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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Increasing public awareness: a community action group case study Taylor, Rosemary F.


The purpose of this study was to determine how a community action group raised public awareness for its cause, and to show the importance of acknowledging the many ways in which people of all ages learn in a variety of settings and circumstances. The research question asked "How are knowledge and attitudes transmitted and acquired where the instruction is intentional, but the learning is generally unintentional?" Community action groups are learning systems using planned educational strategies to raise public awareness for social issues, where the public are not, initially, intentional learners. This study investigated the educational efforts of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee in raising awareness of, and promoting action on, two local issues concerning proposed housing and golf course developments in an environmentally sensitive area. Data collection was by semi-structured interviews with representatives from the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee, the public, and the local media. Other data came from newspaper and magazine articles, publicity materials used in the educational campaign, correspondence between action group members and bureaucrats, and studies done in the area which were used for educational purposes by the activists. Findings showed that awareness-raising needs to extend beyond the public to the politicians and decision-makers who, in this instance, were making decisions affecting the local population with which the electorate did not agree, and thus two changes of attitude were required. Firstly the public attitude needed to change from passive acceptance of 'progress' which had the potential to destroy irreplaceable wildlife habitat, and secondly the attitude of elected officials needed to be changed to reflect the wishes of the electorate. Both these goals were achieved, helped by the educational strategies of the Boundary Bay Conservation Committee through the usual meetings, Open House and public debates, and also informal on-site educational workshops, fund-raising events and incidental information placed throughout the community. Through saturation of the area with information the issue became a high-profile topic of conversation. Council meetings and public hearings which are part of the democratic process also played a large part in raising public awareness, and much incidental learning occurred throughout the community on related matters such as democratic procedure, wildlife habitat, and the local economy.

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