The Sustaining Family Forests Initiative (SFFI) welcomed their new Program Manager, Katherine Hollins, to the team in September 2016. After earning her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Virginia, Katherine went on to earn her Master of Science from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. She also comes to us with experience in land-management and volunteer coordination gained while working for the Michigan Nature Association, and experience managing an international collaborative focused on non-native Phragmites, gained while working for the Great Lakes Commission.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Katherine to talk about her background, her new position, and what she is looking forward to most about working for SFFI.
Good morning, Katherine. Thanks for speaking with me today. Can you tell us a little bit about your background in Social Marketing and how you came to be interested in this field?
I have always found people to be really interesting - why people do what they do, how they think, and how their surroundings impact them. Marketing has such a connection with psychology and understanding people that it’s always been something that’s been in the back of my mind. Even in graduate school, when I was focused on natural resources and the environment, I continued to drift toward the communications and “people” side of natural resources. While there, I studied behavior change techniques and Community Based Social Marketing that targeted sustainability-focused behaviors. That was all quite similar to the work we do through SFFI.
Can you tell us about a time in which you’ve used social marketing in your previous career?
Social marketing has been in the back of my mind for my whole career. In my most recent position, I spent a lot of time asking other people to do things for me, like serving as a guest presenter for a webinar or writing a blog. To get partners to take on these tasks, I tried to reduce barriers for them, make the tasks less intimidating, and help them see the benefits they would receive. In any job where you’re working with people, keeping a social marketing mindset will make things easier for everyone… think about what you want, know your audience, and then make it easy for them to do what you want. All of this is easier said than done, I should say.
You recently traveled with the SFFI team to Florida, Texas, and Georgia to learn the TELE method. How was that learning process for you? What elements of the method are you most excited to teach in the trainings going forward?
I really enjoyed the experience; it was great to see Mary (Tyrrell), Purnima (Chawla), and Ravi (Singh) at work. I was able to shadow each of them, see their styles, and then ease into facilitating with their support.
As for the TELE workshop, the whole thing is pretty exciting because, for most of the attendees, it’s totally new. Helping folks to think from their audience’s perspective is so useful, and it’s really kind of simple when you think about it. A lot of people just haven’t had the opportunity to think about it before they came to the workshop, and watching people arrive at a new insight is really fun.
What are some things you’re looking forward to focusing on in the coming months?
Evaluation is at the top of my list for the near future. While we do get feedback from participants after the workshops, I want to be able to quantify our impact more clearly and see if we can measure our impact on the ground. This is going to be incredibly challenging, but also quite useful. We know we are impacting individual participants and their work, but what is our ultimate impact on the landscape? All of this is with the intention of improving on the great program we have already. It’s important to take a step back, make sure we’re seeing the results we want, and always consider the ways we can improve.
Finally, Katherine, when you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It was a toss-up, really, between being a dolphin or being a tightrope walker.
That’s great. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. We are excited to have you on the team!
If you’re interested in contacting Katherine, or would like more information about SFFI or the TELE program, please contact her via email at Katherine.email@example.com or by phone at 203-432-7470. To learn more about the TELE program, please visit our website: engaginglandowners.org
(Interview has been edited for content and clarity.)