Close this search box.

Country: Canada
SDG Region: Europe and Northern America
Sector: Public
Keywords: Communication, public engagement, rural-urban divide, polarization

Deep in the Canadian Rockies, Neighbours United is knocking on doors to engage citizens in two rural, industry-based towns in conversations about climate and energy. ​

Changing the Climate and Energy Conversation

While climate change is becoming an increasingly polarizing topic across the globe, this is especially true in major emitting countries, such as Canada. In non-urban areas of the province of British Columbia, over 50% of citizens agree climate change is a real problem but are not informed or engaged yet. This means their support of climate policies and action is not reliable.

“Unfortunately, rural residents are often left out of climate conversations in Canada.”

This case study takes a deep dive into the use of “deep canvassing,” an established and effective form of persuasion. During deep canvassing conversations, staff and volunteers of Neighbours United, a grassroots NGO, engage in 10-25-minute conversations with community members to increase support for climate action. Deep canvassing involves having vulnerable and non-judgemental conversations with members of the community to change hearts and minds in a meaningful and lasting way.

Neighbours United has been pilot testing deep canvassing since 2020. In this case study, the organization explored ways to increase the effectiveness of deep canvassing.

Across both cities of Trail and Cranbrook, British Columbia, canvassers completed over 1,200 deep canvassing conversations and spoke with over 1,800 residents in total. In both cities, more than 1 in 3 participants changed their minds. In Trail, this meant over 500 people added their name in support of their local government committing to the 100% renewable energy transition. In Cranbrook, over 200 people added their names in support of their provincial government ending tax breaks for oil and gas companies. 

From here, Neighbours United wanted to take this support to the next level. Escalated engagement in climate action was measured by attendance at community events. Specifically, Neighbours United wanted to know if the following variables made an impact on whether or not a community member would attend an event: supporter ratings, modes of communication, and the times between canvassing and the event.

When Neighbours United examined support ratings, they found that the people who came to community events were those who had high support ratings prior to canvassing. Even though canvassing did change the minds of many residents, those who had their minds changed during canvassing did not tend to escalate their engagement.

Mode of Communication

Time between canvassing and event

Supporter rating

When mode of communication was examined, Neighbours United found that none of community members who were emailed a reminder about the community event showed up to the event. Very few of the residents who were mailed a print mail package (comprising a flier about the community event with a handwritten note, and Neighbours United’s magazine, Living Here) showed up. Because those who turned up were already considered to be ‘supportive’ of the cause to begin with, Neighbours United concluded that the modes of communication examined did not contribute to escalating residents to take a next step action.

The temporal element of the study was the most surprising: the time between canvassing and the community event had no impact on attendance at the community events. The case study researchers anticipated community members canvassed closer to the date of the event would be more likely to show up. On the contrary, those who attended the event were canvassed between 9 and 36 months before the event!

This suggests that there is no correlation between the time canvassed and the time of the community event. 

As a result of the case study findings, Neighbours United decided to only mail to those who show support for the issue after the initial deep canvassing conversation. Even though emails were not very effective in garnering higher engagement, Neighbours United will continue this practice in the future because of the relatively low effort and cost associated with emails. In the future, Neighbours United will explore alternative modes of communication, such as phone calls, for those who change their minds significantly during canvassing. This might include inviting residents to engage in a lower-effort way, compared to attending an event.

This case study has hopeful implications for future deep canvassing efforts, not just for Neighbours United, but for environmental organizations that aim to increase community support for climate action. This study highlights the effectiveness of deep canvassing. The case study shows that the act of engaging in personal and meaningful conversation with community members is not only a highly effective means of climate communication—it is also highly persistent. This study suggests that all groups organized around political causes should undertake deep canvassing because of its persuasive power and ability to assist in the organization and mobilization needed for collective action.

The MECCE Project is grateful to Neighbours United for conducting this case study


Our interactive data platform provides users with the ability to analyze and visualize the MECCE Project’s case studies, country profile, and global indicator data.

Learn More about the MECCE Project


Visit our open access repository for project materials, including policy briefs, factsheets, guidelines, infographics, reports, and videos.


We discuss emerging issues in climate communication and education to respond to the area's rapidly evolving policy environment and public discourse.


Learn how to join our growing global network, which supports regional input and action on climate communication and education.