Rare’s Conservation Campaigns: Community Decision Making and Public Participation for Behavioral Change in Indonesia, China, and Latin America

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Upton, Sarah
Tarin, Carlos
Sowards, Stacey
Yang, Kenneth
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Iowa State University Summer Symposium on Science Communication
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Science Communication Project @ISU was founded in 2010 with the goal of enhancing collaborative research on, education for, and the practice of public science communication, broadly conceived. Our biennial symposia- which include public presentations of multidisciplinary research and interactive workshops- bring together a network of scholars who share interests in public engagement of science, environmental communication, natural resource management, and agriscience. Conference proceedings showcase research, evaluations, and critiques of science communication-related practices and phenomena.


In this chapter we explore the ways in which Rare, an international non-profit organization, uses institutional, practical, and local knowledge as a symbolic resource to create environmental change. Rare’s approach involves identifying human behaviors that cause threats to biodiversity, using social science research to identify community-based and public participation solutions to change these behaviors, launching a Pride campaign designed to instill pride within a local community and to facilitate the removal of barriers to conservation, and adapting conservation solutions on a broader scale. Such an approach enables Rare and its campaign managers to draw on expertise from all kinds of backgrounds, experiences, and different knowledge bases that allows for contextual and effective behavior change in conservation rooted in public participation and community empowerment. Rare partners with The University of Texas at El Paso to offer a master’s degree program for Pride campaign managers, and we have collected data while supervising the coursework and assignments for this program through qualitative approaches, such as ethnography, interviews, and field site visits, and quantitative approaches, such as knowledge-attitude-practice (KAP) surveys implemented by our students (the Rare campaign managers). Based on these data, we offer case studies from three regions where Rare works: Indonesia, Latin America, and China. While conservation efforts often focus on tangible material resources, limiting the available options for change, we ultimately argue that Rare’s focus on symbolic resources in Pride campaigns uses the paradigm of constructed potentiality (Foss & Foss, 2011), generating multiple options for creating change through public participation.