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


Monday, 31 December 2012

Universal principles

Listening on New Years Eve to the Bach’s Suites forvioloncello solo, it occurred to me that all music is based on a hiearchy of a few universal principles: sound – beat – emotion – rythm – melody – scales – harmony – contra-point.

As music is a communication vehicle, the hiearchy of universal communication princlipes might be:

Audience - Issue - Relevance (emotions, benefits, attention, interest, desires) - Objectives (knowledge, attitudes, action) - Message - Channels (media - e.g. music) - Timing - Feedback.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Rebranding a conservation initiative

A good example of the power of branding. Left the old  look , right the new one. The changes in the name, the tagline (changing the game for nature), the wording of mission and activities, the visual language - all point at a new action and people oriented approach. The new positioning points out core beliefs: nature is worth throwing a party for; people are the solution, they know the real deal; we are not afraid of change, we will do what it takes to change the game for nature. The site visitor, who sympathizes with this work can immediately contribute by making a (in the UK tax deductable) donation. Check out both sites and the power of communication. Good work of Futerra.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

How to introduce adaptation?

A nice video by Arturo Curiel and Guadalupe Garibay Chavez to introduce the issue of climate change adaptation in capacity development workshops for municipal policymakers in the state of Jalisco.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Communication tools for planning

Joint planning in a project team is easier with the use of simple visuals. Here the tools to kick of a discussion on how to plan the work for a Natura 2000 Prioritized Action Framework. Similar visuals have been developed to define milestones and the main phases of the project.

Strategic communication

Make it Possible

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Climate change awareness

This report is based on findings from a nationally representative survey – Climate Change in the American Mind – conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Some findings:
Nearly all Americans (92%) say the president and the Congress should make developing sources of clean energy a “very high” (31%), “high” (38%), or “medium” priority (23%). Very few say it should be a low priority (8%).
A large majority (77%) say global warming should be a “very high” (18%), “high” (25%), or “medium” priority (34%) for the president and Congress. One in four (23%) say it should be a low priority.
Six in ten Americans (61%) say the U.S. should reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions regardless of what other countries do.

Consumer change

The Regeneration Consumer Study is an initiative of the Regeneration Roadmap. The online survey looks at consumer attitudes, motivations and behaviors around sustainable consumption among 6,224 respondents in six major international markets (Brazil, China, Germany, India, United Kingdom and United States). Fielded in September and October 2012, the study represents a holistic exploration of sustainability market trends, priorities and engagement pathways, including information on sustainable consumption, trust, transparency, social issues, behavior change, consumer collaboration, participation and advocacy actions.

One of the conclusions of the study is that the consumer segment 'Aspirationals' offer the key to sustainable consumption. They seek both sustainability and consumption. They are looking for brands to provide solutions that both improve their lives and serve the larger society. And, because they are trendsetters in emerging markets like China and India, we believe business has the opportunity to shape a new consumerism by meeting their aspirations and desires with more sustainable products and lifestyle choices.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Nature priority areas

Words matter, not only because of their dictionary meaning, but also because of their association. The word 'protected' is a major communication issue because of its negative associations: restriction, limits on my personal freedom, prohibition of activities that we always traditionally undertook here etc. A global campaign to raise support for parks and protected areas may therefore not be taken serious by the intended audiences. The word conservation areas is already better, although associated maybe too much with 'conservative' and 'exclusiveness' and not vey useful in many developing countries. 

I would go for positioning protected areas and parks as “nature priority areas” or something like that. Or look for other ways to convey the message that commercial use, industrial zoning and urbanization needs to take place in  some places, but nature must have some degree of priority in other places. The extent of that priority can vary e.g. as described in the WCPA categories

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Communication stories

Communication is a powerful agent of behavior change. Successful local initiatives use networking, knowledge exchange, technology and media to change attitudes, communicate incentives, catalyze collective action, and replicate best practices. This is lesson 7 of twelve lessons learned in The Power of Local Action, Lessons of Ten Years of the Equator Prize. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Communication planning templates

There are different communication planning templates. What counts is not the plan but the planning. The templates are only a means to discipline our strategic thinking and avoid assumptions. We have to understand that planning is a circular process. After some stepts we may come to the conclusion that we are stuck and have to go back and redefine previous steps. Just filling in the boxes as we were made to do in an academic workshop may help our analytical thinking, but it does not result in a strategic plan. This became clear when we reached messages. We were instructed to think of making a power point presentation for a lecture. This had nothing to do anymore with the earlier formulated objectives (knowledge attitudes, behaviour) or issue e.g. change behaviour of fishermen. Too easily formulating the issue (like not defining the behaviour of fishermen and its context) is often the reason why one gets stuck in the planning cycle: make the problem small and concrete is the solution.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Audience First

In communication always look first at the audience. When judging a communication intervention look first at the target group for which it is meant. I realized this again when attending a workshop ´How to make a communication plan?´ After a short introduction we looked at the video ´Love not Loss´ and were asked to discuss what was good about the video and what could be improved. What the audience was?  Youtube the best medium? Message? Right images? Tone of voice and music? Language? Technical terms? Was it evidence-based and is it important? A lively discussion followed. All assumed the video was made for the general public and policymakers. Nobody including the workshop organizers had checked this assumption.  

When the general conclusion was drawn that the video was too fuzzy and negative to have any impact, I could not keep silent. I explained that the video was made for the CBD COP  in Nagoya to stress to the conservation community the importance of communicating biodiversity to a wider public not in a negative but in a positive way, appealing to the emotion of love for nature that is inherent in all human beings. Every one agreed that for that audience the video was perfect. And I realized that putting it on the web without any explanation about the context, for whom it was meant etc. may easily lead to such misunderstanding. Again: "Audience First"!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Body language as message

This picture from the Guardian says it all: commun ication is not only about what you say, but formost how you say it. Tone of voice and body language send their own message. Hand gestures are either supporting your message or can be counterproductive. The New York Times analysed Romney's and Obama's hand gestures during their debate a few days ago. You can click on one of the three hand gestures and see the effect.

Analyzing the debate results in 10 hints for effective communication:
  • Be prepared
  • Show confidence
  • Watch your facial expression
  • Control your body language
  • Use effective hand gestures
  • Be assertive where needed
  • Be concrete, not abstract
  • Use simple language
  • Frappez toujours
  • Be positive.

A new way to talk about biodiversity

If our current way of talking about biodiversity was effective, we wouldn’t be losing so much of it, says Melissa Harding of Phipps Science Education. Read her review of the CEC video and campaign how to tell a love story.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Communication objectives: action

One of the communication objectives of an award initiative is: to recruit a group of communications students. Reading the project proposal, a colleague suggested that recruiting is more a project objective and not a communication objective and offered the following alternatives:
      Raise awareness among students of how nature can provide solutions for society challenges regarding energy needs and savings
·         Inform young people and the larger public as a whole on how nature can provide solutions for society challenges regarding energy needs and savings

However communication objectives are always about changes in knowledge, attitudes and or practices (behaviour). And they have to be SMART. Raising awareness is a management objective – a communication objective would be more precise in stating the change from current to desired knowledge about nature and energy. Same for information. Recruiting a group of students is a communication objective aimed at action: sign up! 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Communicate better with love not loss

Struggling to talk about biodiversity?
Tried everything to attract attention?
Not sure how to approach your audience?
Struggling to get your voice heard?

Can't make an impact with your message?
Having trouble talking about extinction?
Find talking about conservation tricky?
Struggling to get the right message heard?

Find the answers in How to tell a love story.

Want to spread the Love Not Loss message? Use the campaign package.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

E-learning & demand articulation

Need for new knowledge is often the result of a gap analysis between current and desired knowledge. Once we – as experts - see a need for new knowledge among a professional group, this does not mean that the users in this group automatically feel that they need to update their knowledge. They may think that their current knowledge and practices are perfectly adequate. Demand articulation is the process in which we try to clear up the characteristics of new knowledge and knowledge products that are important from the user perspective. The result of demand articulation is a definition of the appropriate content, the packaging into the right tools, accompanied by the right incentives. It prevents that publications stay on the shelf, that nobody shows up for a training or logs into an e-learning course. The way to articulate demand is by listening to users (through focus groups, surveys etc.) or to work with users and develop with them the new knowledge products.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

PARTICIPANTS GO WILD on conserving Soaring Migratory Birds

One of the products of our workshop in Amman, realised in a few hours by Gabriel Mikhail from Egypt and Walaa Awwad from Palestine.
Storyboard for the video clip. Participants in the workshop were CEOs and communication officers of Birdlife partners from twelve countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Communication as a tool for more effective mainstreaming

Planning communication aspects of a mainstreaming exercise can help to make the interventions more effective. After planning of what we want to change and how - we plan the communication. In the first exercise we should limit ourselves to the essence otherwise - because of too many trees we do not see the forest - and we cannot be strategic. The two planning templates show the first fuzzy attempt and the next stepo towareds clarity. The next step below shows what the results are for communication planning.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Change starts with experience and belief

Mainstreaming interventions at the action and result level are difficult when they are not supported on the level of experience and belief. L’Orient le Jour reports in an article today about conservation organizations in Lebanon trying to find support for the implementation of a hunting law that regulates hunting and aims to address illegal hunting and the massacring of domestic and migrating birds. In the press the conservation efforts are pictured as an anti-hunting front. Hunting is very popular for men in Lebanon, who already as youngsters get their first hunting rifle. Without offering the experience of nature in a different way, and without changing the belief that hunting proves your masculinity, it will be difficult to find enough police to make an impact on the bird populations.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A cup of coffee: mapping impacts

Things caused by a cup of coffee. That was the header. My attention this morning was attracted by the map. The article looked at conservation from an interesting perspective: some species are directly threatened by coffee growing. Global consumption and trade of a variety of products has an impact on biodiversity. And the gap between North and South becomes clear on the interactive map developed by the university of Sydney. For me an illustration of the power of maps and timelines as tools for communication and (adult) learning. Just surfing over the map shows how a consumption in a country threatens species elsewhere and what species are threatened in this country by international trade.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Beliefs stronger than comprehension

Public apathy over climate change is often attributed to a deficit in comprehension. The public knows too little science, it is claimed, to understand the evidence or avoid being misled. A recent study showes that beliefs are stronger than comprehension of scientific knowledge. Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest. This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest. At the one hand there is the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties. At the other hand there is the collective interest they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare. The conflict between the personal (often short term) interest and the collective (often long term) interest, is in many cases won by the the former. That is the reason that more information does not work. Information is an intervention at the action level. For positive change we first and foremost will need interventions at the level of experience and beliefs.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Mainstreaming = change

Mainstreaming is helping others to change and managing that change process. It is not focusing on wrong behavior and telling others what to do and what not to do. It is important to explore first current experiences and beliefs of the audience about the issue of mainstreaming. Audience research for a communication strategy should clarify in what stage of change the audience is. That will determine the communication objectives, messages and means to help them move to a next stage.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Instruments to change behaviour

A different way to present the stick, carrot and drums. The picture also illustrates that in the end it is about the instrument mix. Without communication a law will not work, as nobody would know about it. The same for the carrot. Only in some cases communication can work as a stand alone instrument, e.g. in the case of (1) an existing positive attitude or sufficient internal motivation of the audience, or (2) when adequate facilitating infrastructure is present or (3) when there is adequate social group pressure for the new behaviour. In most cases we need the right instrument mix.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Strategic communication

Communication is not strategic when it is end of pipe; when it starts with thinking about channels and media, and when it cannot answer questions what will it change and how do we measure success?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Commerce reduction or demand reduction

As long as there is demand and scarcity, illegal trade will continue...! This TV spot aims to help reducing the consumption of wild meat in the Ecudorian Amazon region. It is part of the IUCN/TRAFFIC project to explore - in a participatory way - the causes, contexts and alternatives for current illegal practices of hunting, trading and selling of wild meat. There are more radio and TV spots. Special videos for bus passengers on their way to the region. Certificates for restaurants that do not sell wild meat. There is a lot of investment in the supply side: capacity development of women and youth in indigenous communities, alternative livelihoods for families of hunters etc. As to the demand side it looks a bit meagre: I doubt whether the information of the videos will resonate with the consumers in the Amazon cities. It may with tourists. Behavior change of tourists might be a start for awareness raising in the cities. But more is needed to change behavior of the majority of the Amazon city (mestizo) folks. What are the motives for their preference for wild meat? What would be strategies for behavior change? The current appeal to their care for the environment may not work. What would be more 'cool' to eat? And how could we promote that? What could be the role of youth in spreading ideas and 'policing' parents and families? All major challenges for next steps in the project! Because as long as there is demand and scarcity, illegal trade will continue!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Biodiversity stamps

Postage stamps are a good way for mainstreaming biodiversity. At least this is the opinion of Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services . In cooperation with the Finnish Postal Services they just brought out a new stamp in their series of national parks. I wonder what the impact is in the age of internet. On the web it is easy to find a few more examples from other countries. The use of logo of the IYB makes at least some sense to me.

Monday, 7 May 2012

More time, less words, more clarity

It always takes time to be concise. "Help me with a few bullets to remember our conversation yesterday about education and why learning is a better word today to ask attention for this aspect of conservation and sustainable development?" I first used about 350 words in a mail to answer this question. Later in the day I took the time to summarize it in these few bullets. It helped me too to get more clarity.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Audience first - Means later

What communicates climate change science best? WRI is researching which method works better: web cam talk, conversation or whiteboard talk. You can watch three scientists present the findings of their studies, using each time a different method, and then vote. The answers however may depend very much on the intended audience: other colleague climate scientists (web cam?); students and academics (whiteboard talk?); politicians or general public maybe none of these, as there is no clear message and action perspective. This all illustrates the need in communication to define the audience first, then the behaviour change we are after (inlcudng the obstacles to get there), then the message and only at that point in time the communication means!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Timeline as tool

Timelines work even better than maps, especially when they work with animation. I realized this not only through the popularity of the new face book look but also when a friend of mine made me aware of maps of war. One application on this site shows 5,000 years history of religions in 90 seconds. Others clarify details of major wars or geopolitical tensions. I wonder what this might do for biodiversity.

Monday, 30 April 2012

How to talk to a climate change denier

Stategically communicating with people who have dissenting views on climate change is based on:
  • identifying common ground 
  • respect 
  • hold your own views - explain what you think 
  • talk about your personal journey to gain these views 
  • worldview 
  • offer rewards gained from a change in practice.

Adapting to climate change: people and ecosystems

Using nature to help people adapt to the changing climate. A video produced by IUCN Meso America. Good use of visuals to explain abstract concepts such as ecosystem based adaptation! But how strategic is this video? The intended audience is government decision makers. The pay off is a call to invest in legislation and treaties. Of course also needed, but much more needed are a number of specific behaviour changes in urban planning, agriculture, water management etc. They now seem to get the subconscious message "lets wait for new law and international conventions"! Maybe IUCN should make different pay offs for different audiences, just a small intervention at the end of the video. Or stop the video before the pay off and ask audiences to come up with what changes they think they should make in their sector. There are new resources to help us to be more strategic in climate change communication. And if you have twenty minutes, watch this video by George Marshall.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Wealth and government intervention

Wealthier nations are less likely to favour government intervention. This is one of the conclusions of the study Acceptable behaviour by the Ipsos Mori Social Research Institute. The study looks into the acceptability of government interventions (information, incentives, restrictions, bans, legislation against companies, or not getting involved at all) on issues such as smoking, food, environment and pensions. The research was carried out in 24 states across the globe. In all cases there is a rather high degree of support for behaviour change policies. Support decreases when the force of the intervention increases. Almost half of the respondents have a negative attitude towards the "Nanny State". The study is also of interest when looking into support for the environmental conventions.

How wealth reduces compassion

Wealth and abundance give us a sense of freedom and independence from others. The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings. This leads us towards being more self-focused. Upper-class people also may be more likely to endorse the idea that “greed is good.” These are some of the conclusions of studies by Berkeley psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner. They looked at whether social class (as measured by wealth, occupational prestige, and education) influences how much we care about the feelings of others. In Scientific American of 10 April 2012 Daisy Grewal describes their experiments and findings. I wonder whether affluence also influences one's attitude to biodiversity and the community of life?
The new biodiversity barometer is out! The report is rather optimistic as they conclude that 63% of the respondents are aware of biodiversity and 96% have heard of sustainable development. The report also indicates that there is high awareness but low understanding, as many people do not really know what biodiversity implies. Personally my feel is that as consumers of beauty products respondents may also have a greater affinity with concepts such as 'bio' and that might be the cause of the high awareness rates.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Unilever Sustainable Living Plan

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan communicates well. Reading diagonally you get a good impression of ambitions and results. Through clicking you get to see details and background information. A good example of reporting and social responsible corporate communication.

Ecological handprint

The Ecological Handprint reframes the notion of sustainability. It expands on the Footprint by bringing together the interrelated goals of sustaining the biological integrity of the planet and insuring sustenance for those in need. This new concept adds value as the Footprint is a limited communications and accounting tool because it is not designed to include the related conditions of human development — issues such as poverty, literacy, access to education, and other aspects of human rights and social justice. Sonoma University is bringing out a book - in an on line process - to further clarify the concept.

Sustainability Pathways

On the new sustainability website of FAO I came across this photo: for me it symbolizes resilience as a core value of sustainability. The website also features a new definition. New for me at least: Sustainability means ensuring human rights and well-being without depleting or diminishing the capacity of the earth's ecosystems to support life, or at the expense of others well-being. It is a multi-dimensional concept encompassing environmental integrity, social well-being, economic resilience and good governance: each of these sustainability dimensions involves several issues and all dimensions need to be considered. Sustainability is an ambitious objective that can be reached through different pathways.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Unilever's 5 Levers for Change

Consumer behaviour change is one of todays topics in the Sustainable Living Lab. Next to the video there is a publication you can downlad.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Protected area communication

Communication can be a waste of money. I saw this poster of African Parks on Schiphol airport. The pictures of species attract attention, thats good. The text is in Dutch and asks for support, but the telephone number is in South Africa - no country code. And the web address is difficult to remember when you go down the escalator. In other words: what is the point?

Thursday, 29 March 2012

War on science

Research on climate change or on endangered species or on the safety of certain energy strategies is seen as bolstering an argument for regulation – so science is associated with imposing rules on businesses. This is one of the conclusions of a study by Gordon Gauchat: just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974, according to his paper being published today in American Sociological Review. This is not a good sign for those of us who like evidence-based decision making. And it is a an extra challenge for communicators.

Monday, 26 March 2012

To be able to communicate strategically behaviour of target groups should be described in very concrete and simple actions they take or can take. It is not helpful to describe the impact of current or desired behaviour, e.g. economic development in important breeding grounds. Current behaviour of decision makers has to be described in terms of agenda and priority setting, public statements, formulation of tasks for civil servants etc. The communication objectives are focused on those changes. Communication objectives are not the same as management objectives.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The universe in a single atom

A compelling narrative about how we all are part of nature and nature is part of us. On his blog Applicable Knowledge on One Slide, Digital Marketing Explorer George Strakhov shares insights he gained in his work. I had missed the one on attitude to nature. The quote from physicist Richard Feynman comes from Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character). It is a good addition to other posts on branding biodiversity. It even could be the basis for a powerful short movie to be used to implement worldwide target 1 of the CBD strategic plan.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Communication strategy

One of the goals of the public awareness campaign Mother Sundarbans is to reduce the number of killings of stray tigers. The strategy has segmented the audiences. Young villagers are an important target audience. Based on my limited knowledge of the situation, I make the following assumptions about current and desired behavior behaviour and attitudes and dream up the first elements of a subcampaign directed towards young men: "Become a fan, friend or member of a local tiger team." Now the challenge is to be also more concrete about the other campaign goals (deer meat poaching and consumption) and other audiences audiences (women, youth, etc.).

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Dreaming biodiversity

Duke John and duchess Jacoba during a fishing party closeby their castle in The Hague. From my perspective it looks like Jan van Eyck tries to raise our awareness of biodiversity. "We all are part of nature: the air we breath, the water we drink, the fish and fruits we eat. Our diet depends mainly on the plants and animals around us. Same for our buildings and clothes. Trade provides variety, but trade is helped by horses, wind and sea. And against the dangers of the sea, we have the forested dunes around us." Had van Eyck known the concepts of bacteria, chemicals, cells and atoms, he would have alluded to this level in which our body is connected to the wider natural system of the world. I dream that the message of this drawing is: “You may take biodiversity for granted, and it is so obviously all around you, that it is easy to forget it’s there - that you are a part of it and can’t live apart from it.“