Converting indifferent urban youth to become the defenders of the forest

Client Climate and Land Use Alliance

Year 2019

Communication Startegy ConsultantCreate and manage public campaignsDevelop communication strategies

The client’s brief

Some Indonesian CSOs working in the environmental sector that are grantees of Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA) believed that the year prior to the general election (2019) was a period with significant momentum they should be capitalizing on. They invited C4C to discuss how best to campaign to first-time voters so that they would put public pressure on legislative and presidential candidates to include curbing deforestation in their political promises.

Our insight

A Pew global study in 2015 showed that only 41% of Indonesians believed that climate change was a serious problem. Meanwhile, Roy Morgan Single Source in 2016 showed that 52% Indonesians felt that environmental issues had been exaggerated. Study from Center for Strategic and International Studies (2019) also showed that less than 2% of voters see the environment as the most important problem they are facing now, and less than 2% choose it as the government’s program they deem to be most important.

C4C had conducted qualitative study prior to this project, to find out what concerns these young Indonesians, who do not experience environmental damage first-hand, have that we could use to change them from being indifferent to caring about the issues. The best way to make urban youth start caring about deforestation is by reframing it as a national-pride issue.

The core of the strategy

The ultimate goal of the Golongan Hutan campaign is to overcome indifference among Indonesian urban youth about deforestation so that, upon prompting by CSOs, they will demand pro-forest policies and practices from policymakers.

The theory of change of this campaign is as follows:

Image 1: theory of change

We believed  the reason urban youth did not care about deforestation also had something to do with  the fact that nobody outside the environmental activism community talks about it on social media. Having observed that netizens’ protests that the government was more likely to pay attention to usually took the form of moral outrage, we hypothesized that what was lacking in deforestation campaigns was a moral-emotional framing that was relevant to the majority of Indonesians with conservative views.

A few months before the initiatives of the Golongan Hutan campaign came about, we conducted a qualitative study across six cities in Indonesia (also for CLUA). In the study, we concluded that we should use the narrative of deforestation as a threat to national status as the third-largest rainforest area in the world (infringement of loyalty moral foundation).

The execution

In the first phase of the Golongan Hutan campaign we tried to introduce corruption in natural resources as the culprit of deforestation. Then after evaluating the campaign’s performance, we decided to shift to a narrative where we fast-forwarded the negative consequences of deforestation from the future (natural disasters) to the present (Indonesia’s loss of status). We also decided to change the tone and manner to be more lighthearted and “populist”. We selected a new call-to-action, which is to entrust (“menitipkan”)  the president-elect to seriously take care of the forest. 

We used “negara berflower vs negara berforest” idea for viral moments on three social media channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Every day, we kept our ears to the ground to find what netizens were talking about and riding on that using a compare-and-contrast routine on a weekly basis.

Image 2: content sample from Golongan Hutan’s social media post in 2019
Video 1: content sample from Golongan Hutan’s social media post in 2019

The result

The campaign ran in two stages, each with a different but related call to action. The first was December 2018-April 2019 to facilitate young voters to tweet questions to candidates running for the general election. There were 5,858 tweets generated and those tweets came from the people beyond the activist community. 

The second and last one ran over August-October 2019 to accumulate signatures for a petition asking the president-elect to look after the forests so that Indonesia would not lose its position as the third-largest rainforest area in the world. Exactly 49,873 people signed the petition. 

The second phase of the campaign outperformed the first in terms of output (follower growth, number of participations, and content engagement rate) and efficiency (cost per participation). Nevertheless, if we are committed to converting indifferent urban youth into forest-concerned citizens, we must be more mindful in setting and sticking with campaign indicators that correspond to our long-term goals of changing attitudes and behavior.

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