The experimental design for our 2019 focus groups, inspired by climax thinking

Happy finally to have the first paper out open access in Environmental Management from the SRES node of the SMU-led NRCan-funded Making Room for Movement project. This paper tells the results of the online (pre-COVID!) focus groups that we ran with coastal property owners back in summer 2019, and specifically, the impact of the experimental ‘priming’ treatments that MES Krysta Sutton and I applied. Framing is a more common idea than priming. In framing you design the message itself to be acceptable to your audience by emphasizing some aspects and de-emphasizing others. Priming is more like setting the stage: getting people thinking in ways that will allow difficult messages–like those about coastal adaptation and retreat–to later land productively. We used three experimental treatments based on the climax thinking framework, and tested the impacts quantitatively (using pre-post tests) and qualitatively (analyzing focus group discussions). Getting people thinking about future generations was most clearly effective, but it was also helpful to get people thinking about altruism in their community (past and present). This suggests some useful ways to engage with residents in areas faced by sea-level rise. Briefly: Don’t look backward, but forward to future generations, and outward to focus on the meaning in tackling shared challenges together.