Rare has developed a method for motivating behavior change and community support for
conservation that has been tested and refined in more than 50 countries to date: the Pride campaign. By creating a stronger emotional and cultural connection between people and their environment, these campaigns have been used to dramatically reduce human-related threats to important ecosystems from the Caribbean to Latin America and from Africa to Asia.
The power of Pride
Rare’s approach to conservation has its roots in Saint Lucia, where in the early 1980s a young forestry officer named Paul Butler was determined to save one of the Caribbean’s most splendid birds – the Saint Lucia Parrot. At that time, there were only 100 left on the island, and the bird became an early symbol of the mounting global extinction crisis.
Threats to the bird included habitat destruction, poaching, and illegal wildlife trade, and the root cause of each was a lack of awareness or commitment to conservation by the people of Saint Lucia. At that time, according to Paul, a conversation about community outreach at the Department of Forestry went something like this: “We need people to stop destroying the forest and its threatened species. We have no money for education. We have no tools. Let’s try a poster.” Multiple people would then sit around a table to “design” the poster – each adding to what became a complex collage of information that was chock-full of good intentions, but based on a bad marketing strategy. They didn’t know how to research their “target audience.” They didn’t know if a poster was the right tool to convey the message or if it possessed a framework for deciding what that message should be. They didn’t have templates for design and certainly didn’t have access to any type of comprehensive outreach tools needed to create meaningful, long-term change.
And they were not alone. Proven tools for building public support for conservation were – and still are – in short supply all over the world. Around that time, Paul and his colleagues began testing some creative new outreach methods. Without knowing it then, they created what is now the Rare Pride program – used by local conservationists and organizations across the globe.
Moving from biological science to social science
The frustrated “poster design committee” in Saint Lucia knew that getting beyond the science of conservation and engaging average people in environmental protection would take a bit of innovation. So they started looking for good examples of ways to grab attention and promote new messages. The most effective seemed to come from the realm of commercial marketing. If an attractive girl in an advertisement could sell beer, why couldn’t a lovable parrot sell conservation? If printing T-shirts with product names got your brand walking all over town, why not put the brand of conservation alongside soda, music, and sports teams?
Using a beautiful image of the Saint Lucia Parrot as a campaign symbol, Paul started testing all kinds of new outreach activities – including billboards, bumper stickers, sermons, songs, newspaper inserts, stamps, hats, T-shirts, badges, comics, postcards, beer mugs, magazine articles, key rings, radio spots, classroom activities, and more – all featuring the Parrot. Paul appealed to people on an emotional level – offering them the chance to save a local treasure that existed nowhere else on the planet. One that belonged to them. One that the world cared about and prioritized. In essence, he tapped into the power of pride.
Over the next several years, Paul and his forestry colleagues reached everyone in the community many times over and slowly began to see change. As momentum picked up, local political figures and religious leaders began incorporating campaign messages into their speeches and sermons. Kids spoke to their parents about the bird. Forestry officers and townspeople wore campaign buttons. A giant mascot of the bird regularly visited schools and festivals around the island. As a result, the Parrot was declared the national bird, ecological reserves were created, and laws were updated and enforced. Not only did the campaign pull the Saint Lucia Parrot from the brink of extinction, it generated a legacy of local environmental pride that exists to this day.
Taking Pride global
Rare’s current Pride program was born when Paul joined Rare’s staff and began replicating the Saint Lucia model on other Caribbean islands. The new campaigns were equally successful at establishing protected areas and building strong local constituencies for conservation. Attention and demand for the model grew. Paul then wrote a 200-page manual that condensed ten years of experience into a one-year action plan that others could use. After establishing a track record in 13 Caribbean nations from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, what is now called “Rare Pride” expanded throughout Latin America, the Pacific, and eventually Asia and Africa.
Early on, Paul went from site to site training and mentoring campaign managers to help them replicate the model. However, growing demand for Pride eventually necessitated a more scalable support platform. In 2001, Rare launched its first centralized training center at the University of Kent in Great Britain to train English-speaking conservationists from multiple regions. This was followed by a Spanish-language program based in Mexico, a Bahasa Indonesia center at the Bogor Agricultural Institute, and a Mandarin-language program at Southwest Forestry University in China. Rare has now gone from launching 2-3 campaigns annually to supporting 73 in 2010 alone.
Over the years, the Pride methodology has been continually refined, but the results continue to inspire. Campaign managers, who are now known as “Rare Conservation Fellows” from all over the world have established protected areas, saved species, enacted legislation, formed community outreach organizations and developed constituencies for conservation that remain active in these regions long after campaigns have ended.
Rare’s approach has also evolved to launching campaigns in cohorts of 10-15 that share a common theme in order to increase learning and better scale impact.