Field Research

Since 2016, the Climate Advocacy Lab has produced dozens of field research projects, often in collaboration with organizational and movement allies. This portfolio includes physical and digital experiments, social media content testing, case study development, and large-scale data analysis to help advocates and researchers find new and more effective ways to engage the American public on climate action. Here are a selection of projects we have worked on.



"What does our base think?"

Climate Justice Polling Program

The Lab worked with the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) to conduct probabilistic polling in four areas of strategic importance in Southern California. The Lab helped train CEJA’s phonebanking operation in polled methods, allowing them to build new skills to conduct outreach and learning. Through this project, CEJA learned that residents in the surveyed communities are concerned about climate change, aware of local environmental justice issues like trucking-generated air pollution, and are open to policy solutions.


"How do we attract supporters online?

Does higher-quality video production drive engagement?

Oil Change International (OCI) was interested in testing whether high-production videos generated significantly more action-taking to justify the additional costs during a campaign calling for then-California Governor Jerry Brown to be a climate leader. They conducted a three-way test, pitting a high-production video vs. a "quick and dirty" stock video with text vs. an image with text to see which would generate the most engagement via email and Facebook. The results revealed to OCI that they could save money and effort on their digital ads while reaping the same engagement rewards.


"How can we reach our supporters?"

Welcoming Activists: an experiment on ways to increase new activists' engagement

With the threats from telecom carriers to restrict broadcast and peer-to-peer texting, advocates may need to pivot to alternative modes of contact to reach and engage supporters. Sunrise Movement partnered with the Climate Advocacy Lab and The Movement Cooperative to test a relatively new technology as a potential replacement for text messages: ringless voicemail messages (a.k.a. voicemail drops). Through this project, Sunrise Movement was able to learn which of these modes of contact was the most effective in keeping their base engaged.


“How do we connect with our audience?”

Alianza and Climate Advocacy Lab Action-Taking Test

Alianza wanted to learn how to best recruit Latina mothers in Florida into climate activism. As part of the Lab's exploration of the Social Identity Model for Collective Action (SIMCA), this project found that the most effective framing tactic on Facebook were ads that focused on a shared Latina environmentalist identity versus collective efficacy messages, ads leveraging family themes, or legacy message linking the well-being of children to the fate of the planet.


"How do we develop internal leadership?"

Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light Snowflake Model Test

Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light wanted to test whether a networked distributed leadership model that uses peer mentors ("movement builders") to increase the efficacy of new organizers in faith communities ("community connectors") would generate more action on climate change. Preliminary results from surveys, interviews, and focus groups suggest that more deliberate connections with organizational leadership lead to supporters taking more actions and being more engaged with organizational staff.


"Is what we’re doing working?"

Relational Climate Conversations: Moving from Theory to Measurement

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Climate and Rural Systems Partnership (CRSP) wanted to train supporters in Western Pennsylvania on how to talk about climate change and climate solutions in their local communities. The Lab worked with CRSP to lead a training workshop on Relational Climate Conversations and helped them measure the program's impact on workshop participants. Using time-series survey analysis, they found that the training increased both the rate of relational climate conversations among participants as well as their sense of confidence conducting these conversations.


"What is the state of our movement?"

Multi-organization member engagement: Do online activists ever move offline?

Working with consultant Kate Duch, the Lab supported a multi-organization research project to help better understand the environmental "ladder of engagement" in an increasingly digital era. Using an analysis of merged member data from seven environmental organizations and over 12 million records of members, activists, and donors, they found that online-to-offline movement of environmental activists occurs with only a small fraction of online activists, but does represent a significant share (35%) of those who do become offline activists.