Kevin Green presenting at the October USAID Adaptation Community Meeting.

Does Climate Change Need Behavior Change?

The October Adaptation Community Meeting featured behavior change specialist Kevin Green from Rare, a non-governmental organization that focuses on conservation through behavior change.  Green presented “Does climate change need behavior change? Behavioral approaches to building community resilience.”

Over 70 adaptation practitioners attended the discussion in person and via webinar. Green provided an overview of how Rare’s behavioral approaches can contribute to thinking about resilience, which was followed by a lively discussion on how we might use human behavior change principles to spur climate adaptation.

Green’s presentation described the theory of change behind Rare’s Pride campaigns, which apply insights from human behavioral sciences to think differently about how communities are engaged and motivated to embrace change.

Instead of relying on negative incentives (e.g. fines) or purely positive material incentives (e.g. pay for performance), Pride campaigns focus on strategies to inspire communities by showing them how changes in social norms around natural resource use in everyday life benefit everyone in the community. The tenets of Pride campaigns include suppositions that humans are natural cooperators, and that conservation is fundamentally a behavioral question.

In the Philippines, the Pilar community Pride campaign increased readiness, trust, and strengthened institutions for collective decision making for fisheries management which made the community better positioned to  adapt and prosper in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

Green also gave an example of watershed agreements in San Vicente de Chucuri, Colombia. He then outlined early efforts to systematically measure the resilience effect (including socio-economic, -institutional and -ecological factors) of Pride campaigns through an adaptive capacity index that Rare is currently applying at seven sites in Colombia.


Photo of the town of Versalles, Colombia near one of the RARE sites – La Unión – in Valle de Cauca.

The Q&A that followed Green’s presentation addressed various elements of Rare’s approach, from the role of mascots in Pride campaigns, to addressing conflictive attitudes toward resource use or large-scale threats that are extrinsic to the target communities, to the increasing emphasis on interpersonal communications as a key element of Rare’s theory of change.

One participant inquired about how the role of self-efficacy is considered in the theory of change – the belief in one’s ability to do what one is asked to do. Rare has found that it lies in attitudes, and works with partners to develop campaign messages and encourage interpersonal communication to promote self-efficacy.

In response to several questions on the role natural disasters played in galvanizing Pride initiatives, a participant noted that campaigns are formulated to provide long-term resilience, with Green noting that a sense of urgency is intrinsic to the type of community scenarios Rare takes on.

In cases like Typhoon Haiyan it was happenstance that a major, sudden disaster occurred during the course of the campaign, catalyzing attitudes and improving the conditions for resilience. Campaigns, while focused on long-term change, contribute to prevention via promotion of natural resources management, which often overlaps with climate change adaptation.

The concluding question from a participant drew on an earlier inquiry regarding capacity building and the sustainability of Pride campaigns. What level of diffusion is needed to change social norms? While it is context specific, Green noted that one of their principles is not to promote too many behaviors at one time, an idea introduced in Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers.

For more on behavior change and Rare’s Pride campaigns:

The Rider, the Elephant, and the Path: A Tale of Behavior Change
Harnessing Local Pride for Global Conservation
The Principles of Pride: The Science Behind the Mascot

Watch recordings of past Adaptation Community Meetings here.
Strategic Objective
Integration, Adaptation
Resilience, Forestry, Disaster Risk Management, Biodiversity, Adaptation
Latin America & Caribbean, Global, Asia

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