With “Spawning Stories, Hatching Change” we sought to take social marketing a step beyond the usual. Instead of developing and disseminating messages to an audience, we wanted to empower ordinary rural people to tell their own stories of what they connect with in the watershed, what they worry about, and what they are doing about it. What better way to counteract feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that oppress people in so many walks of life?
Realizing that the love of nature is what brings most people to environmental action, we took people into our local watershed on a variety of field trips. These experiences had a teaching component of course, but aimed primarily to encourage participants to notice what moves and engages them. Discussion followed to elicit ideas on what might threaten these elements and how human behaviour needs to change in order to protect them. We asked each participant to commit in writing to a realistic personal behaviour change (Ecoprint pledge).
A variety of mentored opportunities encouraged them to convey their experience and message to others in their own words, coming from their own perspective and heart. Some of the resulting stories are being shared with our community through an Earth Day supplement in our local newspaper (tentative), and at our AGM.
We feel other rural communities will find this process exciting and valuable. To help them, we are preparing a digital package describing the process, discussing what was most successful and what we would do differently, and sharing selected stories and Ecoprint pledges. They can download the package from our website or we can supply it on CD.
We’ve come to view this as a pilot project and will be using what we’ve learned to build story-making into future education programs at the Nature Centre.