Change for the Climate

Developing community champions to address climate change

Addressing and adapting to climate change is not a one-size fits all approach. Change for the Climate recognizes that community members know best what their community needs.
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The Iowa Conservation Education Coalition applied for and received funding for this project through the Iowa Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education Program (REAP-CEP) in November 2021. Project participants were selected from a pool of applicants and ICEC contracted with E Resources Group, LLC, to provide frequent guidance and ideas, and to shepherd the timeline for the participating organizations. Participating partner organizations contributed funds, staff time, and in-kind support to complete the projects.


Conservation educators have helped people change behaviors to benefit and improve communities and the environment through educational activities and campaigns for decades – with success in some areas and less so in others. This project aimed to provide five organizations an opportunity to learn and apply some of the best social science and research that has been adapted to help conservation causes throughout the world. These methods are offered through a real-time virtual course led by Dr. Doug Makenzie Mohr who developed Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM). Participants from the organizations took the course in January 2022 to learn CBSM methods and try them on projects that could spark action and behavior change.

The specific process used in CBSM throws a different timeline and procedures at project leaders who completely rethink what they will do and when and how. Although CBSM methods are not overly complex, the process involves taking more time to research the barriers and benefits that community members perceive to the adoption of new behaviors. Many conservation educators are creative and confident of their abilities to motivate and inspire their audiences. The timelines they create for themselves are short and move quickly to project implementation. We typically map out projects, anticipate materials needs and promotional timelines based on our known history of how to accomplish conservation projects. We also rarely have the time to evaluate whether our efforts are moving the needle for the causes we care about. The case studies provided show areas where educators had to take more time – sometimes more than expected – to apply the methods. The CBSM process is described later and a link to an overview of CBSM is provided at the end of this report.

We are eager for you to see how these project leaders approached this new process and timeline. They have honestly written about their thought processes and we are grateful to them for sharing their vulnerabilities as they tried and applied the CBSM process.

Key Take-aways

This small-scale project with a short timeline is a test of how and whether practitioners could change their own program development and delivery behaviors. Participant groups quickly learned:

  • Their assumptions and understandings about their audiences could be adjusted by even a small number of conversations with audience members – in some cases not hearing from them led to program revisions and a deeper dive into the audiences who could be moved and how. Most programs refined the audiences who could be reached.
  • Benefits and barriers to behavior adoption is research that is worth the time and effort to do – challenging program assumptions.
  • It was too late to shift many of the program commitments already made by others prior to using the CBSM methods. Equipment was ordered and planned for distribution; campaigns were advertised prior to any CBSM input.
  • Future projects by the agencies will be changed as a result of participation in this project, and practitioners will carry the learning with them to other organizations they join.

Participants selected for the project offered programmatic topics that reflect the understanding that climate change is impacted by many factors. Their program selections reflect increasing plant diversity to support life into an uncertain future, increasing composting and recycling can change landfill gasses, and learning to turn off electricity when not needed.

Learn more by reading the participants case study report, plus read an overview of CBSM. Click here to download the report as PDF!

You can learn more about Community Based Social Marketing in this presentation from Doug Makenzie Mohr.


Funded by the Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education Program (REAP-CEP).

REAP: Invest in Iowa, our outdoors, our heritage, our people. REAP is supported by the state of Iowa, providing funding to public and private partners for natural and cultural resources projects, including water quality, wildlife habitat, soil conservation, parks, trails, historic preservation, and more.