An Advocacy Role for Public Gardens: Tropical Rain Forest

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University of Delaware
In the increasingly competitive not-for-profit world, public gardens need to justify their contribution to society. Public gardens need to become more active in current socio-environmental issues to both demonstrate a sense of social responsibility and fulfill a need in contemporary society. The public will look increasingly toward public gardens for information and guidance concerning plant-related issues. This thesis examines advocacy in public gardens, focusing on the issue of tropical rain forest conservation. It argues the need for more widespread advocacy and explores the potential role public gardens can play. The first chapter addresses the trend toward advocacy in public gardens. It discusses the concept of advocacy, noting the increase in advocacy at related institutions. Advocacy is not a traditional role for public gardens. The reasons that more public gardens have yet to assume a leadership role in advocating tropical rain forest conservation can be grouped into the following categories: traditional values/mission, leadership, individuals' attitudes, questions of responsibility, conflicting priorities, need for global perspective, isolation, controversy/partisanship. The few public gardens with leading advocacy roles in tropical rain forest conservation share three common traits: 1) determined, focused leadership; 2) a well-defined mission communicated throughout the organization; 3) involvement in collaborative efforts. To effectively achieve an advocacy role, public gardens must formulate a clear, common message. In an advocacy role, the audience becomes constituencies. Visitors, non-visitors in the community, staff, volunteers including board members all should be targeted audience segments. To be most effective, all aspects of the organization should communicate the same message, using a variety of methods. Plant displays, interpretation, educational programming, music and theater, exhibits, special events, travel programs, visitor services, publications, garden policies and procedures all can communicate an advocacy stance. Recommendations are made on how a public garden can begin developing an advocacy role. The environmental problems facing today's world can only be solved through multi-disciplinary, international efforts with each individual and organization making a contribution. Public gardens can play a valuable role through advocacy.
Conservation, Environmental, Tropical rainforest, Advocacy, Habitat