We keep thinking about two things.
First, Americans are likely more disconnected to nature than ever before—outdoor education is rapidly declining, we spend more time indoors, and technology and media are central to our daily lives.
Second, and this is where we’re concentrating, Oregonians across the state have a profound ethic around the outdoors. We produce food and beer and wine. We appreciate clean tap water, rural night skies and nearby urban parks. Farms have been in families for generations. Many of us grew up being outside or came here because of recreation, thriving wild places and natural wonders—mountains, rivers, forests, the desert and the Pacific Ocean.
How do we begin to bridge those two things?
In 2015 the conservation community in Oregon came together, using COLT as a vehicle for collective action, to talk about reconnecting Oregonians to nature and to the work of conservation organizations statewide. We designed a robust listening project—the Oregon Voices Project—to learn more about what Oregonians care about, how they spend their time, who they trust, and how (and if) environmental issues play a role in their daily lives. We prioritized listening to voices that sometimes get overlooked, rural ones, young ones and communities of color.
The Yarg Foundation generously funded the Oregon Voices Project and DHM Research—a leading local research firm and the brains behind the Oregon Values and Beliefs Project—was a founding project member, guiding scientific design and insight. We grounded the work by seeking perspective around personal and community values and we did not lead any conversations from a conservation lens.
In 2017, we began our work by reviewing research and literature and spending time to understand demographic data around the service areas of our members.
- We surveyed our supporters and non-supporters.
- We hosted four focus groups around the state—actively recruiting to hear the voices of those who are traditionally outside our traditional circles
- We conducted an extensive statewide poll about what Oregonians care about.
- We worked with partners and led community conversations
- Through every turn, adjusted our approach based on what we learned along the way.
In 2019, we’re still wading through data and are pivoting to share the insight soon—with anyone who’s interested.