I. SITUATION ANALYSIS & NEED: From historic megafires burning millions of acres of land and thousands of homes and businesses across the American West, to Atlantic hurricanes so numerous that their names stretched well into the Greek alphabet, 2020 jolted more people awake to the realization that the climate crisis is no longer a distant threat. It is here and is disrupting our lives, businesses, food production systems, and natural world. Around the globe, shocking consequences of climate disruption have arrived decades earlier than predicted, destabilizing our environment, economy, public health, national security, and quality of life.
At the same time, humanity’s unsustainable land use (once termed “The Other Inconvenient Truth”) is overrunning Earth’s last remaining vestiges of wild nature. Industrial agriculture tops the list of sectors responsible for decimating habitats of our planet’s wondrous biodiversity, causing the “Sixth Mass Extinction”. In 2019, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warned that roughly one million species of plants and animals face extinction within decades as the result of human activities.
It’s not just the environment that suffers when humans destabilize Earth’s climate and destroy natural habitats. As ecosystem health declines, so does the suite of nature’s benefits that people depend on for our well-being, from freshwater provision and filtration, to protection of communities against extreme weather, to soil fertility and food production. Just how important are these “ecosystem services” to the global economy? Scientists estimate that the market value of nature’s services to society ranges from $16-54 trillion per year.
Far too few people are aware of these powerful linkages between the health of nature and that of our civilization. From television talking heads to political rhetoric, the outdated idea that climate crisis and nature conservation solutions are harmful to our economy continues to prevail. In order to build broad support for solutions to the climate and extinction crises, our movement needs more voices working together to destroy old-fashioned anti-environmental paradigms and reframe nature-based solutions as both beneficial and essential to our economy, health, security and quality of life.
II. OUR PROGRAMS & THEIR UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION: Conservation Value Institute’s programs (The Nature of Music podcast and the proposed Winning with Nature) present stories of nature-based solutions within a social science-based framework designed to shift peoples’ perspectives and motivate them to action. Each episode, host Dr. Jonathan Gelbard will conduct interviews that reframe the way people view the relevance of climate crisis and nature conservation solutions from “extrinsic” (i.e., not beneficial or relevant to me, too costly) to “intrinsic” (beneficial to my family, my business, my community, and to our economy, public health, national security and quality of life). Unique contributions of these programs include:
1. The Nature of Music podcast: There is not yet an internet radio show that provides musicians with a platform to (a) tell the story of the influence of Nature on their lyrics, songs and passions, and (b) inspire their fans to take actions that help solve the climate and extinction crises. Such a show will create a valuable online archive of the nature-related ideas of musicians so fans around the world can enjoy and learn from them.
2. Winning with Nature: While a growing number of podcasts explore various aspects of nature conservation, the climate crisis, and sustainable business, there is not yet a program that focuses explicitly on "bright spot" success stories and reveals the specific steps involved so that listeners can replicate them. Winning with Nature (proposed to launch in 2021) will address this need by featuring solutions-oriented conversations with leading conservationists, business executives, scientists, regenerative land managers, indigenous leaders, professional athletes, and others. Each guest will inspire listeners with real life (and often surprising) stories about the valuable benefits that maintaining a healthy environment and stable climate generates for ecosystems, people, businesses, and the communities we live in.
3. Innovative applications of science-based behavior change strategies: Both The Nature of Music and Winning with Nature also stand apart in terms of their innovative program design: we apply social science-based behavior change and messaging strategies to shape content.
For example, at the program level, featuring guests who share success stories about how they have benefitted by implementing nature-based solutions reflects a powerful behavior change strategy called “Social Proof” (wherein people change to copy the actions of similar others, a phenomenon also known as “Peer Influence”). What is more likely to inspire farmers to transition to regenerative practices – reading a scientific fact sheet about them or looking over the fence at their neighbor’s productive crops and shiny new pickup truck and wanting to learn how they’re doing so well?
At the content development level, we use influence strategies to both shape interview questions and frame our ideas. Examples include the logical and emotional mind behavior change strategies that Chip and Dan Heath describe in, “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard”. Inviting guests to share success stories reflects a logical mind strategy that the authors call, “Find the Bright Spots”. Asking them to reveal the specific steps that they followed to implement their winning strategy (so that listeners can replicate it) applies a logical mind strategy that the Heath brothers term, “Script the Critical Moves”.
“Social Proof” (described above) is an example of an emotional mind behavior change strategy that the Heath Brothers call, “Rally the Herd”. A second emotional mind strategy that we will use to shape content involves teaching a stepwise approach to adopting sustainable practices (referred to in Switch as “Shrink the Change”). This simply entails breaking up a larger change (e.g., transitioning a farm to ALL regenerative practices) into a series of small, confidence-building wins. These are just a few examples of behavior change and messaging strategies that we will utilize to create fascinating and useful episodes.
III. PRODUCTION & MARKETING: We host episodes on Libsyn (a syndication service that makes them available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In, and other platforms). During the pandemic, we are using a remote podcasting service (Zencastr) to record interviews. Once the pandemic ends, we will transition to conducting in-person interviews: (1) The Nature of Music will focus on media partnerships with music festivals (where dozens of musicians gather on site) to record each year’s episodes; and (2) Winning with Nature will focus on media partnerships with climate change, conservation, sustainable business, and regenerative agriculture conferences to record each year’s episodes.
Marketing & Publicity: To increase our audience size and visibility, we will partner with guests to promote episodes via our social media channels (e.g., FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In). Additional forms of publicity will include media relations (e.g., we have already attracted coverage on JamBase and in Relix Magazine), blog posts, op-eds, and email marketing. Once we transition to conducting in person interviews at major events, these media partnerships will generate valuable opportunities including securing high-profile guests (e.g., keynote speakers and headline-level musicians) and promoting our programs from branded booths, enabling us to connect with thousands of potential listeners and partners.
Research to infuse programming with cutting-edge content: Program host, Dr. Jonathan Gelbard, will serve as Lead Scientist, conducting ongoing research to infuse our programs with the latest scientific and business case studies documenting environmental AND people benefits of climate crisis and nature conservation solutions.
Program Support: The budget (available upon request) includes funding for two contracted partners who will enhance our capacity to achieve key objectives:
1. Part-time marketing partner who generates value by achieving our marketing objectives (e.g., numbers of downloads/month and social media followers). This person will creatively promote episodes and crowdfunding campaigns via social media, media relations, email marketing, and other channels;
2. Sound engineer who professionally edits episodes with the goal of achieving “radio quality”.
IV. BUDGET & FUNDRAISING PLAN: Conservation Value Institute plans the following steps to achieve financial sustainability:
1. Secure grants and donations: An experienced fundraiser, Dr. Gelbard’s work as Senior Conservation Scientist & Sustainable Agriculture Specialist at NRDC involved collaborating with the organization’s development team to coauthor proposals and cultivate prospects, helping to raise over $400,000.
We aim to leverage initial grants and donations to secure matches from colleagues in the philanthropic, impact investing, and corporate giving communities (including through our 1% For the Planet membership). Ideas of foundation partners include the TomKat Educational Foundation (where we have a senior contact), Grace Communication Foundation, and William & Flora Hewlett Foundation (where we have a senior contact). Initial ideas of possible corporate funders include Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s, The North Face, Cliff Bar, Timberland, and companies in the renewable energy and regenerative product sectors.
2. Leverage our growing listener base and social media following to develop new revenue streams: As our listener base, social media following, and public profile grow, we will explore the potential to develop revenue streams such as:
Crowdfunding (e.g., GoFundMe charity campaigns in partnership with guests and their organizations);
Sponsorship by sustainable brands. Packages could include buzz-building contests and giveaways of mission-aligned products that we promote during episodes;
A subscription-based revenue stream (e.g., via Patreon);
Fees for paid speaking engagements – a key goal as our public profile grows is for Dr. Gelbard to be invited to join a speakers’ bureau. Speaking fees will serve as an additional revenue stream for Conservation Value Institute;
Benefit events (after the pandemic passes); and
YouTube channel: One idea is to produce useful videos that offer expert advice on how to purchase credibly sustainable products. We will use search engine optimization to drive our videos to the top of green product search results.
3. Advisory Services: Conservation Value Institute is available to serve as a trusted scientific advisor and translator of science. We welcome opportunities to partner with NGOs, impact investors, foundations & philanthropists, government agencies, and sustainable brands to complete sustainability-focused research & educational projects within the scope of our mission.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with inquiries – we look forward to learning about your work and letting the ideas flow from there…