WOW! So I recently learned about this fantastic, rapidly-growing, international environmental organization, called Rare. Fast Company magazine has named them one of the "Top Social Capitalists" for the last three years in a row.
Rare works in local communities that are considered to be biodiversity hot spots, in order to build support for conservation. Rare is active in more than 40 countries. The organization is based right outside of Washington, D.C., in Arlington, V.A. but the organization has several international offices, as well.
Rare builds support for conservation through what they call "Pride Campaigns." These are social marketing campaigns that utilize the same spirit of entrepeneurship and creativity that has also been used to call attention to issues ranging from seatbelt use, smoking, pollution, and teen drug abuse, to reproductive health.
Rare builds support in local communities by training local conservationists to be Pride campaign managers. The campaign managers make an 18-month commitment to inspiring environmental protection at every level in their communities, receive training from Pride, and then head back to their communities to implement the campaigns.
Rare's goal is to "dramatically build momentum for conservation by creating the constituencies necessary for initiating policy changes, legislative reform, and new protected areas; by catalyzing in-country private and public sector funding; by shifting public behavior toward more sustainable practices; and by focusing public attention on critically threatened ecosystems and species."
In order to accomplish their goals, "Pride campaigns utilize a charismatic flagship species, like the Saint Lucia parrot or the Philippine cockatoo, which becomes a symbol of local pride and acts as a messenger to build support for habitat and wildlife protection. Marketing tools – such as billboards, posters, songs, music videos, sermons, comic books, and puppet shows – make conservation messages positive, compelling, relevant, and fun for the community. Campaigns appeal to people on an emotional level, generating an increased sense of pride and public stewardship that goes beyond mere awareness-raising. Pride campaigns involve and engage every segment of the community: teachers, business and religious leaders, elected officials, and the average citizen."
Rare Pride has been very successful; large conservation organizations, like The Nature Conservancy, are contracting Pride to assist with social marketing techniques for local conservation efforts. Rare plans to triple in staff size and impact by 2011.
For dynamic examples of their work, visit their website. But don't stick to just this page; there are a lot of other interesting examples, if you peruse through the website.
I particularly liked this story about loggerhead turtles in Baja California.
Public murals encouraged protection of the campaign's flagship species, the sea turtle. (Rare)
This sea turtle mascot in a Baja, California Sur Pride campaign, made a guest appearance at a local beauty contest. (Rare)
I like the Baja California loggerhead turtle campaign because it reminds me of another inspiring film that I saw at the 2008 Washington, D.C. Environmental Film Festival, called "Papa Tortuga".
"PAPA TORTUGA (USA, 2006, 20 min.)
Fernando Manzano was only 16 years old when he found his calling. For the past 31 years, he has dedicated himself to bringing the leatherback sea turtle back from the edge of extinction. In the small town of Tecolutla, Mexico, he has battled relentlessly against weather, natural predators and poachers with no outside support. Directed by Rob Wilson."
I can't find a trailer online, but here are two still photos. The first photo shows school children holding baby turtles. The children are about to release the baby turtles into the sea. The human subject in the second photo is Papa Torgua.