Blog by Victoria Carr, Conservation Scientist 

For guidance on using ENACT to evaluate the effectiveness of your nature activities, please contact 

With spring on the horizon, and the hope of Covid restrictions easing, I am looking forward to a time when staff and volunteers across our reserves can restart their many and varied people engagement activities and events. But colleagues have always asked, which of these activities are most effective at engaging people and inspiring conservation action, and why? 

Like many conservation organisations, the RSPB runs a wide range of diverse nature activities that endeavour to help people grow their connection to nature in a way that hopefully inspires them to act positively for nature. But until now we haven’t known how the activities run on our reserves help to build people’s connection to nature, which activities are better at doing this, and how we can potentially improve the effectiveness of connection activities. Joelene Hughes and I have developed a new evaluation tool called ENACT (Evaluating Nature Activities for Connection Tool) to investigate this and provide the key to answering these questions. 

The Robin Hood Festival at Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve was one of the activities included in ENACT (c) Ben Andrew (

Connection to Nature 

The term “Connection to Nature” refers to a person’s lasting relationship with nature, describing the mix of feelings and attitudes they have towards nature. Research shows that people who have a strong long-term connection to nature are more likely to behave in ways that benefit nature and the environment. As connection to nature is also linked to wellbeing, increasing connection to nature should benefit both nature and people. 

While the benefits of long-term connection to nature are increasingly recognised, much less is known about how to develop a person’s connection to nature in the shorter-term, particularly among adults. It is thought that long-term connection develops through repeated nature experiences, but how do one-off nature activities and events motivate people to repeat a nature activity and build their connection? Our reserves and visitor experience colleagues were keen to know whether their events are helping to build participants’ connection to nature, and which activities work best for motivating conservation behaviour. Until now we have not had a suitable tool for evaluating this. 

Developing ENACT 

In 2018, we worked with RSPB colleagues and visitors to our reserves to develop ENACT, a new tool to evaluate how effective nature activities are in building adult connection to nature. In the first part of the research, we conducted a workshop with RSPB staff, interviews with adults attending nature activities on our reservesand a literature searchThrough these methods, we identified a long-list of aspects of nature activities that might promote short-term connection to nature, and a set of realistic nature-related outcomes we want to achieve as a result of participating in a single activity (for example, do participants intend to visit a nature reserve again). 

Red deer watch at Eastern Moors, 2018 © Louise Baddeley

In the second part of the research, we surveyed almost 250 adulttaking part in a wide range of events on our reserves, from exclusive jeep safaris and specialist guided walks, to large-scale family festivals and sporting events. Immediately after the activity, we asked participants to rate 20 aspects of the activity and their nature-related behaviour intentions. We contacted them again one month later to see whether they had actually done the nature-related behaviours they intended to do. To develop ENACT, we used statistical analyses to identify which aspects of nature activities best predicted the nature-related behaviour intentions we were looking for.  


ENACT identified 11 key aspects of nature activities that help to build adult connection to nature and encourage nature-related behaviours (see table)Examples of these aspects include whether participants learned something from the activity, whether the activity made them feel calm and/or excited, and whether the activity took their mind off daily stresses.  

ENACT Aspects 

Compassion: Concern 

Contact: Senses 

Emotion: Calm 

Emotion: Excited 




Meaning: Place 



Stress Distraction 

ENACT was good at predicting participantsnature-related behaviour intentions immediately after an event and their nature-related behaviours one month later. ENACT asks 11 statements that people respond to on a 5-point scale and is a quick and simple tool that we can use to evaluate the effectiveness of nature activities.

Gannet cruise at Bempton Cliffs, 2018 © Victoria Carr

How ENACT is helping us 

We have since used ENACT across many of our reserves to evaluate the effectiveness of different types of activities in building connectionWhile connection is not the only desired outcome from our reserve activities, we can use the results from ENACT to assess activity effectiveness against costs. This has given us a new source of evidence that can help us to build people’s connection to nature through our events and ultimately help conservation efforts.

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