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Interpretive Solutions

Interpretive Solutions
Interpretive Solutions by Michael Whatley.

The Interpretive Solutions publication is a training manual about harnessing the power of interpretive communications to improve critical resource protection issues and situations. Matching the right communications approach with the audience most in need of being reached can play a pivotal role in whether a situation stabilizes, improves, or worsens. Appropriate communications can make a positive difference in the role people play in helping to achieve desired resource protection outcomes and results.

The merging of sound interpretive methods with scientifically based resource protection messages is an emerging goal of most, if not all, land protection agencies and organizations. The steady gain of this blended approach is encouraging and, amid climate change, oil spills, unprecedented spread of invasive species, and radical changes to natural fire regimes, it is needed more than ever.

Dayton Duncan, co-producer of the Ken Burns series The National Parks: America's Best Idea, used the phrase "defended by poets." The emergence of the national park idea, its promotion, and perhaps more importantly its protection have been augmented by emotion, passion, and altruism delivered to our society by artists and authors. Today, in many ways, interpreters have become the "poets of our parks" by providing meaningful experiences that touch equally on the hearts and minds of the audience. This role is important and relevant in helping visitors understand what goes into managing resources for the enjoyment of future generations. Interpreters are critical players in this role: they specialize in developing messages that are relevant, meaningful, and memorable.

Interpreting resource issues can be more complex than generalized interpretive approaches because of the specific focus on problems and their solutions. In order to effectively interpret—and protect—resources that have significant human-related problems or issues, four key steps need to be taken:

  • Identify the issue (based on pertinent scientific information) and the degree of human involvement associated with creating the problem and developing a solution.
  • Identify the appropriate audiences that need to be reached (i.e., which has the most influence or effect) in relation to resolving or improving the critical resource issue or situation.
  • Determine the appropriate message that needs to be conveyed in order to communicate beneficial changes in understanding, attitude, or behavior necessary for resolving or improving the particular critical resource issue or problem.
  • Select the most appropriate communications approach for delivering the message to the preferred audience(s).

Interpretive Solutions explains these four steps, along with other essential ingredients such as evaluation, in detail and articulates how the goal of this form of problem-solving interpretation is to assist with improving, stabilizing, or resolving human-influenced resource issues and situations through active, customized communications.

Interpretive Solutions is a joint effort between the National Park Service, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Office of Education and Outreach, and National Association for Interpretation. It was developed as part of a cooperative agreement established between the National Park Service and National Association for Interpretation in 2006 to develop and provide joint, coordinated, state-of-the-art interpretive training in the natural resource arena. The content of Interpretive Solutions is intended for academic and training purposes. Facts and views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the National Park Service or the National Association for Interpretation. The public domain, text version of this document is made available from this web page. An illustrated, formatted version is available for download via the National Association for Interpretation's interpPress.

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Interpretive Solutions (Public Domain version - PDF - 295KB)

Last Updated: May 04, 2011