Challenge 22+ & Veg*n Recidivism: A Faunalytics Case Study
About Animals Now
Animals Now (formerly known as Anonymous for Animal Rights) was established in 1994 in Tel Aviv, Israel. We focus on protecting farmed animals, and we encourage people to make cruelty-free choices.
Animals Now conducts undercover investigations to raise public awareness to the suffering of animals in factory farms and to form the basis for legal action and media exposés. We emphasize education, with 30K people attending our lectures annually. Thousands of others meet us at advocacy and MeatOut stands in universities, colleges and cities throughout Israel.
We also administer the Challenge 22+ online program. Challenge 22+ is an international project that offers participants a free and supportive online framework for trying veganism. As of September 2018, more than 200K people from all over the world have participated since its formal launch in 2014.
Animals Now believes in “gut instincts” when it comes to activism. Yet we also learn and apply best practices based on an improved understanding of our target audiences. As an inherent part of our mission, we’ve always worked on “veganizing” as many Israelis as we can. Our initial effort in supporting vegetarians and vegans in 2001 was a vegan pledge and kit called Vegetarian Easy.
When Faunalytics’ study about veg*n recidivism was published in August 2011, we understood that we had to shift our focus, from getting people to go veg*n, to also helping people stay vegan or vegetarian. We took the following steps, learning and evolving our process as we went: in 2011, we launched a vegan mentor program called Vegan Friend that paired new vegans with experienced vegans, and in 2012, we launched vegan workshops that included cooking classes and lectures from registered dietitians.
However, we needed a way to scale up our impact while minimizing costs and effort. We decided to look to social media, and in 2013, we piloted an online program called Challenge 22+ using Facebook.
How Does Challenge 22+ Work?
Participants sign up for the Challenge through a simple registration form. They are then invited to join a closed Facebook group that is limited to several hundred registrants at a time. Registrants all start their 22 days of going vegan on the same day.
On each of the 22 days, participants receive a daily challenge. Some daily challenges focus on the practical, day-to-day aspects of the vegan lifestyle, like preparing a tasty tofu dish or trying vegan pizza. Others focus on the motivational aspects of dietary choices, whether ethical, environmental, or health-related. Participants are encouraged to share their experiences in the group, where they can receive ideas, inspiration, support, and encouragement from their mentors and fellow mentees.
Participants have access to round-the-clock guidance from a team of dedicated and highly trained vegan mentors and registered dietitians. In addition, a wealth of vegan recipes, nutrition tips and other informative text and videos are posted regularly in the group.
When participants complete the 22-day challenge, they are invited to take the Challenge again, or join its graduate group, for extra support as they pursue their vegan journey.
At first, we were surprised at the great demand for Challenge 22+ in Israel. When we launched the first group, we were expecting only a few dozen people to sign up. Yet we had to close registration after a single day, after over 200 people signed up within the first few hours. This positive experience helped us to prepare for the International Challenge launch.
We were also surprised by how the program appealed to public figures in Israel. We had several well-known public influencers signing up to the Challenge, including local celebrities and three members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, all three still vegan to this day.
The greatest surprise of all, which influenced the future course the project took, was that many people signed up to the Challenge just out of curiosity. Our slogan was “Going Vegan Together,” and we initially built the program solely to assist new vegans. Soon, we understood the program had the potential to attract people who only wanted to try a plant-based diet, without long term commitments, and many of them might eventually go vegan permanently. We then decided to change our slogan to Let’s Try Vegan (in Hebrew it reads “Trying Vegan Together”), and we still see people signing up out of curiosity, to challenge themselves, or simply to get new recipes.
We feel that Challenge 22+ has been successful because it provides a supportive and non-judgmental environment, it has professional and organized support and structured content, and it maintains a fun and enthusiastic atmosphere. The pilot group was an instant success, and we decided to develop it into a project, by dividing it into monthly challenge groups, allowing us to systematically check our ideas, and see what works best.
Concurrently to constructing the program itself, we developed our method of mentor recruitment and training, and built an intricate team structure – today we have over 800 volunteers. Our structured team system makes volunteering much easier to sustain and much more cost-effective. Our mentors receive immediate positive feedback from people already willing to make a change in their lives and that are eager to learn, making volunteering extremely satisfying.
Learning As We Go
We saw with the pilot group that some of our content did not get enough reaction and that fewer people engaged in the Challenge that we wanted, so we changed the content and daily challenges accordingly. We also saw that, in addition to group mentoring, there’s still a great need for personal mentoring, so we combined these two aspects into the Challenge mentor’s position, allowing participants to get one-on-one support in parallel to the group. Later we divided these two types of mentoring into two separate roles.
As youth in Israel are gradually leaving Facebook in favor of other social media, we decided to offer support via WhatsApp groups. With advocacy workshops and visits from a registered dietitian, we make sure that youth, ages 14 to 18, know how to face family members while also taking care of their own health and diet.
Since we’ve found the ideal platforms and systems for Challenge 22+, we decided to expand it to two avenues:
Addressing new international, geographically specific, audiences:
Even though Israel is a small country, we were still able to see that, once the support is as close to home as possible, it has a greater positive effect. This correlated with data from several other studies, that suggested that individuals’ habits are highly influenced from their close environment’s norms, and we aspired to implement the Challenge’s success in other cultures and geographic areas.
This was the main reason behind the launch of the U.S. branch of Challenge 22+ in March of 2018. That’s also why we aim to collaborate and share our experience with other groups and organizations around the world, with some other exciting launches planned in the near future.
Addressing new, unique audiences:
Vegetarianism/meat reduction: While calling for veganism appeals to volunteers, saving masses of animals requires us to address reduction of meat consumption as well. We know that it holds possible advantages – greater numbers or animals are saved, gradual transition raises the chances of people sticking to their diet for a longer duration of time, and eventually it enlarges our pool of potential vegans. This led us to develop a specialized track in the Israeli Challenge that emphasizes meat reduction.
Motherhood/parenthood: In Israel, it’s common for mothers to be in charge of cooking for the family. Furthermore, motherhood is often a significant component of their personal identity. This program enables them to easily connect to other mothers going through the same process and allow their transition to vegetarianism/veganism to become an integral part of their identity. In every Israeli Challenge group, about 20% of the participants register to our specialized parents track.
We also give specialized group and one-on-one support to other target audiences within Israel that share a common denominator, like youth, soldiers, and students.
Animals Now has just gone through a vast rebranding and renaming process that leaned on data we learned from our own research.
In 2015 we launched a project inspired by Faunalytics and other vegan research resources, called Activegan, aiming to make information regarding effective activism more accessible to animal rights activists in Israel. We translated some articles to Hebrew and summarized others, and even produced short video clips of basic advocacy methods. Now, we regularly hold comprehensive activism courses, so our movement can grow and become more professional.
In Challenge 22+ we survey our participants periodically, to determine how many stay vegan or vegetarian after they finish the Challenge. Our latest survey of Challenge graduates, taken three months (and over) after they finished their Challenge, showed that 40% of our participants were meat-eaters that progressed to veganism or vegetarianism, and 33% more were vegetarians that progressed to veganism.
The survey method we used until recently had some built-in limitations that we were looking to solve. With some helpful tips from Jo Anderson of the Faunalytics team, we were able to come up with a new methodology, that will soon be implemented and tested so that we can continue to monitor success and make improvements to our process and site content.
A direct working relationship with Faunalytics was formed only this year (2018), and we believe it will grow and will benefit us all even more in the future.