Manoj Gautam is known for his inspiring life story, his sustainable community-based approaches to conservation, his fearless advocacy on animal protection, and the relentless pursuit of his humanitarian convictions.
An Oxford graduate who grew up in Nepal in a tight-knit community, very much in tune with the natural world, Manoj combines the best of both worlds and brings forth a pragmatic approach to the projects he undertakes.
Including his work as the head of intel for Wildlife Crime Task Force in Kathmandu, Nepal, conducting many successful investigations and raids, Manoj has a legacy in field-level hands-on engagement, however, his policy level advocacy and legal interventions of international significance show the range and versatility of his activism.
Manoj specialises in assessing community perspectives and needs on a human level touching the root cause of problems that so often are ignored.
Keeping in line with ‘Understanding Humans’, Manoj has helped further Human Behaviour Change as a concept and practice in the field of Conservation and Animal Protection, with his practice and organised talks.
After representing Dr Jane Goodall in South Asia and leading JG’s Roots and Shoots and the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal for 20 years, Manoj is now a freelance consultant and spends much of his time running independent projects he initiated. He spends much of his time between the UK where his family is and Nepal where his projects are and where he also runs a wilderness camp in the vicinity of Bardia National Park.
A Chat with Manoj
Tell us a little bit about you and your journey into behaviour change?
I grew up being known as the Animal Guy. All my life I have been associated with animals whether for my conservation work or for the animal welfare activism. It took an amazing life-changing experience on a trip to Africa to make me realise that I was actually equally a people person as much as I was an animal guy. Looking back from that point I realised anything and everything that I had worked on and all interventions that I had designed has human aspect in them as the main focus. That was around when I consciously started incorporating behaviour aspect into my work. However, it took me many more years to get introduced to the science of human behaviour change much of what I was practically already using but had no insight into the organised practice of. Then I got invited to the first Human Behaviour Change for Animals conference as a key note to share my field experiences and that just opened the entire gate for me to this world. Eventually, I ended up hosting the 10th Asia for Animals Conference 2017 themed Human Behaviour Change. Ever since it has become the central thread of my thoughts and my actions.
Why does the science of behaviour change matter?
Much of what happens in the world that commands any action, reaction or counter-action stems from what people at large usually do as part of their behaviour. These behaviours are shaped, dictated, influenced or instigated by hordes of things. Much of these behaviours collectively are the reasons why our society and the planet have so many issues. Many well-intentioned people with brilliant sets of skills and expertise make efforts on a daily basis to make our society and the planet a little better for all. Most of these skilled and expert efforts seem futile as they miss on considering the limitations posed by the human nature or behaviour side of things. Many times, the primary issues are easy to resolve but the secondary issues like corruption, apathy, jealousy, greed, lack of motivation, fear, scepticism and so many other human behavioural aspects make it impossible to even get to the core of the primary issues. Such scenarios are ubiquitous and given a deeper thought is easy to realise how common and frequent such situations are that we deal with on our daily lives. The science of human behaviour enables us to look at an issue from the point where an issue arises on a human front. HBC as a science creates that space for any skill or expertise to make sense, by first tackling with the more vicious human issues that usually envelope the primary issues. Human behaviour matters as it is not only a tool for intervention that is useful for resolving issues but is also the foundation for solution state (a scenario where issues don’t arise at the first place). In today’s world where the choices, lifestyle, interests and apathy of nearly 8 billion people determines everything, HBC is a key consideration.
What is the most inspiring behaviour change intervention you have come across and why?
There isn’t one particular BC intervention that I want to mention as I use it for pretty much everything. However, for me the most inspiring side of using HBC intervention is how it has enabled me to make friends with those who otherwise should have been my adversaries. Many people in my line of work take things personally and end up making enemies out of the people whose behaviour they do not agree with. However, the direct attack on the people can cause more problems. The line of HBC allows one to look at the undesirable behaviour of people as the real issue and not the people who currently bear the undesirable behaviour. This alone resolves more than half the problem as it opens up space for productive and respectful communication. This ends up helping one make more friends while achieving more positive results at work. It, in an unpretentious set-up works like a magic, every time.
What’s your vision for behaviour change for the next five years?
I want to contribute primarily in the field of conservation by helping organisations and conservation experts adopt HBC as the primary intervention-design consideration in their work as it is the most important work in this time and era.
Why do you like working with HBCL?
HBCL is an excellent machine set up by the best in the field in the world, a team of highly skilled and motivated people many of whom are good friends and have inspired me in my own work life.
Top tip for individuals or organisations getting started with behaviour change?
Much of what you’ll hear in the beginning about HBC might fairly be common-sense stuff, things that you already know, mundane and regular. DO NOT LET IT FOOL YOU! That is exactly when you need to dig a bit deeper and think strategically and it hits you with an ‘Eureka’ moment. It can change your entire thought process and immediately take you to a level from where you’ll start seeing sustained change as compared to being busy with your own routine without any sustainable impact.
The two directors of HBCL are the first people who introduced me to the formal science of human behaviour change. I have a lot of faith in the team as they are the leading experts with diverse backgrounds but all converged with the same understanding that human behaviour is, in most of the circumstances, the most critical factor to success or failure. Understanding what shapes and forms human behaviours and devising ways to change them desirably (in all matters that life is) is what HBCL excels in. I am honoured to be part of it and super happy to be able to contribute to the cause.