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Prizewinning Bernie project

10 June 2011


A collaborative project which drew on expertise at Cardiff University to reduce the incidence of deliberate grassfires in South Wales has won the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Excellence award for Best Public Sector Campaign.

The Bernie project involved a partnership between staff at the University’s ESRC Centre for Business Relationships Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS) and Cardiff Business School in collaboration with the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) and Alexander Consultants.

The innovative project encouraged youngsters to get involved in a programme of Easter activities including bush-craft skills, DJ skills, abseiling, filmmaking, ‘Fire-fighter for a Day’, and graffiti workshops.

Dr Sue Peattie provided the expertise in behavioural change and social marketing around which the campaign was built. She explains: "The project involved getting to know and understand the youngsters in South Wales Valleys communities responsible for starting grassfires, and developing a package of measures to discourage them.

Sue Peattie WEBDr Sue Peattie

"The scheme created a package of deterrents and education, including a programme of activities to keep them busy during the Spring 'grassfire season'."

In Tonypandy, Rhondda Cynon Taf where the Bernie campaign was first trialled, the incidence of grassfires fell by as much as 46%, three times its original target.

This year the project has expanded in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and extended to three other areas in the South Wales Valleys: Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, and Caerphilly.

The CIPR judges commented: "This campaign tackled a deep rooted, locally accepted crime, that of young people setting fire to grass in the valleys of South Wales. In partnership with Cardiff University, South Wales Fire & Rescue service, researched, planned and combined extraordinary creativity with academic rigor to achieve outstanding results. This has set a new standard in behaviour change campaigns"

The CIPR Excellence Awards are the most credible in the PR profession, and are currently in their 26th year. Shortlisted entrants were invited for interview by a panel of judges comprising PR experts, and winners were announced at an awards dinner in London on June 1st 2011.

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