30 SES 09 B, School gardens and environments
The aim of this paper is to extend our understanding on the profiles, motivations, expectations and satisfaction of attendees in environmental awareness events in Cyprus, with a focus on events organised by environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
NGOs have been selected to be the main focus of the study because of their significant role in the shaping and implementation of participatory democracy (Burchell & Cook, 2013).
Even though NGOs have proliferated over the last decades and their mission has moved past a series of steps and is focused primarily on mobilising mass society for collective action, scholarly work on their communication aspect and especially the strategies that they employ is limited (Hue, 2017).
NGO campaigners should evaluate how their strategies fit with the outlet for specific audiences and cultures that is the most appropriate and how the tone of the message they are carrying fits into the specific attributes of the mediums they are utilising (National Communications Association, 2008). As Hue (2017) puts it NGOs’ achievements depend on their ability to articulate ideas and leverage support from a complex social network’.
In the case of events as mobilisation activities, demographics and motivations for attending of event participants are considered some of the determinant factors in the different stages of event management (Gunlu & Ceyda, 2015). It is therefore considered significant for NGOs to both understand how to get their message out and to whom, and equally important to analyse who responds to their activities and for which reasons.
In Cyprus, the great need for such events has been realised so much so that it has been included in the annual reports drafted by Commissioner for the Environment. Regarding awareness raising about protected areas, she suggests that there is a great gap at this moment, in informing citizens, and this has negative impacts on threatened species and habitats. She also adds that the continued and systematic informing and participation of citizens helps in the speedy achievement of goals (The Office of the Commissioner for the Environment, 2015). This need is identified by NGOs and researchers alike. NGOs and other environmental movements strive to develop communication strategies to bridge that gap between the scientific information and the target audiences in a planned and calculated way (Schellnhuber, Molina, Stern, Huber, & Kadner, 2010).
The scope of this study focuses on questions regarding the profile as well as motivations, expectations and satisfaction of attendees to environmental awareness events. Literature of current event segmentation approaches suggests that in the pursue of event attendee classification, multiple segmentations bases should be employed, including demographic, geographic, psychographic (e.g. motivation), and behavioural segmentation (Tkaczynski & Rundle-Thiele, 2011). Characteristics of the attendee, such as lifestyles and attitudes towards the subject with which the event deals with, as well as development experiences with the subject have been shown to be significant factors of attendance and important predictors of it
More specifically this study seeks to investigate the following questions:
- Who are the participants to environmental awareness raising events in Cyprus?
- What drives them to participate in such events and what are they seeking to take from them?
- What is the relationship between the types of events and the participants’ profiles and participation drivers?
- Which are the ways attendees are engaged with event themes and activities?
- What are attendees “taking home” from their participation?
The methods for data collection included the following: a) Observations: The data collection involved the observation of the event and the behaviours and attitudes of the attendees during their participation in the event by the first researcher through an event observation protocol. b) Pre-event and post-event semi-structured questionnaires: The questions asked before the event focused on the demographics of the participants, their motivations for attending the event, their understanding of the event’s thematic and their expectations. The questions asked after the event focused on ways in which they feel they were engaged, how their expectations were met, their possible change understanding of the event’s thematic and their takeaways from it. c) Pre-event and post-event event semi-structured interviews: The questions allowed for further elaborations and more specific questions to assess drivers, motivations, expectations and satisfaction in a more expansive way. Sample The research sample was non-random and convenient, consisted of the attendees to the selected events organised by environmental NGOs. Particular effort was made to capture the whole breadth of different ages present at each event, as well as to cover as great a percentage of the participants as possible. Effort was also made, where possible, to have a fair ratio of men and women as respondents In total, the first researcher interacted with 51 individuals at six events: three environmental documentary screenings with discussion, one birdwatching activity, a wetland cleaned up action and a scientific presentation about the protection of reptiles. Research design Non-experimental fieldwork research with non-random, convenient and deliberate sampling. This is justified because the type of research participant that have taken part in the study was defined by the aim of the study and the research questions. Data analysis As the research did not follow the assessment of an existing theory or a hypothesis but began by seeking to investigate a series of questions which developed into the research questions that guided the methods and the tools and thus the data collected, the ‘grounded theory’ approach was used for the analysis of the data. Analysis was done by using open coding, i.e. by segmenting the data into similar groupings to form categories for further analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). In the case of demographic data collected (such as age, sex etc), descriptive statistical methods were used.
The average profile of the attendee to environmental awareness raising events organised by NGOs can be described as a university-educated, environmentally-aware, professional or volunteer in the environment sector. In cases where the event has an educational character, wanting to learn is a significant factor (both in terms of motivation and expectation) for participation; while wanting to help is the major factor (both in terms of motivation and expectation) for participation in more activist-type of events. It also appears, that there is positive association between the education-heavy and education-varied character of events and the categorisation of these events’ subject-matter as negative by participants, which is also positively related to the existence of take-home messages that involve a call for motion: in cases where participants have negative opinions and feelings about the subject with which the event is dealing, wanting to find ways to help is an important expectation. Socialisation, cultural identification and social interaction have been shown in studies to stimulate attendance. Nature-oriented activities have also been shown to elicit strong social connections and this was also evidenced in the case of activities that took place during these case studies (Smiljanic & Dankulov M, 2017). NGOs should perceive the apparent pattern of recurrent attendance to events by people who are pre-sensitised also as a challenge. Studies highlight ‘preaching to the converted’ as a recognised challenge that NGOs bear when communicating their message (Schellnhuber, Molina, Stern, Huber, & Kadner, 2010).
Burchell, J., & Cook, J. (2013). Sleeping with the Enemy? Strateguc Transformations in Buisiness-NGO Relationships Through Stakeholder Dialogue. Journal of Buisiness Ethics, 505-518. Gunlu, E., & Ceyda, L. (2015). The Comparison of the Demographic Characteristics of the Participants in Terms of Participation Motives to Different Events. Journal of Yasar University, 10/40, 6730-6751. Hue, D. (2017). Fourth Generation NGOs: Communication Strategies in Social Campaigning and Resource Mobilization. Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing, 29, 119-147. National Communications Association. (2008). Hard News of Media, Soft News of NGOs and Tough International Issues. National Communications Association. Schellnhuber, H. J., Molina, M., Stern, N., Huber, V., & Kadner, S. (Eds.). (2010). Global Sustainability A Noble Cause. New York: Cambridge Univeristy Press. Smiljanic, J., & Dankulov M, M. (2017). Associative nature of event participation dynamics: A network theory approach. PLoS ONE, 12(2). Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. M. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. The Office of the Commissioner for the Environment. (2015). Annual Report of the Commissioner for the Environment. Nicosia: Press Information Office. Tkaczynski, A., & Rundle-Thiele, S. R. (2011). Event segmentation: A review and research agenda. Tourism Management, 32, 426-434.
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