WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

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Predator Free New Zealand: the Facebook frontier

One of the biggest challenges to make Aotearoa pest free by 2050 may not be fences or fancy lures but Facebook. If this ambitious moon landingmission is to succeed we need to get Kiwis onboard; we need engagement best practice as much as trapping best practice.


1. The idea: create a digital comms tool-kit for NZ community groups to maximise the opportunity provided by social media: inspire, bond and activate.


Based on the comms recipe of the Polhill Project – be neighbourly with our natives – the tool-kit will provide an online launch pad for other community conservation groups.


2. Polhill (www.polhill.org.nzis a successful 21st Century conservation community: trapping critters, fostering wildlife and connected via social media. In a year a dozen trappers have grown to a digital army of 400+ Polhill Protectors. Polhill stories have gone viral and made national news. Most importantly they’ve created a group of kaitiaki, who are passionately engaged in caring for the birds'n'bush.

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

David Attenborough: No one will protect what they don't care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”.


In 2016 nature is perceived as elsewhere (zoos, national parks), and conservation as aging and monocultural. We urgently need to activate affinity with our wild namesakes (Tui music awards, Weta FX, Kiwis league, Kiwibank) in ways relevant to our urban, connected lives: conservation needs to face up to Facebook.


Yet conservation outreach has not moved far beyond print.

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

Power up community groups by providing a comms tool-kit:


-    A comms tikanga focusing on inspiration and action (fun, inclusiveness, partnership)


-    A digital asset must have’ list (images, copy)


-    Strategies for making the most of Facebook, Instagram, Neighbourly, Twitter, Naturewatch (hashtags, posting pro tips etc) 


-    Suggested website and map templates using free off-the-shelf software


-    A guide to smart smartphone use 


-    A suite of NZ nature-specific emojis, filters and stickers


The Polhill Facebook group has shown the power of social media to generate conservation outcomes. Spurred by the story of the first saddleback to nest in the wild on the mainland in a century, the Polhill digital community has bolstered field work, validated volunteer mahi to stakeholders, and inspired trapping in adjacent suburbs. WCC and WWF invited Polhill to present to other groups on how to *do* digital, and DoC used it as a community engagement exemplar for the launch of Predator Free 2050.

What makes your idea new and unique?

Polhill is a front-running 21st Century conservation community: posts of rats win likes, and kaka photos provide tautoko (endorsement) in response. Online korero has shifted the middle ground on tricky topics e.g. roaming pets, and generated innovation in the field e.g. biking and running-friendly trap lines, gamification for Polhill juniors. It’s a platform where park patrons and local businesses like Garage Project and Goodnature can all celebrate their wild backyard, and it’s free!

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

The Polhill engagement recipe is not rocket science, it's social (media) science. Our sincere hope that it will not be unique long as the engagement lessons and benefits of digital community building are embraced by more volunteer community conservation groups throughout NZ.

Conservation community groups cannot afford to fund development and building of bespoke digital/comms assets: this is largely a human resource cost. We will provide a digital tool-kit that will be replicable and accessible.  

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

The tool-kit will distill comms best practice via:


1.     Development: some of Wellington's top digital developers and entrepreneurs are also Polhill trappers, with Trademe, Goodnature, Weta Digital and Dragonfly Data Science among credits; they are skilled in making cost efficient decisions about digital development and passionate about going native; we will tap this resource to empower community conservation. $10,000


2.     Distribution: the kit will be distributed in partnership with Predator Free New Zealand Trust: it will be hosted on their website and promoted on YouTube and social media channeles via webinars and how to videos. $8,000


CHECK OUT the below pdf for a taste of Polhill comms!

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?

YES

I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2016 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Community Guidelines

YES

List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

Wasp Wipeout: a range of stakeholders alligned to deal to a pest; and clear consideration given to engaging community across platforms.

Lizard Tales: mokomoko could be ambassador species to communicate that biodiversity is not just for the birds.

Nothing is more ... : eco-jurisprudence is a oft-neglected tool in the conservation kit.  

Immersive Conservation: to go native NZ digital natives need to be engaged on their own terms: our future conservationists will only protect what they care about.

Pollinator Wall: attention-grabbing way of starting community conversations about bee-ing kaitiaki.  

How could you improve your idea?

Polhill has been effective because the online efforts have been symbiotic with offline engagement (community meetings/hui, rat catch posts earning likes etc). We are an urban group of volunteers encompassing juniors, students, office workers, mountain bikers, grannies (and mountain biking grannies!). This balance will be different in different communities, and we would look to engage widely to inform the development of the comms tool-kit. To do so we will leverage our partnership with Predator Free NZ and their wide reach.

Kiwis are living their lives increasingly online and via social media (amidst a daily deluge of often heavily branded global produce), and it is imperitive that we engage with this digital reality strategically if we are to achieve PFNZ 2050. A generation ago rats and possums were killed in traps; we can't neglect likes, posts, Pokemon and emojis amongst the necessary tools available to us to look after our toanga native wildlife. 

We welcome a relationship with WWF (and partners) to determine the most effective composition and deployment of the tool-kit.

edited on Oct 13, 2016 by Paul Ward

Beccy D 6 months ago

I help out with the trapping at Polhill. I tend to traps on one of the many trap lines to help keep invasive predators at bay and help the local native birds survive. It's amazing to hear rare birds calling when I go for my evening stroll in the reserve. The Polhill Protectors are great at keeping their large cohort of volunteers enthused and involved through the use of social media. We are all kept up to date will the latest news on how the trapping project is going and what the plans are for the future. It's great to see that they are planning to create a toolkit to help other groups follow suit.

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Thanks Beccy: see you around the traps! Your biffed weasel generated a great conversation online and led to a heap of people learning more about the sly mustelid. Solving the weasel mystery was a good example of social media at work.

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KJA 6 months ago

I imagine our CatchIT Schools and CatchIT Communities programmes would benefit a great deal by incorporating this. We currently have a website and blog but this certainly would launch us into new age communication.
Great idea - bring it on!!

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Great stuff. CatchIT is doing fantastic work getting the tamariki primed to trap critters! We'd love to engage with groups like yours to digitally power up.

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DaveM 6 months ago

Hi. I co-ordinate a group of predator trappers at Polhill. I feel extremely privileged to be part of this group who are setting an example to the rest of NZ that we can achieve a good outcome for our native birds. We have a huge opportunity to kindle belief amongst our community that predator-free status is achievable and groups like Polhill are leading the way.Let leave an inheritance for those that follow that includes sharing our community with the flora and fauna that make New Zealand such a special place to live. This toolkit will allow other groups to see what is possible if we get together and make the effort.

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Tautoko to that Dave!

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Karepa 6 months ago

Fantastic idea. Already have trap in my garden. People very friendly. Using many platforms to get people involved. Electronic, paper, phone contact, face to face. Can't wait to get Wellington predator free and enjoy the flora and fauna. An excellent idea, well done.

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Predator Free Brooklyn is one of the communities surrounding Polhill that is doing vital work trapping rats in backyards and providing a buffer zone for the birds. After an initial meet, combined with the power of Facebook (beer + Facebook = conservation kick-off!) PFB has 60+ members in just a week: a crew of energised Pied Pipers are set to lead the rats from Brooklyn.

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Dan Henry 6 months ago

I'm one of the Polhill Protectors; I've been checking and clearing traps on the Transient Line for a couple of years. The trap-clearing missions are often during a lunchtime run from my CBD office, just 5 minutes away. The use of simple social media is the best way to share information about which traps have been tripped, and also to learn how others are going. Not only is it about sharing data - but about building a community and sharing the excitement that comes with small successes. I know when I see a a Facebook post that someone else has cleared a dead rat - I feel a sense of shared credit for their hard work! Soc Med is also a dead simple way of seeking advice from local expert "Bird Nerds" - whether it be identifying a bird, or a plant, or a predator. I've attached three photos I recently shared to the Polhill Page - showing some of the imagery I've posted. [CAPTIONED: A teacher only day meant these two intrepid trappers had plenty of time to clear and rebait traps on Transient. 1-20 Rebaited, 21-40 checked and two rats cleared from #21 and #30. Successful mission with several kaka giving thanks by way of a ceremonial fly-by. #kiakaka #predatorfreenz]. - Cheers, Dan Henry

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Well that pretty much sums up the Polhill recipe in one post Dan: likes, digital endorsement, kids getting amongst it, Goodnature innovation ... and a kaka flyby (the reason that we're doing all this!) = communities engaged by nature connection: online and off. ... Awesome stuff!

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LouiseSEvans 6 months ago

I'm a Brit on a Working Holiday visa and joined up with the group to help out; I love the dedication that everyday New Zealanders have to protecting their native wildlife and take such active roles and responsibility for starting and maintaining projects such as these. Its a group that totally deserves the help to extend their reach and continue the awesome work!

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Thanks Louise, getting your hands dirty planting trees should be a visa requirement for everyone eh ;-)

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Soprano 6 months ago

manu taonga (bird treasures) in our wild backyard!

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DanielleShanahan 6 months ago

The Polhill folks are enthusiastic and inspiring, and as a result their work is helping populations of endangered species thrive just outside the Zealandia fence. We here at Zealandia love their work and are behind them 100%.

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

And right back at you Danielle: the birds spilling over the fence into Wellington's backyard from the Zealandia 'mothership' are an incredible boost to community efforts like Polhill's. The kaka, tieke and tui have turned conservation conversations from conceptual discussions ("in 30 years the tree will fruit" etc) to figuring out how to be neighbourly with our natives (and shifting the middle ground on behaviour change challenges like responsible pet ownership).

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GaryMoller 6 months ago

Our family helped to build the first cycle track through Polhill. This trail has brought thousands of visitors to the area and, with them, a growing interest in trapping, weed control and planting of natives. Our family are now very involved in trapping in the Brooklyn area. The Facebook concept came up in some early discussions and it is wonderful how it is evolving. It has so much potential, this innovative use of social media to untie communities.

I reckon we can wipe out whole suburbs of pests within a few years with this method!!!!!

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Cheers Gary: the pace at which the backyard trapping in Brooklyn has taken off (due to social media, passion to look after our wild backyards ... and a couple of beers!) is a powerful validation of digital's potential to power up community conservation

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ILP 6 months ago

When humans connect with nature, to not only help the manu but to foster a community with like minded humans, then this world we live in will continuously evolve and become even more beautiful.

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Yup!

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Ed Tregidga 6 months ago

My brother Jack and I have been volunteering in Polhill track cutting, monitoring, and trapping since the group was originally established. It has been great to see the profile and scope of the project grow both in person and through social media - particularly over the past two years as membership has grown dramatically.

The groups leadership in social media was demonstrated late last year when they were able to activate over 100 would-be Polhill Protectors to pack out a humble town hall in Aro Valley one Friday evening.

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Cheers Ed: social media isn't going to replace face-to-face meeting (and it can't put a tree in the ground or pull a rat from a trap) but it certainly powers it up!

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JasonPreble 6 months ago

During my studies at Victoria University, I had the great pleasure of working with the Polhill crew in hashing out a management plan for the area. From the beginning, it was about balancing multiple uses and values concerning Polhill and the potential power of social media was recognised. Social media spreads the word, facilitates important discussions, and keeps the troops in communication and motivated. It's been amazing to see the growth of such a passionate community and the facebook page keeps me engaged even though I am now home in Hawai'i. I hope to help with such community conservation efforts back home and social media will definitely be a strong tool in supporting the cause. A solid example like Polhill and a media tool-kit like the one proposed would be great for other groups even outside New Zealand. PS if WWF reads these comments, the foundation's support would be greatly appreciated in Hawai'i ;)

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Aloha Jason! Being able to easily keep 'Polhill alumni' like yourself up to date and engaged is further testament to the enabling power of social media. Michele: see Jason's comment re-WWF and Hawaii! (Jason was a Fulbright scholar doing a masters in Ecology at Victoria fyi)

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GaryMoller 6 months ago

The idea of using social media to coordinate trapping within communities to thus provide a broad swathe of pest control such as the entire Wellington City and environs is brilliant!

Once the model, simple as it may be, is perfected, it can be extended to other forms of pest control such as wasp eradication.

Bring it on!

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Absolutely Gary: it's been incredible to see how rapidly Predator Free Brooklyn has grown in such a short time and the energy in the Facebook group.

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EcoGecko / Trent 6 months ago

Hi Paul - social media is such a powerful tool in connecting people to causes, and motivating them in getting out to do their bit. I strongly agree that Predator Free NZ 2050 should look into utilizing social media tools to help enable social movement in rolling out the actions needed to rid NZ of the predatory pests. This is a task that only the entire community can do together, not the conservation or governmental agencies alone. Do be aware of the potential risk of anti-1080'ers in trolling Facebook discussions, so would be good to provide advice and tips on how to handle the anti's.

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Hey Trent. Fully agree re the whole community needing to get onboard the 2050 mission – and social media savvy is going to be key. Re-the anti/pro 1080 trolls: this is exactly the sort of advice we will provide in the tool kit. For example, setting a Facebook community up as a 'group' (rather than a 'page') means that conversations (and trolls!) are able to be managed much more proactively. Because a user has to request permission to join a group it largely weeds out the strident voices and means that contributors tacitly obey group norms. On the Polhill FB group we've been able to engage in korero on challenging subjects (cats and dogs!) that has been largely respectful (despite very divergent views). A result in Polhill is that we've been able to shift the middle ground on these challenging issues (see the attached pdf for a couple of examples) and be advocates for behaviour change in the wider community. The 'con' of being a group is vastly less 'likes' (so if reach was your community organization's aim you might consider this), but the 'pro' is significantly deeper engagement (= conversation rather than users yelling at each other). We've also worked very hard on fostering an inclusive tone so that newcomers feel that they can join in. A set of guidelines for positively engaging in online korero will certainly be a part of the tool-kit (e.g. advice on tone and page set-up).

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Hi again Trent. This is from a post just now in the Polhill Facebook Group re above: "It's truly magic to see this [attitude to cats survey from Vic student] research being done. Just to think how mainstream our thinking on achieving pest free sanctuaries has become & how we approach cat & dog ownership with these goals in mind. Decision time! Which do we really value more? How do we deal with cats & dogs in our precious city, going forward? Loving the discussion. Great time to be alive in our conservation history!"

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EcoGecko / Trent 6 months ago

Definitely agree. It has been extremely inspiring seeing discussions on Facebook about conservation and pest control around the country - it lets you know who else is out there doing the work, and also helps you get to know/create a personal connection to the people that are on the ground, especially for those that are on the fence but keen to jump in with a bit of encouragement. By the way, we are actually going to undertake a lizard survey at Polhill (with the Polhill community involvement) this summer, will be in touch when we know more about the plans...

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amandaliarogers 6 months ago

Hi Trent and Paul. It's such inspiring stuff! Agreed Polhill's digital presence (so far) is a great introduction to just who makes up the community and its role in hosting a 'safe place for unsafe conversations' is a key one for the movement. I trap in Polhill and I'd be keen to give you a hand with gecko surveys sometime (used to survey Naultinus gemmeus in Otago so I can pick a gecko from a Muehlenbeckia!) Maybe those scruffier and sunnier gullies on the other side too. Cheers, Amanda.

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Christopher Wingate 6 months ago

I am hoping to get your support to vote for Dr Maggie Evans who until I intervened only had 2 votes. Her work is critical science to help save critically endangered birds such as the Kakapo. Please take a look and lets all give her our support. We are all in this together. Cheers- https://wwf-nz.crowdicity.com/post/285779

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Sam Rye 6 months ago

Hi Paul!

Being a Comms practitioner myself, I really like this idea.

In the spirit of critique, I wonder if you've thought a little about how much training might need to go alongside this kit?

I've found in the past when I've worked on campaigns like Keep New Zealand Beautiful's clean up day, that the quality of the communications coming out of different groups varied wildly, dependent on the familiarity of certain individuals with communications as a discipline.

I wonder if there's some kind of existing training out there which would be worth including, or some online modules you could build? In fact, is there any of these sorts of existing social media strategies already out there? How would this be different? Web searches bring back results like:
http://www.bangthetable.com/social-media-for-community-engagement/
http://www.communityplanningtoolkit.org/community-engagement/resources
http://www.purpose.com/targeted-change-successful-campaigns/
http://www.thechangeagency.org/campaigners-toolkit/

It feels like Social Media is an important part of today's communications mix, but of course this would largely be targeted towards engaging volunteers and members of the community. Do you have any thoughts on supporting people with this kind of Comms Vs other strategies like Funder Comms, or the likes?

What would it look like to use a different strategy like adding all the group coordinators to a facebook group so they could share best practice and co-create a 'kit' in Google Docs instead? Is there anything stopping us doing this now?

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Paul Stanley Ward 6 months ago

Hey Sam: great stuff: all critique welcome. We can’t solve the comms challenge of PFNZ 2050 on $25k (though we’d sure be keen on big picture conversations about this WWF: we’re achieved some stirring stuff on a zero budget ;-).

BUT we can make a specific intervention to boost volunteer community conservation: distill Polhill's experience and expertise in engaging community online, and efficiently distribute it.

As you say, quality of comms is contingent to some extent on quality of communicators (and little beats face-to-face engagement), but PFNZ 2050 can’t rely on face-to-face (for efficiency's sake) and needs more resourceful ways to get the ball out to the backs. We (conservation) have access to freely available social media platforms (like Facebook); and we need to upgrade the way conservation conversations take place there. Some of these lessons are generic (as you note) but others are very specific (like the kakapo!) to NZ. This is where we can add value.

Those links you sent through, while worthy, are non-NZ specific and not related to the specific conservation goals of PFNZ 2050. (And TBH if I was reading those as a starting point for thinking about comms while setting up a Kiwi community conservation group, I’d struggle to make my way through their lessons... many of which are high level :-) Volunteers have busy lives and need compelling, succinct NZ conservation specific guidance. "A ‘page or a ‘group’?”, "Is it worth doing Instagram when all I want to do is catch critters?”, “should I ‘like’ 1080?” “what’s the difference between a stoat and a weasel?” “what do I do with the rat?” etc.

Design and development cost $ in comms as they do in engineering (as you’ll be well aware as a practitioner) and an effective tool-kit requires that investment. Even the google group you suggest (good idea btw...) requires pro bono time and investment from contributors to build, digest and spread.

A Kiwi kid wanting to explore nature online is increasingly forced to choose a panda or polar bear as their avatar, rather than a tui or kiwi (because it’s expensive and risky to invest in digital for NZ conservation organisations and to compete with heavily branded overseas products, especially when weighed against in-the-field investment). We urgently need resources that are commensurable in experience to international products, but that are native to here and with realistic budgets. We’re proposing a guide that will aim to efficiently exploit our ‘home advantage’: e.g. smart phone social media short-cuts to tell stories about your local nature assets (every group will have them). As part of the tool kit we’re proposing providing templates for NZ nature specific filters, emojis and stickers that will be freely available to deploy.

Councils or DoC could provide such a kit, but then it will be a council or DoC product (obviously!). As an independent volunteer group (with all the challenges that come with that: funding, volunteer management, admin) we've had to face up to those difficult Facebook conversations about cats and dogs and toxin use … and come out the other side (with community conservation outcomes to boot). We’ve had events where three people have turned up and others that have sold out to 100s, and we’ve had to figure out why (“was it the time we posted?”). And we’ve had some of NZ's leading digital developers (who are also volunteer Polhill trappers) engaged in that journey, thinking about how to ‘do it better’. Check out the attached pdf for proof.

Training is one way of up-skilling, and we would consider workshops or mentoring as part of spending the award (ditto re-dialogue with a diversity of groups, to iterate the comment above), but we believe it would be more effectively spent leveraging tools with a wide reach e.g. YouTube webinars and ‘how to’ videos to distribute the kit (we have members who do comms for Te Papa; have made videos for Discovery Channel, TV3’s Story and Country Calendar = they'll be sweet as manuka honey!). We reckon there's a compelling difference between a cobbled tool-kit and bespoke NZ nature tool-kit, and that it’s a necessary and efficient investment to make. We’ve partnered with Predator Free NZ and have access to their wide platform, and we would work together with other umbrella groups (F&B, Zealandia etc) to maximize distribution.

Whew! Hope that answers some of your questions.

*Providing funding comms advice would be great, but it’s not within the scope of what we’re proposing: we’d focus on using the award to do one thing well— empower community conservation via a digital comms kit.

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MarcSladeNZ 6 months ago

I helped set up Polhill Restoration Project and am a volunteer trapper. One of the key features of this project has been its use of social media to both recruit new volunteers and create an active community of supporters beyond our original Polhill Protectors. Great project!

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