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Social Capitalists: Rare

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner


Brett Jenks, CEO
Arlington, Virginia
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Rare appears on Fast Company's and Monitor Group's Social Capitalist Awards list for the fourth year in a row. Since last year's listing, this U.S.-based conservation group has embarked on a growth plan to triple in size because of the growing demand from larger groups and foreign governments for its creative methods and business-style marketing strategies. Instead of marketing products, Rare-trained organizers market conservation—using the power of local pride.

Rare's approach is to identify promising leaders in the world's most threatened natural areas and provide them with two years of training and support to launch a campaign for the environment in their communities.

These local leaders start with 11 weeks of coursework (currently in four languages) at one of Rare's university-based training centers. They return home equipped with new outreach tools, a two-year budget, a Rare mentor, and peer support from an online platform developed in partnership with Omidyar Network (run by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar).

Rare organizers turn on the power of local pride using over 30 different grassroots marketing vehicles. Giant costumed mascots represent a charismatic endangered animal or bird. They march in parades and visit festivals, churches, and schools. These same local mascots are also featured in pop songs, puppetry, billboards, radio programs, even beauty contests -- all designed to increase community support for conservation.

Such Rare "Pride" campaigns have now been used in 110 locations in 40 countries, with often dramatic results:

  1. An organizer in Manantlan, Mexico, cut the rate of forest fires by two-thirds within 18 months by adopting the Trogon, a forest bird that happens to have the red, white and green colors of the Mexican flag in its plumage.
  2. A Rare-trained conservationist in Indonesia motivated remote fishing communities to stop destroying reefs and instead work with the government to create a huge national marine protected area.
  3. And Rare's first partnership in China led to a measurable reduction in forest clearing by local people, helping to conserve Yunnan Province's irresistible and highly endangered golden monkey.

Rare has now reached nearly 6 million people in biodiversity-rich areas and is now seeking investment capital to take its successful model to scale: Groups such as The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, National Audubon Society, and the United Nations have contracted with Rare to develop Pride campaigns. And, a newly signed agreement with China's State Environmental Protection Administration will bring in Rare to train hundreds of local leaders from across China in coming years.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning author and naturalist E.O. Wilson has noted: "In an original manner, Rare attends to conservation where it has ultimately the most lasting effect—through education tuned to the culture and needs of local people."