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Principles for use in Designing and Implementing Advisory Measures/ Schemes/ Initiatives to Stimulate Positive Environmental Behaviour by Farmers and Land Managers

Research Funding Body

Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


Blackstock, K., Brown, K., Burton, R., Dilley, R and Slee, B

Project Objectives

To provide good practice principles for use in designing and implementing the provision of advice to stimulate positive environmental behaviour by farmers and land managers. The guide can be used for initiatives that are purely advisory or combine provision of advice with mandatory standards or a regulatory approach.

Why relevant to improve implementation and uptake of water quality measures?

Advice provision is a very important part of engaging with farmers about water quality issues. This report considers how advice is transmitted by farmers and considers the complexities of advice provision.


The guide has been developed from a longer report entitled: “Understanding and influencing positive behaviour change in farmers and land managers – a project for Defra”. It has built on two workshops with Defra and their delivery partners during the summer and autumn of 2007.

Key Results

Advice is evaluated by the farmers and to be effective it must consider:

  • Relevance: Is the advice relevant to the receiver?
  • Credible: Does the receiver believe the advice to be true? Do they trust the source of the advice?
  • Importance: Does the receiver recognise that something has to be done?
  • Responsibility: Does the receiver believe that they ought to do something?
  • Capacity: Does the receiver believe they can do something about it?
  • Effectiveness: Does the receiver perceive a difference when they change behaviour?
  • Visibility: Is it obvious that something is being done?

It is important to recognise and understand how the receiver evaluates the message and to respect and work with their set of values, but it is also important not to let ignorance, inexperience or misinformation go unchallenged.

Advice should be thought of as part of an interactive system of considering, evaluating, deciding and acting and different forms of advice are used at different stages. This can be thought of as a cascade of events:

Advice is available and accessible - Farmers read/hear the advice - Advice is seen as valuable to them (or the cascade will stop) - Advice influences decisions taken - Decisions alter practices - Farmers evaluate change in practices -Evaluation frames how new advice seen

Note: there can be a long period between advice being read/heard and being acted upon due to constraints on ability to act, or changes in willingness to act.



Contact Person

Kirsty Blackstock (

More Information

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.