An underlying goal of benchmarking is the pursuit and discovery of good practice. The cornerstone of ZooWise research is its benchmarking capabilities, which is made possible through expert-designed questions and survey methodology.
Benchmarking in the ZooWise research project aims to provide an indication of how individual zoos and aquariums perform relative to national and international averages in Key Benchmarking Areas. In this way, benchmarking serves to enable the pursuit of good practice.
Once you join ZooWise, you get full access to the Question Bank. But what is it and how does it work?
Benchmarking in this project gives participating zoos and aquariums real-time insights about how their audience experience and impacts are doing relative to national and global aggregate results in key benchmarking areas. These key benchmarking areas have been developed in part based on international guidelines published by zoo and aquarium associations and national regulations.
Membership in zoo and aquarium associations and licensing agreements establish the need for institutions to demonstrate particular standards. ZooWise provides measurable evidence of performance against these standards for participating organizations in these key areas. Questions are organized by visit-related categories and the project’s key benchmarking areas.
Understanding your organization’s audience profile is important for targeting audience development initiatives as well as contextualizing survey responses. Automated analytics show whether there are systematic demographic patterns in terms of participation or outcomes.
Each zoo and aquarium should have a ‘thorough understanding’ of their visitor audience and needs of different target groups.
EAZA Education Standards
An essential concern for any zoo or aquarium is the quality the visitor experience. From the food and facilities to animal talks and interactions with staff or volunteers, monitoring the visitor experience in real-time allows zoo and aquarium to intervene as soon as a problem emerges.
“Exhibits, interpretive programs and other education programs should be evaluated on a regular basis for effectiveness and content. These programs should assess more than participant satisfaction, looking also at program impact (ideally including impact on conservation-related knowledge, attitudes/affect, and behavior).”
AZA Accreditation Standards & Related Policies, 2016
Increasing public understanding of biodiversity is a major content theme highlighted in zoo and aquarium policy and association guidelines. ZooWise enables participating zoos and aquariums to see their impact on biodiversity awareness and attitudes with real-time results benchmarked by institution type, national and global averages.
‘Zoos and aquariums are uniquely placed to inspire and educate people to understand the interdependence of all living things, and to make changes in people’s behaviour which will have a positive impact on wildlife’. They should ‘highlight biodiversity loss, through a range of activities and learning opportunities.'
BIAZA Education Policy (2014)
Zoo and aquarium policy emphasizes that visitors should both be aware of the threats to biodiversity and personal actions that can be taken to aid conservation. ZooWise enables robust evaluation of conservation-related interests, attitudes and knowledge. It also includes automated analysis of factors that may affect these important outcomes.
"Zoos and aquariums need to ‘ensure the visiting public are aware of the threats faced by species’ and ‘understand realisable actions which they can undertake in order to reduce these threats’."
WAZA Education Policy (2014)