Che Green is the Executive Director of Faunalytics. He spoke with ACE Research Associate Jamie Spurgeon on July 28, 2017. This is a summary of their conversation.
What are some of Faunalytics’ biggest accomplishments in the past year?
In cooperation with the Good Food Institute (GFI) and the Animal Advocacy Research Fund (AARF), Faunalytics launched a study on clean meat, which focuses on the topic of naturalness. The research design was initiated by former research director Kathryn Asher and is being carried forward by the current research director, Jo Anderson. It’s more robust than previous studies on the issue, and Faunalytics sought input from startup businesses to help increase external validity and set the stage for groups like Memphis Meats and Hampton Creek. The partnership with GFI helps ensure that the information gained from this effort will be brought to the forefront of startup companies and other groups that need it. There is also tremendous commitment from AARF and everyone involved towards full transparency in the research design and results, so that the study will be valuable to both the clean meat and academic communities.
In conjunction with the awesome folks at Animal Equality, Faunalytics has almost completed a randomized control trial (RCT) on the effects of 360-degree virtual reality (VR) videos compared to conventional video outreach. This is probably the most robust and in-depth study they have ever conducted. Faunalytics performed three separate pilot studies before launching the main study, in order to evaluate a number of different food frequency questionnaires and other metrics. Results should be available in late October or early November, at which point they will be reviewed with Animal Equality. They may then be disclosed to the public early next year.
It’s possible that, due to the nature of the sample size and power analysis, Faunalytics may not be able to detect a significant effect on behavior from VR video outreach. However, this study will provide an essential blueprint for future RCTs, especially ones that are trying to compare different intervention types, and in particular ones that are being conducted in the field. All of the video outreach data collection was conducted on college campuses, which poses additional and unique challenges not present when running a controlled experiment within a lab. The results, as well as the complete research design, will ultimately be shared with the movement as a whole, and should be very instrumental in informing future studies.
Another one of Faunalytics’ major accomplishments (and ongoing projects) is the Animal Tracker. It has been in existence for ten years, and surveys the public annually on attitudes regarding animal-related topics. The tracker is especially important for its longitudinal component. Results from the tracker are presented in blogs and in a graphical tool developed by Animal Visuals, and the full dataset is provided for researchers. This approach is vastly more useful and effective than the old 40–50 page pdf writeup of results that Faunalytics used to publish. The ability to segregate respondents by demographic segment and examine how feelings and responses towards animal welfare are changing over time is a tremendously important tool for the movement. Given that his research design skills have improved over the last ten years—and because Faunalytics has brought on skilled staff members—Green now believes that some of the initial questions could have been designed better. Nonetheless, the Animal Tracker continues to provide a very rich data set for advocates and academics.
Lastly, there is a database project that Faunalytics is working on with four separate clients, but has not publicized widely. It will be a database of more than 20,000 animal-related grants, and involves developing a custom map platform that pinpoints the funders and recipients of all such grants, with an initial focus on grants made in the U.S. This allows for identification of regional gaps as well as areas where collaboration could occur. For example, funders could look at the map to see who else is funding a particular cause in a particular region, and find ways to collaborate, or locate organizations that have excelled in funding that cause. Presently, this is a funder-oriented project that could be opened up to funding recipients and advocates down the road. The early version of the tool will be available in November and populated with data from just the four clients. Perhaps a year later, in the summer or fall of 2018, the full tool will be available with data on all participating funders.
How does Faunalytics measure the outcomes for their most important projects?
Faunalytics’ work can be divided into three major areas: client work, independently-conducted studies, and the research library. There is a different approach to evaluating outcomes for each area. When they are working for clients, Faunalytics conducts follow-up surveys (immediately post-project and again six months later) to determine how the results of their research are applied and to get feedback on what could have been done better. Similarly, they conduct an annual survey for their community of individual advocates, requesting feedback on the value of the programs and resources they offer, as well as feedback on what areas need improvement. They attempt to include EAA circles in these latter efforts. The most important metrics are the feedback from constituents, obtained through these client and advocate surveys. Green also puts together a monthly dashboard for the board of directors that includes things like the organization’s logic model metrics, website statistics, financial updates, etc.
What are Faunalytics’ major strengths and weaknesses?
Faunalytics’ major strength is their focus on effectiveness. For the past twenty years, they have considered themselves not just research providers, but also research evangelists. Like ACE, they want to increase the effectiveness of the overall movement. Hence, they try to convince activists to invest in research and in answering key questions before spending large sums on advocacy. Faunalytics’ key role in the movement is to determine what has an impact and what does not, be it on the level of individual projects or on a macro level for the movement as a whole.
Faunalytics’ major weakness is their lack of visibility. To a certain extent, this reflects the introverted nature of their founder and executive director Che Green. According to Green, he has not been able to promote the organization as well as he would like, including during conferences, in personal conversations, etc. Faunalytics produces a lot of useful information, but has not gained the visibility they believes that information warrants. The team addresses this deficit in part by empowering other members to represent the organization, and Board President Caryn Ginsberg has become the face of the organization at many conferences. They have also focused on the production of visual summaries, like infographics, as a more compelling means of delivering information and reaching a broader audience.
What are Faunalytics’ one-year and long-term goals?
Faunalytics has several big projects in the pipeline, and has well-set priorities for the next year. There is the clean meat study, the VR video-outreach work for Animal Equality, and a multinational study taking place in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and the United States to determine baseline attitudes and behaviors towards farmed animals and meat. A five-question survey will be used in each of these countries, and the results will then be compared.
Faunalytics recently hired a wonderful new research director, Jo Anderson, who holds a PhD in social psychology. The previous research director was Kathryn Asher, who did an amazing job leading various projects, but Faunalytics was unable to offer her a full-time position due to resource constraints. Jo is currently taking a lead on the clean meat and Animal Equality studies, working part-time. Once she’s settled in, Faunalytics will look into other potential studies they might take on next year, dependent in part on funding. Working with Green and two PhD volunteers, Jo will lead a brainstorming exercise to identify the group’s next major independent study.
Currently, there are two leading ideas. The first is a donor study. About half of all philanthropic giving currently goes to religious and educational charities, and the aim of the study will be to determine how to persuade donors to shift at least some of these donations to animal charities. The second is a social norm study that would attempt to determine whether encouraging people to change their behaviour because everyone else around them is doing it is more effective than a direct appeal. There already exists a similar study regarding environmental advocacy. Currently, Faunalytics is looking into possible experimental designs to answer that question.
The organization’s long-term goals have not substantially changed over the last couple of years. However, they are considering deemphasizing client studies in favor of conducting more independent research. This would give them more control over the topics they work on and allow them to select and prioritize higher-impact projects. However, Faunalytics would also need more grants and donations in order to fund additional independent projects, as well as support/input from animal advocacy groups to ensure the results are useful.
With additional funding, Faunalytics would be able to convert Jo’s role to a full-time one, and probably hire at least one more PhD social psychologist or social scientist. They would design independent studies to fill the knowledge gap regarding key questions in animal advocacy. In Green’s experience, there is an abundance of talented researchers interested in working with Faunalytics, but one of the major constraints is funding.
Can you tell us about Faunalytics’ strategic plan?
Faunalytics’ strategic plan is updated annually, with major updates taking place about every two years. They start this process in October or November, so that the updated plan is available by the end of the year. The board is heavily involved in the process and provides a lot of feedback, while the advisors play a relatively minor role, providing general input and occasionally specific feedback on areas of their expertise.
How does Faunalytics’ work fit in with the overall movement?
Faunalytics considers themself a backbone organization that helps raise the effectiveness of the movement as a whole. They are issue agnostic, although 60–70% of resources are spent on farm animal issues for the same reasons ACE outlines on their website. All of their independent studies to date have had a strong farm animal component.
Faunalytics is primarily a research provider with experience using a wide variety of methods combined with inside knowledge of the movement. Their goal is to bring their level of expertise to the field in an effective and strategic way to empower other animal advocates to do as much good as possible. They are objective in bringing the right research methods to bear, but have deep knowledge of animal advocacy to complement that, and do not need to spend time getting up to speed on the issues at hand.
Faunalytics also collaborates extensively with other groups and organizations. When designing a study, they reach out to other groups to get feedback, to see if it will be useful and worth launching. For functional expertise, they work with groups like Statistics Without Borders, which is helping them perform complex, randomized cluster analyses for the Animal Equality project. All of their independent studies are also collaborative efforts. The Animal Tracker study, for instance, is sponsored by between seven and ten organizations every year, and these organizations also provide input regarding research design and analysis. Overall, Faunalytics engages in extensive collaboration with many different groups.
What is the maximum amount of funding the organization could use during the next year?
Faunalytics estimates that they could effectively utilize between $250,000 and $300,000 USD. With that money, they would allow current part-time staff members to increase their hours to carry forward existing projects more effectively. They would also make two additional hires and make improvements to their website and email alerts. One of the new hires would likely be a part-time technical manager, as they are in need of someone to consistently work on these issues.
With sufficient funding and the right personnel, Faunalytics would be able to fund more of their own experimental studies. This would be the main reason for hiring additional staff. Part of the additional money would also be spent on the donor switch and social norm studies—or a similar project—and mostly used to cover labor and data collection costs.
What are Faunalytics’ fundraising goals?
Faunalytics did not set a specific fundraising goal for the past year. However, they did set a goal for total grants and donations in 2016 (which was $85,000 USD) and included all grants and donations. They surpassed that goal, taking in a little over $91,000 USD. The remainder of the organization’s income consists mostly of client fees.
They do not expect the fundraising situation to differ substantially in the near future. Green hopes that there will be a shift from client revenue to grants and donations, which would give them more discretion in choosing the kind of research they engage in. They are taking incremental steps in that direction, and applying more aggressively for foundation grants. Up until now, Faunalytics has relied on about half a dozen regular foundations.
They also want to reach out to lapsed donors and high donors from the past to encourage them to re-engage and become monthly donors. However, these are only small steps given that the donor base is relatively small, and it’s still uncertain whether the shift away from a client-focused business will be feasible. Faunalytics considers ACE’s existence to be a reason for optimism, as the two organizations are similar in many ways. Green has always considered Faunalytics a difficult “sell” to donors, but a growing number of them now seem to understand how important these types of organizations are for the movement.
Did Faunalytics set specific goals in the past and were they achieved?
Faunalytics’ main goals at any given time are to complete and publish the studies they are working on at that moment. One of their major accomplishments is a study on former and current vegetarians, which turned out to be a big challenge. Though they hoped to end the planning and fielding process within one year, it took them 2.5 years to complete it because the study turned out to be much more complex than they originally thought. However, the results are considered by many to be groundbreaking and have been very widely used, sparking conversations about veg*n advocacy strategies throughout the movement, including internationally.
Faunalytics’ overall goals, such as informing and empowering the movement, are more lofty and open-ended. Work towards this overall goal is ongoing, and it will not be completed anytime soon. The organization measures progress in part with an annual community survey that asks advocates whether or not they have the information they need to be as effective as possible. This qualitative metric helps Faunalytics to evaluate whether they satisfy their constituents’ needs.
Has the organization recently made any decisions that it did not follow through on?
Before finalizing the decision to retain or terminate client work as a major program, Faunalytics explored options to preserve the program by hiring a client director. However, they did not find anyone they felt would be optimal for the role. This (coupled with other challenges presented by working with clients) prompted the consideration to shift their focus away from client-driven projects and toward more independent studies and resources for advocates. This transition is still in progress and is likely to last another year or two.
What changes has Faunalytics implemented recently (e.g., to improve or terminate unsuccessful programs)?
In general, programs have been fairly consistent and no major changes have been made. Last year, Faunalytics evaluated the Animal Tracker survey and considered employing Google Consumer Surveys instead of GFK as data collection provider. In the end, they decided against it because the quality of the services was not comparable—so they stayed with the more expensive and complicated provider. Previously, Faunalytics had undertaken a program called “Humane Trends” to track the overall status of animal protection in the U.S. This program was ended because it was deemed less valuable than other work.
Can you tell us about the work environment at Faunalytics?
Professional development is a very sporadic element in the two staff members’ schedules. When Kathryn Asher still worked for the organization, she used to attend conferences and courses on research design. The current research director, Jo Anderson, also intends to engage with these opportunities in the future. The content director, Karol Orzechowski, is not involved in research and such courses are less imperative for him. However, the option is available for him to take more graphic design, social media, or marketing courses. In general, Faunalytics feels that professional development is important for all staff members and makes those opportunities available.
Faunalytics is an equal-opportunity employer but not particularly proactive with regard to diversity. Board and staff combined, the organization consists of four women and three men. They consider it essential to have multiple voices represent the organization. Considering that the movement is overwhelmingly female, Green thinks it is inappropriate to only have men in leadership positions. The organization is often represented by Caryn Ginsberg, not only because she is better at speaking to advocates, but also to avoid the pitfall of constantly having men address a female-dominated movement.
Being a very small organization with just three staff members, Faunalytics does not currently have officially outlined policies on harassment and discrimination. They are pleased to say that the problem has never come up, though Green acknowledges that does not mean that it never will.1
Does Faunalytics conduct staff morale surveys?
Anonymous staff surveys are basically impossible, given the small size of the group. However, they receive staff feedback in many different ways. Employees can voice their concerns and discuss anything they’re working on at the bi-weekly staff meetings. The entire personnel is very engaged in the organization, and staff members are actively involved in many of the big decisions and are very well-informed. Additionally, staff members have access to all members of the board and can raise any concerns directly with them.