Partner Profile: Change the Course, A Conversation with Val Fishman, CDO, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, (BEF)

September 1st, 2016

PrintWater connects us all but our waters are overtapped,” is the leading sentence on the website.  That powerful sentence is then followed by a video, “We can fix this,” providing information on what the viewer can do to impact change.

That’s the secret of the Change the Course’s campaign success. It identifies the problem, and then provides valuable information on what you — the public — can do to initiate a proactive solution.

“The primary mission of the campaign is to bring together the thumbnail_Val Headshot PHOTO CREDIT WEBpublic, corporations and on-the-ground conservation organizations to raise public consciousness about freshwater challenges, reducing water footprints and restoring health and vitality to freshwater ecosystems,“ Val Fishman, BEF’s Chief Development Officer.
Pledge to save water

When people visit the website, they are asked to pledge to save water through simple actions in their daily lives.  For every personal pledge to conserve, Change the Course returns 1,000 gallons to an ecosystem in need.

“We work to fund water restoration projects throughout North America that support agriculture and sustainable communities ensuring water security for people, fish and wildlife,” continued Fishman.

“We get involved with everything from updating outdated irrigation infrastructure (such as converting from flood to drip irrigation), to changing a point of diversion, to restoring wetlands and replenishing groundwater supplies.”

By accounting for the gallons restored and issuing verified Water Restoration Certificates®, we enable companies supporting our projects to balance their corporate water footprints. To date, Change the Course has engaged over 30 corporate partners, activated a pledge community of over 215,000 people,  and supported over 30 new water restoration projects across 10 U.S. states and Mexico

Change the Course Beginnings

The Change the Course campaign was born in 2011, when lifelong freshwater conservationist Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project and Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic, and environmental entrepreneur Todd Reeve, then VP of Watersheds, and now CEO of Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), shared a desire to engage the public and business community about the importance of restoring our rivers.

“That one conversation led to the model for Change the Course, a first-of-its-kind national water stewardship initiative responsible for restoring billions of gallons of water to depleted ecosystems,” said Fishman.

Found Partners Logo BlockFrom 2013-2015 when the Change the Course pilot campaign was first underway, BEF worked to raise funds from corporate partners to underwrite the restoration projects, which BEF supervised. Participant Media spearheaded the brand development and public media engagement and National Geographic created and produced the media storytelling components.

“It was a great three way collaboration,” said Fishman.  “The campaign was such a success that BEF continued forward with the initiative, and we now operate every facet of the campaign.”

Making A Difference

Change the Course’sengage” page indicates that 88% of their “pledge community” has changed daily habits. That fact further underscores the ongoing importance of the campaign.

“It’s vital that we get people to understand their own water usage, and provide them with much needed information, videos and articles indicating what they can to reduce and shrink their footprint.

“We’ve found in particular that people respond to video, especially younger generations. That’s why film festival’s like ‘Water: Take 1’ are so essential. Video engages people in a way where they can really  ‘see, understand and feel’ the issues. In doing so, they give the audience the power to impact change based on new awareness and new empowering suggestions for change.”


To find out more about Change the Course projects, visit: