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Preventing deliberate grassfires

18 January 2011

BernieAn innovative approach to promote socially responsible behaviour has proved successful in a project aimed at preventing deliberate fire-setting in the South Wales Valleys.

‘Project Bernie’ - a collaboration which included Cardiff University’s ESRC Centre for Business Relationships Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS), the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) and Alexander Consultants – used principles of Social Marketing to design a new approach to tackle this problem.

On average, there are more than 7,000 incidents of mountain and grass fires each year in South Wales, at an estimated annual cost of £7M. This, however, excludes the costs of damage to the environment, property, wildlife and forestry resources; the impact on local businesses, tourism and the countryside; as well as the potential risk to people’s lives.

A series of in-depth interviews and focus groups with local youngsters, adults and other stakeholders in the pilot community of Tonypandy, helped to establish who were setting the fires and why. These research insights enabled the development of a multi-faceted behavioural intervention programme based on a strategic "social marketing mix".

The SWFRS worked with young people in the community to design a series of events and diversionary activities during the school Easter holidays. Tonypandy teenagers also developed a campaign "brand" based on a Bernie the sheep logo, inspired by bushcraft and survival expert Ray Mears, with the strapline "Grass is green, fire is mean".

The success of the campaign was corroborated by a 46% reduction in deliberate grassfires over the six week intervention period around Easter.

Lead research of the project, Dr Sue Peattie, an Associate of BRASS and a Lecturer in Marketing at Cardiff Business School, says:" Bernie's story demonstrates the potential of Social Marketing to develop innovative approaches to previously intractable problems and to promote cost-effective public service delivery even in services which have never previously applied it."

A seminar detailing the story of ‘Project Bernie’ is taking place on Monday 24th January in the Glamorgan Building Committee rooms. The event will feature speakers from BRASS, SWFRS and Tonypandy Community College taking attendees through every stage of the project.

To register your attendance please visit:

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