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The need for agility

The need for agility

A big lesson that came out of 2020 was the need for agility.

With a global pandemic suddenly upon us, it became critical to quickly pivot the way we work, what we offer, how we offer it, and our related messages.

Which wasn’t easy for many conservation organizations to do.

Some struggled to adapt existing projects to online and remote formats, and had to quickly learn by trial-and-error on the fly.

Others felt frustrated at how slow and difficult it can be to steer a program in a different direction.

And many froze for a bit when facing the challenge of resetting goals and expectations, either by going “dark” with their communication efforts or by maintaining the status quo at the risk of sounding out-of-touch.

All of which surfaced the question: How can conservation organizations create a culture and habit of agility to stay ahead of change?

Looking further down the road

The need to remain agile is why I follow trend tracking companies and futurists, and aim to flag upcoming trends that may impact our field.

Because the more we keep our fingers on the pulse of what lays ahead for societal needs, expectations, and norms, then the better prepared we’ll be to adapt and adjust when the time comes.

It puts us in a position of being proactive about change, and not reactive to what’s already occurred.

You may certainly want to exclaim at this point that nobody could have predicted the pandemic happening, at least not at the speed and scale it did.

And while that’s true, it’s also true that many of the trends we saw as a result of the pandemic were not new. They did not come out of nowhere.

Rather the pandemic, especially all the lockdowns, accelerated the adoption of behaviors and practices that were already on the radar of trend trackers and showing early rates of adoption.

Such as:

  • Working from home due to a growing gig economy with freelancers and remote workers.
  • Connecting more deeply with nature to restore mental and physical health (i.e., forest bathing).
  • Home serving as our main headquarters with streaming services, meal kit delivery, game nights, etc.
  • Virtual experiences and exploration through gaming, VR, and AR.
  • Do-it-yourself (DIY) crafts, cooking, décor, and more.
  • Activism on social and environmental issues by consumers, employees, and brands.
  • Finding solutions to increase sustainability and reduce waste.

Some of these I even touched upon in a “trends to watch” webinar I gave in June 2018! (And all the ones in that webinar are still very relevant for today.)

Let’s get ready for these trends

In reading through the newly released 2021 trend reports, I’ve spotted several trends we should get ready for.

Even if it doesn’t seem like a trend is relevant to the issues you concentrate on, it’s still worth considering if the social shifts they represent may result in challenges or opportunities for your cause down the road.

It can also be fun to reflect on whether we see these trends emerging in our personal lives as well. I know they do for me!

⛺️ More vacations and trips in nature-based settings.

Local trips for outdoor adventures have been a big draw throughout the pandemic as they’ve been deemed relatively “safe” to do. Exploring nature locally (i.e., near to one’s home) isn’t expected to decline and as other travel restrictions ease up, more people will satisfy their cravings for open-air experiences.

A great opportunity for those who manage national parks, zoos & aquariums, urban green spaces, popular tourism areas, and anything related to the big, beautiful outdoors!

Let’s get ready to help audiences celebrate and appreciate how nature completes us (appreciation days, thank you nature posts, donations to protect & preserve), while also providing helpful tips and reminders to #RecreateResponsibly.

🍳More cooking and eating at home

We’ve (re)discovered our love of cooking at home and many tackled tough cooking challenges during the pandemic (e.g., sourdough!) The growth in this trend further solidifies the “home as HQ” trend mentioned above and is expected to grow with home chefs looking to attempt more gourmet meals they would normally dine out for.

This is ripe with opportunity for programs working on plastic substitutes and reduction, improving recycling practices, encouraging composting, reducing food waste, increasing plant-based eating (a growing trend in itself) & more!

Let’s get ready with helpful tips for how they can make the most out of their groceries (make every dollar and leaf count!), fun new recipes that support plant-based and low-waste eating, and new tools & tech that help combine sustainability with convenience.

I wrote a bit about food-related behaviors we could promote in mid-2019 here.

💻 Virtual is here to stay

Even though we’re all “zoomed out”, we’ve experienced some real benefits to having more events and experiences occur online – namely reduced carbon footprints, time savings, and greater inclusion. Many won’t be in a rush to lose those benefits, so expect that online-only will morph into hybrid experiences that meet the needs of in-person AND remote attendees.

This will have a big impact on organizations that traditionally run conferences and in-person events, yet opens many doors of opportunity for groups who would like to bring people together and/or reach more audiences with existing and new educational content.

Let’s get ready by re-envisioning what online events can look like, especially if we step outside the box of them being replicas of in-person experiences. We should also get ready with ideas for incorporating gaming into our engagement efforts (or vice versa) and with educational offerings for those building alternate career pathways through greater online access.

📣 Fulfilling promises of representation, inclusion, equity, and justice

We had many moments in 2020 that heightened our awareness of social equity and justice issues, leading to commitments and pledges to do better. In addition, the pandemic is accelerating existing equity gaps while also reversing recent progress towards gender parity.

Now it’s time for putting in the hard work of fulfilling promises and supporting those most impacted by the covid-19 crisis. Not only will we see more organizations authentically demonstrating their efforts on these fronts, but we’ll also see more consumers and employees holding companies accountable.

Let’s get ready with concrete plans and actions for embedding social justice into our environmental work. I’ve written previously about how conservation groups can deliver on purpose, representation, and anti-racism goals.

A few quick takes

I’ve thrown a lot at you above. Here’s a few more quick trends of note to take away.

» Innovations to combine sustainability with convenience ⇒ Get ready to support new (even somewhat wacky) ideas being generated that help consumers make smarter, more earth-friendly choices.

» DIY methods for teaching sustainability to kids at-home ⇒ Get out your EE craft kits to share widely with parents! Host a kid-centric webinar on these topics to give parents a coffee break.

» Desire to absorb more global culture from home ⇒ This is an opportunity to connect people to distant habitats and species that need support through unique hobbies and crafts.

» More amphibians and reptiles as pets ⇒ Yikes! How can we help these pet parents adopt the most sustainable species possible? Let’s get the sustainable pet adoption guides & checklists created.

Track trends yourself

All the above trends have been extracted from the following reports and then sifted, stirred, mashed, blended, and (mostly) baked by me.

Have a read to see which additional trends resonate with you personally or professionally.

Enjoy peeking into the future!

» Pinterest is an interesting source for staying on top of trends as people begin pinning things months before they’re ready to take action.

» Kantar: How covid-19 is impacting our eating and drinking habits: the 4 big shifts that will stick around after the pandemic: more eating at home, more efficient cooking (i.e. less waste), food delivery & a shift back to health.

» Trendwatching is one of my all time favs and they recently released their 2021 report. As is Wunderman Thompson, whose hefty report is out now as well.

These two trend reports are newer to me, and I found them both really interesting:

» Fjord Trends by Accenture.

» Trends for the 2020s by the Strategies and Futures Research Unit.