Marketing Social Change

In Focus, November 2004

Zhang Zhe is a 27-year-old environmental engineer by training. She is accomplished and intelligent. But she has an alter ego—a large golden pheasant (a friend in a big bird costume, actually) that accompanies her as she spreads her conservation messages to hundreds of school children in China’s Sichuan Province every month.

And she’s not the only one.

With funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Zhang Zhe is one of 13 individuals being trained in social marketing and the art of convincing local communities and governments that conservation is key.

The project brings promising individuals and local groups together with the support of Rare and Conservation International’s global communications team to build a global constituency for biodiversity conservation through Rare’s replicable Pride program.

It’s an entertaining, creative approach to the complex issue of biodiversity conservation, while building and bettering lives of local people.

“In the village that I am working in, most families have small home-based businesses, and tourism-related businesses,” explained Zhang Zhe about one of the villages around Baishuihe National Nature Reserve where she is working in the Mountains of Southwest China biodiversity hotspot.

“It’s mostly families, and though they’re not lacking food or sanitation, they are still very concerned about generating incomes for the family. So we are trying to find a way, working with government and nongovernmental organizations, to combine economic development and conservation in this area.”

Zhang Zhe’s work is part of a project implemented by the Jane Goodall Institute Roots and Shoots China office, which is one of the organizations participating in the program.

With a marketing zeal not too unlike that which a marketeer for Coke or Pepsi would approach their audiences, the new Pride campaign leaders are generating huge interest and participation in their efforts to promote conservation of important ecosystems and the globally threatened species they shelter.

Enabling Expansion

A CEPF grant awarded last year is supporting an expansion of the Pride program with the 13 new campaigns in the Atlantic Forest, Cape Floristic Region, Chocó-Darién-Western Ecuador, Guinean Forests of West Africa, Mesoamerica, Mountains of Southwest China, the Philippines, Succulent Karoo and Sundaland hotspots.

In addition to the CEPF-supported campaigns and others already underway, Rare has also launched 12 new campaigns in additional areas with support from others such as the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and The Nature Conservancy.

Each campaign aims to save a Critically Endangered species, solidify or create new protected areas, or conserve healthy biodiversity conservation corridors.

Rare’s experience in conservation education stems from its work in the 1980s developing a very structured social marketing tool, known then as the Promoting Protection Through Pride program. The recipe is simple and effective: turn a charismatic flagship species into a symbol of local pride, as a lever for improving public understanding of biodiversity’s value and the need to take action to preserve it.

Both grassroots and mass-marketing techniques are used to create broad-based support—on a local or national level—for ecosystem protection.

Promising individuals are chosen to become campaign leaders, linked with a local organization and supported throughout the process, which officially begins with a 10-week training course at the University of Kent at Canterbury in the United Kingdom or the University of Guadalajara in Mexico. (See related story: Students Get Off to Strong Start for Conservation Education.)

For each campaign, the objectives, flagship species, and target audience are selected to address a specific, realistic, and measurable threat identified together with stakeholders. Threats targeted by the CEPF-supported campaigns range from illegal logging and mining to unsustainable wildlife trade to an advancing agricultural frontier.

In the Field

For people like 31-year-old South African Jakob Hanekom, the project is crucial. Using the Clanwilliam cedar tree as his flagship species, and promoting the campaign slogan of “Be a Friend to the Cederberg!” he aims to conserve the plants and animals of the Cederberg Wilderness Area where the Cape Floristic Region and Succulent Karoo hotspots converge in South Africa.

As part of his campaign, this married father of two is doing a weekly 10-minute live radio spot talking about conservation challenges, and spreading key campaign messages. He has also prepared a package of materials to use during his visits to local schools, including rulers with messages that serve as “prompts” to remind children (and their families) even months later about the conservation messages they heard in school.

“It’s really rewarding to work in my home town and bring information about nature and ecosystems to the people here,” Hanekom said. “For many it’s the first time ever they’ve been exposed to this type of program.”

Hanekom, who is linked with Cape Nature, has also designed and printed an education booklet and fact sheet to spread information on conservation and development issues important to the wilderness area; recorded and sung a school song to more than 4,700 children; and developed a bilingual puppet show to use during his school visits.

Through the project’s online club, campaign managers can also share information with their fellow managers in other hotspots, who are using similar social marketing techniques but specially adapted to the local situation.

In the Chocó-Darián-Western Ecuador Hotspot, Luis Arroyo Carvache is leading a campaign to preserve critical forests of San Lorenzo del Pailon in northwestern Ecuador. The campaign aims to help stop conversion of the forests and mangroves to agricultural land, particularly palm oil plantations, in the Chocá-Manabi conservation corridor.

Among his activities, Carvache has produced a costume of the red-lored parrot (Amazona autumnalis)—his campaign’s flagship species—and a variety of materials for his work in 22 schools. He is also hosting a local radio show, producing a variety of radio spots to help people understand the benefits they receive from the forests.

Replicating Success the Pride Way

For the Pride program, success breeding success is part of the strategy.

For example, the campaign leaders conduct pre- and post-campaign surveys of 1-3 percent of their target population to learn about relevant knowledge, attitudes, and practices. The survey data is used to develop objectives, design messages, and ultimately to measure the change achieved during the campaign.

Rare has also developed a “Learning Framework for Pride,” a set of 66 different data points that it is collecting throughout all the current campaigns. At the end, it will use this data to develop a predictive model of success for a campaign to determine, with statistically valid data, “what characteristics are most important for success,” said Megan Hill, senior director for Pride at Rare’s U.S. headquarters.

“All of that said, one of the most important points I use to define success is seeing Pride campaigns implemented long after Rare’s direct involvement is over,” Hill said. “It is a replicable model, and our ultimate goal is to train people to keep running outreach campaigns long into the future."

It’s this forward thinking that often proves pivotal to conservation success, and the new campaign leaders are already demonstrating their capacity as catalysts.

In the Philippines, the Katala Foundation’s campaign led by Indira Lacerna-Widmann recently convinced the Municipality of Puerto Princesa to protect 60 hectares of crucial feeding, nesting and roosting ground for the Critically Endangered Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia).

The Philippine cockatoo, the flagship species for Lacerna-Widmann’s campaign, was once considered common but now numbers no more than 4,000. The new protected area on the island of Dumaran off the coast of Palawan is also important for local communities.

“The protected area will protect and ensure the water supply not only for this community but also for other barangays (villages) dependent on this sub-watershed,” Lacerna-Widdman said.

Planning for the Future

Forward thinking is also pivotal in fast-developing economies like China.

In addition to her school and farm work, Zhang Zhe is completing a documentary about Baishuihe National Nature Reserve.

After a pre-campaign survey she conducted showed that 70 percent of her target audience gets its information from TV, she set out to produce this film to reach people living near the Reserve, as well as tourists. She hopes to have it broadcast on local and national TV stations, and to produce DVDs for use in schools.

“With the economic development and improving environmental awareness, China’s environmental protection work will be so different 10 years later from today,” Zhang Zhe said. “This film may well be used as study material by that time.”

Indeed time is of the essence and Rare appears to be ready to launch more programs keeping in step with the growing global economy.

“Pride is really ramping up,” said Brett Jenks, Rare’s president and CEO. “In the first 15 years of the Pride program, Rare supported 30 campaigns worldwide. In 2004 alone, we have 29 operating campaigns, and 2005 will see a total of 49. So CEPF’s return on investment will be greater than the sum of each campaign.”