Agents of Change

Improving community understanding and support for local marine protected areas

Agents of Change is an initiative from the Marine CoLABoration to address the fact that the public knows little or nothing about the existence of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the UK or the benefits they bring. 

Like protected woodlands or meadows on land, MPAs are designated areas of sea where there are restrictions on activities which can be harmful to the marine environment.

They are being applied globally as a tool to recover and safeguard the health of the ocean, but different MPAs have different restrictions and levels of protection in place, and their complexity can be a barrier to understanding and engagement. 

As a result, protection is not widely supported by society and actively opposed by some coastal communities or sea users who paradoxically depend on the benefits MPAs provide. 

Agents of Change seeks to change this. By working with different actors within coastal communities and empowering new voices for conservation, it aims to strengthen and widen engagement in the process and discussions surrounding marine protection.

It is using values based approaches including the  Community Voice Method  to foster an understanding and passion for MPAs, ensuring that people value blue spaces as they do green ones. We supported the Marine Conservation Society to employ an Agents of Change co-coordinator in south east England to pilot the project, working with groups from fishermen to schools to coastal businesses to treasure and promote their local MPAs.  

About the Community Voice Method

The Community Voice Method is a powerful way of surfacing public opinion. Instead of the traditional route of holding a public meeting, it works deeply with the community before any meeting takes place. Stakeholders across an issue are interviewed in depth, and their views are analysed for key themes. A short film is made which reflects the breadth of views and provides a more nuanced, representative and human basis for discussion and decision-making.

Bringing new voices into the debate on marine conservation widens and strengthens discussions. It also helps to democratise marine conservation processes for the benefit of the environment and coastal communities.

Agents of Change sits at the heart of our strategy to build new collaborative platforms to communicate the value of the ocean more effectively. It is already encouraging shared understanding and acceptance of different view, values, and concerns.