the findings of an Australian research project. The implicit component of this message to governments and private sector is: it pays off to take measures to protect certain animals that are vital for an ecosystem. Protected areas is one of the measures one could take: indeed what would Serengetti be without the lions or Yellowstone without the bears"? The message is strong. However the video could have been more effective when tailored to a specific audience and adding a more specific action component: The why bother might be clear, but not what to do about it. And when addressing the general public - I found it on Youtube - it should have focussed more on the awe for this creature in his environment.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Power of Words

"It is a beautiful day, but I can't see it." A better message than: "I am blind, please help". A nice show of the advertizing skills and services of a British marketing agency.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Drapchi - The preview

A trailer is part of a branding strategy for a movie. It plays into the senses more than it provides information. Images and music generate associations that reinforce our beliefs, attitudes and values. As this is a new brand it's USP focuses on making a dream come true notwithstandig the utmost adverse circumstances. The inherent pay off of all trailers is: make sure you are the first to see this movie or in this case see for yourself how she managed to succeed.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Evaluation survey for a course

A qualitative survey mostly is the basis to formulate a quantitative survey. Interviews provide you with the right topics and language for the questions you want to ask. As I had no time and the group is not too large, I opted for a web-survey that combined multiple choice and open questions. Each multiple choice question leads to an open question. After testing the apporach with one colleague and one participant, I got feedback on questions that were not clear, missing questions (e.g on organization, changes in the schedule and the role and structure of the workbook) and suggestions for further learning. It also refreshed my memory to check with the expectations participants had expressed at the beginning of the course.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Practicing hearing

"Do you hear the silver coins rolling through the temple, as Judas throws the money at the High Priests?" My father asked me when he was practicing the violin solo in his study and I was playing at his feet. With Easter this childhood memory came back when I listened to Ton Koopman's interpretation of the St Mathew's Passion. The tempo is much faster than in most interpretations of the second half of last century. Today I hear the coins bouncing even more! I wonder how many people still practice being mindful of what they hear. I also hear the difference of the bows used....

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Communicating adaptation approaches

Effective communication is essential in overcoming barriers, particularly those encountered during processes of adaptation and change. When faced with the many uncertainties posed by climate change impacts, the capacity to access, use and disseminate relevant information becomes crucial for vulnerable communities in order to better cope with and adjust to new climatic conditions -and to their social, economic and political repercussions, writes Angelica Valeria Ospina on her blog. She refers to a paper by Moser and Ekstrom (2010). This paper contains a matrix that helped me understand the ratio for the different adaptation approaches, e.g. a capacity based approach suits better when the challenges and opportunities are here and now and we cannot wait for more substantial systemic changes. I adapted the matrix to include the various approaches.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

ABS elevator pitch

How to explain ABS in plain language? Almost no one really knows about ABS. I tried to picture the pitch of an effective ABS champion: what would (s)he say? “I am …… of the Ministry of Environment. I have been tasked to deal with Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources (ABS) in our country. This involves for example managing the demand and supply of plant-based ingredients for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. Our country is an important source of genetic resources for these industries. To share the benefits and regulate access our country needs to formulate a legal regime, based on biodiversity conservation, the ethics of commerce and science and the interests of local communities. Would you be interested to …… Who can I phone to make an appointment? For an appointment the champion could bring the Nagoya protocol and the ABS information kit.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Bangladesh - Interactive Flood Risk Map - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine

Bangladesh - Interactive Flood Risk Map - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine. Maps can convey strong messages. So do testimonials in photos and videos. Look at villagers in Bangladesh bring their 'movable' mosque to a higher location. Day to day life examples of adaptation to climate change from article in National Geographic with good photo and video testimonials.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Communicating a workshop

Before the workshop participants were invited by email. The email contained an electronic version of the workbook to enable them to come to the workshop with their first homework assignment already done. The workshop was advertized in the local media on the first day to satisfy the institutional stakeholders. On the last day participants received a diploma and they uploaded their work, photos and ideas onto a facebook page, where they aim to continue their exchange and work on a joint initiative: social learning finds us through social media!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

CEPA case study format

Think how users of the toolkit will look for case studies and for learning. In my experience they will search CEPA stories on conservation issues they are currently dealing with: e.g. coral reef CEPA stories, water CEPA stouries, tourism, etc. Formulate those categories and ask for stories about them. Ask for stories of say 500 words, that make clear: 1. the context (the place in nature where the conservation issue occurred and the underlying causes); 2. the players (who had to change in attitudes and behavior); 3. the interventions (what kind of messages and communication methods were used – next to other interventions); 4. the turning point (when change really started to take off – this is where peer learning occurs); 5. the impact (how in the end the realized positive change looked like for nature, for the people involved and for the organizations involved).

Monday, 28 March 2011

Stairs vs. Escalator - How CLEVER is this!!!!‏

Neuro marketing - where brain science and marketing meet. It seems we have no control over many of our decisions. We buy things on impuls: neurologists have found that seconds before we buy something, somewhere in our brain the decision is already taken. Timing of offers also influences our behavior. Fun can change it, as the video illustrates. Read more.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Effective interviews

The semi-structured interview to articulate stakeholder views has four parts. In the introduction we tell shortly why we are doing the interview. In the second part we - shortly - aim to get acquainted with the respondent. It provides him or her with an opportunity to position her/himself vis-a-vis our enquiry. It gives us the chance to express our respect for their work, responsibilities and experience. In the third part we collect information. Prepare in advance the (maximum ten) themes you want to ask (open) questions about. Open questions start with: ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘who’, how’. The answers received are followed by us encouraging them to tell more, e.g. by asking: “Can you give an example?”, “Can you explain?”, “What makes you say that?” etc. A theme can be closed by asking: “Do I understand you well that … (summary of answer)? Opninions can be cecked by: “Do I hear you say … (repeat your interpretation)?” We take notes of what they literally say. Afterwards we assemble the key words of their answers in an excell interview worksheet. This way we can compare with the answers of others. We end the interview with thanks, what will happen next, how they will be informed of the results and can comment on our draft report.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Communication basics in 3 steps

Improving your communication starts with learning how to position your organization. The first step was a two hour session with the leadership of the organization. We discussed in pairs and plenary the following questions: who are you? why do you exist? what is your dream? who has to change? What is the message? It gave them a new perspective on the role of communication. They then wrote a first positioning statement. In a second one hour session they recognized it was too long and too much jargon for a positioning statement. They felt they needed more information. We are now at step three: diving deeper into positioning and branding. They are answering the usual list of questions (see illustration), adapted to the NGO situation.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Bill - short film - Germanwatch

Humor can help to convey a message. This is German humor on who pays the climate change bill. Mit Essen spielt man nicht (You do not play with food) is an even shorter other German fun video on CC. The video was made to raise awareness for the CC COP in Copenhagen, in 2009, but its message is still valid.

Friday, 4 March 2011


Creating spaces for exchange of ideas is a basis for innovation. Connecting our hunches with those of other people and suddenly seeing that a new idea emerges. That is why just presentations during conferences don't really communicate, while working in groups does.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Measuring biodiversity awareness

Awareness is important for the broad acceptance and support in society for NBSAPs and other biodiversity conservation and sustainable development interventions. There is a difference between awareness (knowledge of specific biodiversity content areas), attitudes (values towards biodiversity) and behaviour (habits, practices and activities impacting on biodiversity). To measure it adequately, awareness has to be defined: awareness of the word biodiversity, of the scientific meaning of biodiversity, of the importance of species, of ecosystems, of ecosystem services, of ABS, of the current rate of extinction, of biodiversity’s life support role? All of these? Others? It is also important to define the audience (e.g. general public, youth, business, consumers, policy makers). Finally it is important to note that paradigms and perspectives on biodiversity are very different between countries. This may also differ between urbanised and rural countries/regions. The matrix provides a first indication of what is needed to track awareness of biodiversity values. In red are those observation sets that have a high priority, either due to the relative ease with which they can be measured or due to the close links to positive biodiversity outcomes. In yellow are observation sets that have a very low priority, because of difficulties to get the data and or the indirect links to positive biodiversity outcomes.

Some of the needed data exist in a number of countries, but they are not standardised or harmonised. Attitudes and awareness of ecosystem services and the relationship to biodiversity and human well-being are not known at all. In general baseline data is needed for all of this. There is no global baseline yet nor a global repository for the data. The EC has set up a regional baseline, which could be the basis for additional global work. For each observation set a body can be identified and made responsible. This target differs from many other targets in this document in its reliance on social data, so the body tasked with coordination needs to ensure it has the required capacities in this area. To make data globally relevant and comparable across cultural and language differences, careful thought will be needed with advice and input from a wide range of communication experts from CBD member states. The IUCN Commission on Education and Communication is an expert network that could be tapped into for advice.

The data are adequate in a relative sense and for some regions, e.g. trending EC questionnaires. The data are inadequate in an absolute sense, e.g. global attitude to biodiversity. Fine scale, detailed and well designed surveys of awareness of specific issues would be ideal . These have however their price tag and need time for preparation and coordination to be carried at the global scale.

So far our group work in the GEO BON workshop on indicators for the targets of the CBD strategic plan. It now will be peer reviewed.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Climate Photo of the Week

Photographer Garry Braasch documents since years climate change and nature. Currently he is in the pacific for World View of Global Warming. The stories his pictures tell have a human touch. They not merely document, they tell us about life and resilience on the atolls. He is also co-author of the book How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate . A non-scary, action-oriented, and inspiring look at how scientists do their work, what they are discovering about global warming, and how kids are already learning about this through Citizen Science.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Demand articulation CEPA Training

To prepare for a training workshop it is useful to know more about the audience. An electronic quick scan among participants may help. It can bring to light what the main knowledge areas are for the workshop should be. What skills to focus on. And what learning preferences participants have. I always use the last demand articulation quick scan I did and tailor it (cut and paste) to the new assignment. The feedback you get always helps to design the program and chose the tools and methodologies. As a quick scan also frames the tarining in the minds of the participants, it is important to keep in mind the criteria for success of a survey.

Monday, 7 February 2011

A digital view of the world

Communicating science can be done without long texts full of facts, figures and footnotes. My colleague Jack Byrne shared this example of Hans Rosling telling the complex story of increasing human health and well being in a very simple but compelling way. For more of his statistics turned into stories see TEDtalks.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Influencing politicians

Gasland is a consumer's campaign for a moratorium on new gaz drilling methods. My colleague Keith Wheeler just made me aware of this movie and campaign. Energy producing methods like fracking have a heavy polluting impact on water and air. Existing legislation in the US allows it. The campaign for a moratorium targets consumers. A website offers tools to inform politicians with arguments they care about: health and financial costs. A map shows drill sites and watersheds. Animation illustrates the impacts of fracking and invites you to click for elevator speech basic facts and figures. Postcard size stories show people telling their personal experiences in a few sound bites. Immediate action towards politicians is a button away. Screening the movie in your community is a means to create word of mouth. In short a perfect example of strategic communication.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

A message of awe and wonder

How to make a tiger roar? My colleague Ana Puyol shared this Traffic video on her facebook page. It is a good example of branding biodiversity by appealing to our awe and wonder for the tiger. It has a simple action perspective that supports awareness raising. Traffic and WWF CHina should put the video on YouTube to get to a global audience.

Monday, 31 January 2011

The Art of Dialogue

Conceptual change is an emotional as well as an intellectual process. During the Sharing Power Conference, the Te Hau Mihi Ata team of the university of Waikato gave an interesting presentation on the dialogue between indigenous Maori knowledge and modern science. They analyze the negotiated space needed for this process and I noted their the criteria for facilitation: language, environment, attitudes, relationships, negotiation, tolerance, let people contextualize the issue, influence through integrity, be solutiuon-oriented, have time to process, set rules for engagement, have concept translators. They also stressed that the framing of the issue is key.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Body language

“Sit as the horse driver of the mail coach. Don’t lean back in your chair. The way you sit communicates. The mail coach driver communicates you are interested, enthusiastic, you are on top of the issue. If you lean back in your chair, your body communicates the opposite. When one of you is doing the talking, nod from time to time, it shows the whole team is on board. Make eye contact with the client and make notes when he speaks. It 'tells' you listen and take good notice of his or hers ideas.” My colleague Gillian Martin Mehers and I are advising the team that has to present their approach of a project at the inception meeting. Gillian offers the team a link to a very recent learning resource on body language.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Biodiversity begins with a B

Communication works when it is simple and has a clear message what you can do. "Biodiversity begins with a B and ends with a Y or You!. To find out more about biodiversity and what you can do to help, go to!" So far so good: a message that sticks and is action-oriented. The tone of voice is good, memorable and reliable. There is appealing humour and a good story line. Maybe the Scottish Natural Heritage can in the next version focus less on threats and extinction, but more on awe and wonder, as explained by Futerra in Branding Biodiversity and demonstrated in the video Love not Loss.