Trusted Messengers

There are a number of ways to implement the principle of working with trusted messengers. Marshall (2014) writes extensively about the use of trusted messengers and the related dimension of community and inclusion, arguing that, “Even when confronted with direct evidence of climate extremes, the main influence on people’s attitudes will still be the view of the people they know and trust” (p. 232).

Not only do trusted messengers help to cut through the psychological defenses that naturally arise in the face of difficult information, but it also enables honesty about the nature of the threat, which “will only motivate people if they hear it from trusted communicators and can see opportunities for action and change.” (p. 234) This matters, in particular, for communication and engagement with racialized or historically marginalized communities. As Phadke, Manning and Burlager (2015) point out, “If taking action on climate change is perceived as something for wealthy white communities, people outside this demographic are less likely to become engaged” (p. 63).

Considering the role of trusted messengers is not just a matter of who delivers the message, attending to the context in which a message is received also matters. As Phadke et al. (2015) write, “At our community meetings, participants witnessed first-hand that concern about climate change is, in fact, quite prevalent. Many expressed relief and appreciation to hear that others were concerned and desiring action. They left the meeting feeling part of a larger community of people who care about climate adaptation, and with a sense that concern is warranted and normal” (p. 73).


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Strategic Dialogue and Engagement for Climate Adaptation Copyright © by Simon Fraser University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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