IV. Support for natural resource professionals: analyze and integrate assessment results

Changing Public Behavior: Self-Study Modules

STEP 4. Collect audience information relevant to the environmental practices and specific behaviors.

E. What support do natural resource professionals need and what options are available?

To implement social assessment tools?

To analyze and integrate results into their work?


CPB Self-Study Module
STEP 4. Collect audience information relevant to the environmental practice and specific behaviors


E. What support do natural resource professionals need and what options are available?


To analyze and integrate results into their work?

Once social assessment tools have been effectively applied towards gaining certain kinds of information about a community then the next step involves the analysis and integration of this information into the overall design and goals of the outreach project. Natural resource professionals, as a heterogeneous group, exhibit varying degrees of competency in terms of analyzing and incorporating social science data into their outreach projects. In the case of professionals with little skills and experience in this area the assistance of outside experts may be required once again.

In Step 1, you formed or participated in an advisory group to clarify the environmental concern or opportunity for further attention. Your team can include a combination of content, community, and education experts who can pool skills to analyze results. Step 5, Step 6, and Step 7 provide details for how to analyze findings and apply results in selecting outreach and communication techniques.

Regardless of whether or not outside assistance is required, however, the overall effectiveness of social assessments should be considered in relation to issues of accuracy, utility, and propriety (Ervin, 2000).

Accuracy in social assessments requires a holistic description of the problem, context, local circumstances, and any relevant programs and services. Are the research findings valid to all involved stakeholders? Are the findings generalizable to other communities of interest?

Utility refers to the idea that findings and recommendations should be useful and relevant to the stakeholders. Are the research findings timely, constructive, and informative towards the issues as hand? Are the research findings both qualitative and quantitative in nature – different stakeholders may require different kinds of supporting data?

Propriety involves asking the question of whether or not the research procedures and findings have been ethical and fair towards all involved stakeholders. Has the study been designed in a way that protects the rights of participants to anonymity and confidentiality? Has the researcher obtained informed consent from the participants prior to their involvement?

In the end how do we really know if we’ve been effective?  The answer to this question relates back to our initial outreach goals and purpose for conducting social assessments of the community of interest in the first place. Have the questions that we initially posed about the community of interest been adequately answered? Does our analysis and interpretation of the research findings feed back into our original plan of outreach?

The general goals of outreach can be summarized as:

  1. Changing public behavior in relation to a particular environmental problem AND
  2. Building the capacity of communities of interest to identify and manage environmental situations, opportunities, and problems in the long-term.

The general purpose of conducting social assessments is to learn more about a particular community in order to identify the various sociocultural, political, economic, and/or historical causes of human behaviors that are identified as polluting in the first place. To what extent have we been effective in meeting these general goals in relation to our specific projects? Again, depending on the amount of resources and skills that the natural resource professional has at their disposal, outside experts may need to be brought in to answer these questions. There may also be a time factor involved in being able to adequately answer these questions. A certain amount of time may need to pass before the natural resource professional can effectively determine the extent to which public behaviors have changed and the capacity of the community been strengthened.

The question of effectiveness, furthermore, should be approached from a variety of perspectives – from that of

  1. Members of the community of interest,
  2. The natural resource professional and their colleagues, and
  3. Local and/or outside organizations dealing with particular social and/or environmental problems.


Ervin, Alexander. (2000) Applied Anthropology: Tools and Perspectives for Contemporary Practice. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.