Increase Citizen Involvement Using Target Audience Information
Applying education tools and techniques found on the Water Outreach Education web pages can help natural resource professionals and agencies realize their water management goals. Resources created for the Changing Public Behavior National Facilitation Project focus on the application of social science tools to enhance the education process.
The Project assists water scientists, natural resource professionals, and educators develop and use audience information to improve citizen understanding and involvement in community decision-making for water resources.
Through training, peer support, and practice, water resource professionals can learn:
- What questions to ask.
- What tools to use to gather social science information.
- How to use the tools and how to analyze results.
- How to use results to select outreach techniques that satisfy audience needs.
The Changing Public Behavior – Increase Citizen Involvement Using Target Audience Information project is designed to help water resource professionals apply education and social science research in new and creative ways to encourage the public to adopt environmentally-friendly habits. Project workshops trained water educators to focus on local interests and conditions when encouraging people to take environmentally appropriate actions in their home, business, organization, or community. The project also provides resources to help water professionals understand the needs and habits of specific or target audiences (farmers, homeowners, landowners, etc.) so they can more effectively provide water management techniques and assist in the local environmental decision process.
Community involvement is the key to successfully implementing state and federal agency plans for clean and safe water across the nation. But implementing outreach techniques that lead to measurable impacts is not a simple or straight-forward process.
Extension and other government and non-government water professionals want to improve their understanding of target audiences and want to be able to use social science tools. But relatively few water resource professionals have backgrounds that enable them to use social science tools successfully.
Project assessment tools and training help educators to analyze the social components of a particular environmental situation, and to choose which indicators to use to measure change. Information resulting from the assessments improves educator abilities to select one or more “interventions” that are most likely to lead to desired short and/or long-term outcomes.
To implement the Changing Public Behavior Project, and the related Water Outreach Education Project – the University of Wisconsin partnered with seven Land-Grant Universities, three federal agencies, and seven national and regional non-government organizations and national facilitation projects.
Resources developed for the project include:
BEP Decision Tree – helps natural resource professionals to select outreach strategies most likely to lead to desired impacts, and to find related practices, tools, and information that will help them meet the need they identified.
Changing Public Behavior Basics – introductory materials on topics such as: What type of action can citizens take?; What types of behavior can make a difference?; What is a social assessment tool?; Why should I use social assessment tools: purpose, use, selection, application; What are the ranges and variations of potential techniques?; How do we know what is successful or promising for social assessment strategies?; Educator Assessment Rubric.
Changing Public Behavior Courses – The Self-Study Module offers 7 units and a variety of planning and tracking guides for learning about and accessing social science tools. The eXtension Online Course provides an interactive format for learning about and applying new skills.
Changing Public Behavior Web information pages – research and technique summaries on topics such as Behavior Change Theories and Techniques; Community-Based Research and Outreach – Ethics Considerations; and Participatory Action Learning.
Online Searchable Database of educational findings – a tool for identifying research-based findings about specific audiences of interest to water scientists and managers highlights findings from 250 research studies published 1988 – 2007.
Project impacts were measured by pilot workshop evaluations, requests from professional audiences for training, and groups that built the principles of our work into published resources for their members and others.
Training requests included 7 national nongovernment organizations; Extension programs in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Washington; the USDA Great Lakes Regional Water Program; the national USDA water conferences, multiple years; and the National EPA Conferences for Nonpoint Source and Stormwater Outreach, multiple years.
Workshop evaluations from 5 Changing Public Behavior workshops, where participants were educators who worked with about 20 different target audiences, indicated that participants:
- increased their confidence and abilities in using planning steps
- increased confidence in applying educator skills
- increased their awareness of sources of information about educator skills
- increased confidence in applying social assessment skills
- increased their awareness of sources of information about social assessment skills.
Project recommendations are reflected in: the US EPA 2009 and 2010 revisions of its publications: Getting In Step: A Guide for Conducting Watershed Outreach Campaigns and Getting in Step: Engaging and Involving Stakeholders in Your Watershed (E. Andrews, invited reviewer); Frontiers in Ecology, journal of The Ecological Society of America, 2010 issue on science communication; Free-Choice Environmental Learning and the Environment (2009, Alta Mira Press, Chapter 11); and a commissioned paper for the National Research Council Workshop, Climate Change Education: Goals, Audiences, and Strategies. (Andrews, 2011. http://sites.nationalacademies.org/
The Changing Public Behavior Project and resources are based upon work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2006-51130-03749.