If you focus on results, you will never change.
If you focus on change, you will get results.
In 1999, the National Center for Atmospheric Research received a grant from The MacArthur Foundation to help improve the communication between scientists and non-governmental groups about climate change. We started our project in 2003 using a portion of those funds, and expanded the scope to focus more broadly on how climate change communication might more effectively facilitate social change in society more generally.
We saw real opportunity in broadly surveying existing academic knowledge and facilitating conversation across disciplines and with practitioners. Our own experience and a review of the literature suggested that the practice of climate change communication had resulted in disappointing and even counterproductive results. Thus, our central guiding objective was to understand how communicators might advance societal response to climate change by better conveying its urgency and creating a more inclusive and productive conversation.
We convened a multidisciplinary workshop with both academic and practitioner experts in communication and social change. Over 40 individuals from academia, government, non-profit advocacy groups, the business community, and other areas of the private sector met in June 2004 for a three-day workshop at NCAR. Quite deliberately, we invited not only professionals concerned with climate change but also others from unrelated fields and professional backgrounds to contribute fresh thinking on the communication – social change challenge.