While information quality is essential, active communication is another vital ingredient that needs to be addressed in sustainability. People may or may not know about environmental conditions to which they are exposed. In any case, it takes a long time to achieve changes in attitude (e.g., consumption patterns, prevention, minimizing health risks, participation). Practice shows that if you want to achieve positive changes, a long-term approach is needed.
There are differences in the expected impact that various information and communication strategies cause over time. Intense publicity over a short period of time may have only a short-term impact. A short, intense mass media publicity campaign, for example is able to attract attention and even cause action; but unless the campaign lasts, its effect will soon fade, as attention of the audience will turn to another subject. On the other hand, research without or with little communication builds very limited impact over time.
The recommended long-term communication strategy is based on continuous persuasion. It begins with relatively active publicity in the beginning, and continues with a fast, consecutive improvement of the information base.
Your work is almost done, but a last and important step in the work process remains: evaluation. The evaluation step often is forgotten after the project is completed. However, information received through systematic evaluation and feedback (i.e., through interviews with key people), will save resources in the future. In addition, the possibility of providing feedback and influencing the process will increase the sense of ownership within the community. Your evaluation experiences also could be of use to other institutions planning to carry out a similar process.
Evaluation will be further discussed in Module 8, which deals with monitoring, evaluation and learning in the IEA.
Nickolai Denisov, Leif Christoffersen, Impact of Environmental Information on Decision Making Process and the Environment, 2001, http://arctic.unep.net/index.cfm?issue=&type=8&data_
The Aarhus Conventions home page, http://www.unece.org/env/pp/
Case studies on access to information, public participation, http://www.unece.org/env/pp/newcastle.handbook.htm
UNEP’s Media Tour of the Balkans, http://www.grida.no/impact/papers/Reading_Your_Own_
Developing and delivering training on the Aarhus Convention for Civil Society: A Manual for trainers, http://aarhusclearinghouse.unece.org/rd.cfm?resourceid=10000690&u=http%3A%2F%
Evaluation of the Impact of the of the 1999 National State of Environment Report for South Africa, http://www.environment.gov.za/soer/reports/impact/Evaluation%20Impact%201999%20NSOER