Conservation Enterprise Development: Research for Design

Evidence works in two ways – to inform good design within your team, and to persuade others to believe that your conservation enterprise idea is going to work, financially and impact-wise. This post provides an overview of how to understand the two groups of people you need to know intimately to be effective – your customers and the people you seek to influence. It follows on from my last post, which was about choosing your industry and your strategy.

Market Research

Market research provides the evidence for business design. You’re looking to understand the needs and desires of potential customers that you can fulfill using what is special about your place. There’s a number of other important pieces of information that comes out of it as well – analysis should be done at a number of levels to get all the information you need to design your business.

  1. Industry Analysis – There’s any number of reports out there providing an overview of the industry you’ve chosen, it’s size, growth rate and key market trends. Good industry analysis should provide information about the types (segments) of customer in the market and give you an idea of who they are, where they live, and what they value.
  2. Customer Analysis – Choose the customer segment that best fits your strategy and spent time with people that fit the description. Talk to them or survey them to understand why and how they buy products like yours, what they look for in products like yours, and ask them about their previous experiences with similar products.
  3. Competitor Analysis – Look online at companies that have a similar target market to you. Understand the quality expectations in the industry, how they market and sell to customers, and see if there are opportunities for the trends and desires that are not currently being met by existing players.
  4. Supply Chain Analysis – Research online to map out the value chain of the product from production to consumption and try and figure out how much of the final value goes to each link in the value chain. Decide how much of the value chain to take on – do you leave production to someone else? Do you sell directly to the consumer or not?

Impact Research

Impact research provides the evidence to design your theory of change – how you achieve your purpose as an organisation. USAID recently released a report about developing a Theory of Change for conservation enterprises, but IMHO it’s not as revealing as it should be in going into the mechanics of designing effective behaviour change strategies.

  1. Problem Mapping – Understand who and what is causing biodiversity or cultural loss in your place? Map the changes, groups of people causing that change, and how they interact with other groups and the landscape. Consider groups that indirectly influence the degradation as well as direct influences. Here’s one I saw recently by Birdlife for the Helmeted Hornbill.
  2. Change Agent Selection – We need to choose our key group of people (change agents) that we want to influence from the problem map, based on their influence on the problem and who we are best placed to impact. Then take the time to talk to them, individually or in groups, and understand why people do what they do.
  3. Behaviour Change – There’s many models of behaviour change, from the classic but effective forcefield analysis to my personal favourite, BJ Fogg’s Behaviour Model. I have a hybrid approach which compares current behaviour versus desired behaviour on four dimensions: values alignment, material benefits, immediacy of benefits and ease of action. The challenge will be designing your Theory of Change to tip the balance from one to the other.

Once you have done your research, it is time to put together a killer slide deck that is going to inform the collaborative design process (is co-design over-used yet?) – the next stage of Conservation Enterprise development.

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