VII. A Continuum of Choices

Step 7. Select intervention technique(s)

A continuum of choices

Deciding whether to focus on a short-term, specific-behavior change or something more permanent requires that you integrate an understanding about how people learn and change into your thinking about what you want to do. There is no one right answer, but a continuum of choices (Figure 2). Outreach or education techniques can be grouped according to where they fit in a continuum of how people learn and change. [Background: Potential environmentally significant behaviors; Background: Best Education Practices]

The continuum diagrams a contrast between a content emphasis and a process emphasis. Learning theory suggests that a process emphasis is more effective than a content emphasis in the long term, but sometimes content is what’s missing.

Another way to look at the continuum is to decide who will be in charge. Will the outreach intervention or its sub-activities be controlled by a leader or managed by participants? Either is appropriate depending on what you need to do, but a learner-centered/ participant-managed approach is more likely to lead to a sustainable change.

To build motivation and skills among your audience, you can also select an intervention technique by considering how it contributes to stages of empowerment. Does it matter if your audience participates in a process and if so at what level – consultative, collaborative, or full responsibility? The more engaged your audience is, the more likely the activity will lead to a sustainable result. Each level of empowerment can address one or more purposes as suggested by the subtopics in the continuum in Figure 2.

Keep in mind that the significance of each category is somewhat flexible. The choice of content could be determined by a participant-managed group, for example. Or the leader in a leader-centered approach could be one of the participants. Before selecting one or more techniques, clarify your outreach goal in terms of its potential impact on your target audience and related individuals. Then use the continuum to check your selection of one or more outreach techniques to consider how they will help achieve your proposed short and long term goals.

The continuum should be used only to help inform the selection of an outreach technique. Information about the audience combined with expert and participant advice serve as the primary foundation for outreach planning.

Figure 2. From informing to transforming: An outreach continuum


Leader-centered/Researcher managed

Learner-centered/Participant managed

  • leader/researcher active
  • leader/researcher facilitates
  • learner/participant passive
  • learner/participant active

Content emphasis

Process emphasis



Consultative role

Collaborative role

Citizen power





  • Manages initiative
  • Builds understanding
  • Delegate power
  • Manage initiative
  • Conveys information
  • Consults
  • Support a partnership
  • Engage in problem-solving
  • Communicates
  • Facilitate skill practice and application by participants



Agents of diffusion (e.g. trade associations)


Information delivery (by mail, media, brochures, lecture, etc.)

Market forces response

Product label information

Prompts (e.g. point of purchase information)


Teaching techniques: exposition

Audience assessment


Delphi method


Focus groups

Interactive communication


Leadership training



Social marketing communication campaign


Teaching techniques: discussion

Teaching techniques: demonstrations




Certificate of Accomplishment


Facilitation for individual learning

Facilitation for group planning

Gathering data


Monitoring data

Participatory rural appraisal techniques:

  • group dynamics
  • sampling
  • interviewing
  • visualization

Teaching techniques: guided discovery

Participatory action research

Peer to peer communication

Service projects

Strategic planning

Teaching techniques: inquiry

NEXT: Monitor and evaluate

Back to Step 7

References for the continuum:

Figure 2, the Outreach Continuum, was developed by referencing several resources including:

The National Extension Water Outreach Web site:

Arnstein, S. R. 1969. A ladder of citizen participation. JAIP 35:4, pp 216-224.

Gonsalves, J., T. Becker, A. Braun, D. Campilan, H. De Chavez, E. Fajber, M. Kapiriri, J. Rivaca-Caminade & R. Vernooy (Eds). 2005. Participatory Research and Development for Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management: A Sourcebook. Volume 1: Understanding Participatory Research and Development. International Potato Center-Users’ Perspectives With Agricultural Research and Development, Laguna, Philippines and International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.

Monroe, M., E. Andrews, K. Biedenweg. 2007. A Framework for Environmental Education Strategies. Applied Environmental Education and Communication.