At the Children’s Museum in Amman, Jordan, visitors learn about water, energy, and environmental conservation through interactive exhibits and role play. In Vietnam, community members learn how to protect their forests through participatory events and drills. And in offices and living rooms around the world, water practitioners learn about cutting-edge best practices via podcasts, magazines, and webinars.
These activities are all part of ECODIT’s burgeoning environmental communications practice, which is inspiring thousands to conserve natural resources and protect the environment, with support from USAID.
Pioneering Best Practices
“In the 26 years since ECODIT was established, we have undertaken hundreds of activities to protect the environment and better manage natural resources,” said Roula Attar, ECODIT’s Vice President of Quality, Learning, and Communications. “However, in order to ensure these activities are sustainable, it is important that communities have the will and knowledge to protect their natural resources.”
That’s where communications comes in. ECODIT’s first major environmental communications work was for the $20.5M, five-year USAID Jordan Public Action for Water, Energy and Environment Project (PAP, 2009-2014). PAP was a comprehensive public education and behavior change communication program that promoted more efficient and effective management and use of Jordan’s water, energy, and environmental resources.
PAP supported the Jordanian government to improve its internal and external communications and designed the aforementioned exhibit at the Children’s Museum in Amman, which made waves throughout the country and was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Rania al Abdullah. It also oversaw a $5M grants program, awarding more than 50 grants that supported household social marketing campaigns, youth advocacy trainings and activities, and drafting of environmental curricula, among others. For example, one grant supported the training of more than 300 female religious lecturers on water and energy conservation promotion—helping them to use their influence to ignite wide-ranging, long-lasting change.
The project contributed to a significant shift in national attitudes and behaviors. At PAP’s start, less than 25% of the population was actively trying to conserve water or energy. By the project’s end, over 90% were practicing at least one energy efficiency and one water saving behavior.
Helping USAID Communicate
Since PAP’s completion, ECODIT has continued to help a range of partners, from foreign governments to grassroots organizations, better communicate about the environment, energy, and water. One of the most notable of these partners is USAID.
ECODIT is currently implementing the $15M five-year USAID Water Communications and Knowledge Management (CKM) Project (2015-2020). This project is supporting the USAID Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment’s (E3) Water Office and its partners to communicate successes, disseminate best practices, and facilitate knowledge sharing.
Water CKM aims to reach everyone from USAID’s beneficiaries to water sector partners and top U.S. government officials. As such, it produces a wide range of content: a dynamic website that compiles USAID research and communications, a bi-monthly e-magazine, a bi-weekly newsletter, webinars, reports, case studies, podcasts, events, social media, and more. Examples of recent content include a podcast interview with Dr. Canisius Kanangire, Executive Secretary of the African Ministers’ Council on Water, on strategic planning for Africa’s water and sanitation sectors; a magazine article on how USAID is reducing groundwater loss in Armenia; and a series of webinars examining the sustainability of USAID water projects.
Often, the material in these channels is coordinated to support a particular message or event. For example, last March on World Water Day, Water CKM created a communications and social media toolkit highlighting USAID water-themed content and messaging, which included pictograms, photos, podcasts, videos, articles, and case studies. Thanks to robust posting and sharing by USAID and its partners, this content reached more than ten million people in more than 25 countries, helping the USAID Water Office raise awareness of its work and facilitate buy-in for its projects.
ECODIT is now working to build on these successes. The firm was just awarded the $5M, five-year USAID Cambodia Green Futures Activity (CGFA), which will mobilize communities to conserve biodiversity and protect natural resources. In addition, the firm implements communications best practices throughout its work—for example, helping governments in Central Asia to craft a clean energy-focused communications strategy for a regional energy trade facilitation project and holding awareness-raising events as part of a Vietnam environmental project. In doing so, it is empowering communities to build a more sustainable future.