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IDG Contributor Network: Building a data-driven culture for a sustainable tomorrow

Brett Hurt: When many people think of nonprofits, particularly more grassroots global development initiatives, technology isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. But Rare has had great success integrating innovative technology into their conservation work. You’ve been with the organization for nearly two decades—can you describe for us how that came to be, what it looked like as it was happening, and the benefits you’re seeing now?

Brett Jenks: Rare works in some of the world’s richest places, at least biologically, and we partner with some of the world’s poorest people, at least financially. Our mission is to inspire behavior change so people and nature can both thrive. Over twenty-five years ago, we began measuring that change, usually through questionnaire surveys. We wanted to know how our programs influenced local knowledge and attitudes and eventually behavior. So we surveyed the communities in remote rural areas of the Caribbean, Central and South America, SE Asia, and Africa, and we did this in a statistically valid way before and after every project. This helped us improve our program strategies and of course it helped show our donors we were making a difference.

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