The idea for this database was born in 2012 from an effort led by a team of graduate students from the University Of Michigan School Of Natural Resources on behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Trust (the Trust). The Trust is a non-profit grant-making organization dedicated to improving the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers through environmental education, community outreach, and local watershed restoration. Since its inception in 1985, the Trust has awarded $80 million in grants and engaged hundreds of thousands of citizen stewards in projects that have a measurable impact on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The team of Michigan graduate students who worked on the initial research project included Meghan Kelly, Samuel Little, Kaitlin Phelps, and Carrie Roble. The Team asked Trust grantees what their intended outcomes were for their outreach programs. The results from the graduate team’s research indicated 97% of organizations surveyed wanted to motivate individuals to protect the Bay and 62% had explicit behavior change objectives; however, 91% of those surveyed also believed raising awareness would change behavior. Decades of social science research shows this last belief is a misconception; raising awareness and providing education are vitally important activities but alone those efforts do not lead to behavior change.
As such the graduate students’ research resulted in recommendations to increase the knowledge, understanding and use of outreach strategies that are designed to change the behavior of the audiences they target while also encouraging collaboration among the many similar programs offered throughout the region. In effort to address a number of these recommendations simultaneously, a residential stormwater forum was held in April of 2014. This forum promoted the use of best practices, tools, and technical assistance to develop more effective outreach programs based in social science research. The forum sparked coordination among local partners, and generated additional recommendations to the Trust, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network. One of the recommendations from the Forum was the development of a case study database that would allow outreach practitioners within the Chesapeake to share and access information on specific environmental behavior change programs commonly promoted in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation contracted Erin Ling with Virginia Tech, department of Biological Systems Engineering who further assessed the needs of and defined best practices for outreach programs in the region. This informed the draft framework for the case study database which allows users to search case studies by behavior and audience, track trends in formative audience research, and is a clearing house of information about successful interventions, promotional strategies and materials, and many other elements of public outreach and behavior change programs.
We invite others to join with us in further developing and promoting the site, so that it can become an even better resource for program planners and implementers across the Chesapeake Region.
This site is provided courtesy of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Chesapeake Bay Program of the US Environmental Protection Agency.