Abstract for: Getting to Impact at Scale: Diffusion of Educational Innovations Through Community-Based Propagation

Climate change has exposed a new grand challenge: the need for effective education that not only transmits scientific information about its causes and effects, but also motivates people to take science-based action. The gap in public understanding of and motivation to address climate change is not caused by a lack of information or educational resources that are effective. But, in order to have impact at scale, an educational innovation must be adopted at scale. Most of the time they are not: uptake from dissemination, active outreach, or diffusion among educators usually falls short. Here, we describe and apply a simple stylized system dynamics model to explore why propagation efforts often fall flat and to guide strategic thinking on how to make them more successful. We rely on prior studies and expert opinion for model structure and parameterization. Our analysis shows that outreach has limited impact and does little to accelerate word-of-mouth adoption under conditions typical in higher education. Instead, widespread adoption is fueled by projects that support adopters’ efforts to reach and persuade potential adopters through community-based propagation.