Foolanthropy

A Rare Interview

Related Links
Discussion Boards
Foolanthropy 2006 Donations
Charity Amt. Raised
Co-op America $169,425
NFTE $91,341
Rare Conservation $30,047
Room to Read $25,266
Half the Sky $21,350
TOTAL $337,429
As of January 9, 2007
Foolanthropy 2006
Recent Foolanthropy Articles

By Carrie Crockett (TMF Bittybumble)
December 21, 2006

I recently interviewed the CEO of Rare (one of Foolanthropy 2006's picks) to get a sense of the charity's mission, method, and Foolanthropic qualities. What follows is my discussion with Brett Jenks about Rare.

Carrie Crockett: Could you describe Rare's mission, in a nutshell?

Brett Jenks: Basically, we're setting out to build a global constituency for the environment, one community at a time. I think our method of constituency-building inspires the inhabitants of the world's most ecologically important places -- in part, because of pride in their environment, and in part, to protect their source of livelihood. Our primary projects are working to preserve endangered species and ecosystems, as well as to protect and establish national parks where none existed before.

CC: Can you give me an example of how this works?

BJ: I think our earliest example was with the Saint Lucian parrot. Their numbers had dwindled to less than 100 in the wild. We used the bird as a flagship species to bolster environmental pride across the board. Everybody from politicians to religious leaders got together and stated a plea to save the national bird from extinction and, at the same time, create ecotourism.

Paul Butler, Rare's SVP of Programs, led this first campaign more than 20 years ago. He worked with all the local leaders so that everyone in Saint Lucia understood that their national bird was in grave danger. People were selling them for export, killing them, putting them in cages, and he convinced them that the local economy would benefit from the bird being around in the wild. Today there are more than 500 of these birds, and they've been removed from the global endangered species list.

Another example is what we did in the Togean Islands in Indonesia, which is a land extremely rich in biodiversity. We galvanized local fishing communities and, with the help of some local partners, a new 912,500-acre national marine park was created. So now the local fishermen do continue to fish, but they've become long-term stewards of their resources and have helped to stop folks who don't live there from coming in and trawling.

CC: Could you describe these Pride Campaigns?

BJ: Somebody comes to us with a problem. We don't go looking for them. Let's take Guadalajara, Mexico. There are really important forests there that are critical for providing clean water to the cities. These forests are also home to many migratory and endemic birds. There's no municipal waste management, so all the garbage is being dumped in the rivers. There are problems with forest fires caused inadvertently by farmers because they simply don't know safe practices. We need to change behaviors. So to that end, we say, OK, we'll train you, support you financially and technically, and then it's your job to fix the problem.

Our Pride Campaigns are demand-driven. It costs about $125,000 for two years to find a local campaign manager to "carry the flag," so to speak, throughout the campaign.

I'd have to say the toughest challenge is finding that talent, finding that campaign manager. Once we find a local leader to "carry the flag," we're off and running.

CC: I noticed in reading your literature that Rare works in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific. That's pretty much everywhere but Europe and the United States. We do have ecological problems in the United States. For instance, can I ask if Rare is doing anything to rebuild the Louisiana wetlands? Is red tape preventing it, or is it beyond Rare's scope?

BJ: It's beyond our scope. We've been asked so many times, "What about the United States?" What makes Rare's method so effective is that, in the places we work, there's so little media that everybody hears our message. Here in the U.S., there are so many competing interests. There's too much noise, really, and you need a much larger and more expensive toolkit to compete here, and that's not our specialty.

Let me put it to you this way. In many places we work, the only billboards you see are for elected officials or for our ecological mascot, and the only flyers being handed out are from our mascot. Basically, we have a monopoly on the media in these places.

To duplicate in the United States what we do in other places, it'd be like renting every sign in Times Square at night to say a singular message: Protect the Catskills. So it's not very cost-effective or replicable for us to operate in the United States and Europe.

CC: Can you give me the specifics of the program for your local "talent"?

BJ: Our campaign managers study for 10 weeks in their own language at one of our three university centers in Mexico, the U.K., or Indonesia. They study social marketing and public opinion polling, among other things. From that point on, they have 12 months to launch and run the campaign. We're trying to get our mascots elected as symbols of the environment, much like winning a political election. For example, tens of thousands of school children end up knowing the Pride Campaign song written to protect an endangered species in their local community. We also use tools ranging from music videos to billboards to meetings with municipal leaders to promote, for example, why people should have pride in their watershed.

It's sort of like a cross between a New Hampshire primary and Smokey the Bear -- very grassroots, but at the same time, very marketing-savvy.

CC: What does the future hold for conservation?

BJ: Now conservation is about people. It's not just about the environment. Humanity spent the past 100 years viewing the environment as "the other." But really, environmentalism is about people who, mostly unwittingly, are destroying their environment. How are we inspiring people to become environmentalists? We help them realize the many positive reasons environmentalism is important to them. We want to help people around the world understand the value of where they live emotionally, financially, and politically. Ultimately, it benefits them and us as citizens of the world.

We all need to do our part. All that said, we also have to be very practical, very business-like, in our approach. We systematically take to scale a method that inspires people to protect their environment.

So I guess in sum, we provide the concept, we have the track record, and we provide the global training platforms on four continents to disseminate information. We're making all of these things available to local conservationists around the world so they can mobilize people at the scale needed for lasting change.

Most of Rare's new ideas in the future will actually come from these local leaders. We teach them how to get started, but it's they who'll be teaching us how to finish this.

Rare is a Foolanthropy 2006 pick. To read more about Rare or other Foolanthropy charities -- or to make a donation -- click here.

Online editor Carrie Crockett is Foolanthropy 2006 co-chair, along with David Gardner.

I recently interviewed the CEO of Rare (one of Foolanthropy 2006's picks) to get a sense of the charity's mission, method, and Foolanthropic qualities. What follows is my discussion with Brett Jenks about Rare.

Carrie Crockett: Could you describe Rare's mission, in a nutshell?

Brett Jenks: Basically, we're setting out to build a global constituency for the environment, one community at a time. I think our method of constituency-building inspires the inhabitants of the world's most ecologically important places -- in part, because of pride in their environment, and in part, to protect their source of livelihood. Our primary projects are working to preserve endangered species and ecosystems, as well as to protect and establish national parks where none existed before.

CC: Can you give me an example of how this works?

BJ: I think our earliest example was with the Saint Lucian parrot. Their numbers had dwindled to less than 100 in the wild. We used the bird as a flagship species to bolster environmental pride across the board. Everybody from politicians to religious leaders got together and stated a plea to save the national bird from extinction and, at the same time, create ecotourism.

Paul Butler, Rare's SVP of Programs, led this first campaign more than 20 years ago. He worked with all the local leaders so that everyone in Saint Lucia understood that their national bird was in grave danger. People were selling them for export, killing them, putting them in cages, and he convinced them that the local economy would benefit from the bird being around in the wild. Today there are more than 500 of these birds, and they've been removed from the global endangered species list.

Another example is what we did in the Togean Islands in Indonesia, which is a land extremely rich in biodiversity. We galvanized local fishing communities and, with the help of some local partners, a new 912,500-acre national marine park was created. So now the local fishermen do continue to fish, but they've become long-term stewards of their resources and have helped to stop folks who don't live there from coming in and trawling.

CC: Could you describe these Pride Campaigns?

BJ: Somebody comes to us with a problem. We don't go looking for them. Let's take Guadalajara, Mexico. There are really important forests there that are critical for providing clean water to the cities. These forests are also home to many migratory and endemic birds. There's no municipal waste management, so all the garbage is being dumped in the rivers. There are problems with forest fires caused inadvertently by farmers because they simply don't know safe practices. We need to change behaviors. So to that end, we say, OK, we'll train you, support you financially and technically, and then it's your job to fix the problem.

Our Pride Campaigns are demand-driven. It costs about $125,000 for two years to find a local campaign manager to "carry the flag," so to speak, throughout the campaign.

I'd have to say the toughest challenge is finding that talent, finding that campaign manager. Once we find a local leader to "carry the flag," we're off and running.

CC: I noticed in reading your literature that Rare works in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific. That's pretty much everywhere but Europe and the United States. We do have ecological problems in the United States. For instance, can I ask if Rare is doing anything to rebuild the Louisiana wetlands? Is red tape preventing it, or is it beyond Rare's scope?

BJ: It's beyond our scope. We've been asked so many times, "What about the United States?" What makes Rare's method so effective is that, in the places we work, there's so little media that everybody hears our message. Here in the U.S., there are so many competing interests. There's too much noise, really, and you need a much larger and more expensive toolkit to compete here, and that's not our specialty.

Let me put it to you this way. In many places we work, the only billboards you see are for elected officials or for our ecological mascot, and the only flyers being handed out are from our mascot. Basically, we have a monopoly on the media in these places.

To duplicate in the United States what we do in other places, it'd be like renting every sign in Times Square at night to say a singular message: Protect the Catskills. So it's not very cost-effective or replicable for us to operate in the United States and Europe.

CC: Can you give me the specifics of the program for your local "talent"?

BJ: Our campaign managers study for 10 weeks in their own language at one of our three university centers in Mexico, the U.K., or Indonesia. They study social marketing and public opinion polling, among other things. From that point on, they have 12 months to launch and run the campaign. We're trying to get our mascots elected as symbols of the environment, much like winning a political election. For example, tens of thousands of school children end up knowing the Pride Campaign song written to protect an endangered species in their local community. We also use tools ranging from music videos to billboards to meetings with municipal leaders to promote, for example, why people should have pride in their watershed.

It's sort of like a cross between a New Hampshire primary and Smokey the Bear -- very grassroots, but at the same time, very marketing-savvy.

CC: What does the future hold for conservation?

BJ: Now conservation is about people. It's not just about the environment. Humanity spent the past 100 years viewing the environment as "the other." But really, environmentalism is about people who, mostly unwittingly, are destroying their environment. How are we inspiring people to become environmentalists? We help them realize the many positive reasons environmentalism is important to them. We want to help people around the world understand the value of where they live emotionally, financially, and politically. Ultimately, it benefits them and us as citizens of the world.

We all need to do our part. All that said, we also have to be very practical, very business-like, in our approach. We systematically take to scale a method that inspires people to protect their environment.

So I guess in sum, we provide the concept, we have the track record, and we provide the global training platforms on four continents to disseminate information. We're making all of these things available to local conservationists around the world so they can mobilize people at the scale needed for lasting change.

Most of Rare's new ideas in the future will actually come from these local leaders. We teach them how to get started, but it's they who'll be teaching us how to finish this.

Rare is a Foolanthropy 2006 pick. To read more about Rare or other Foolanthropy charities -- or to make a donation -- click here.

Online editor Carrie Crockett is Foolanthropy 2006 co-chair, along with David Gardner.