Over the past 30 years, the combination of over-hunting, habitat loss, and increased bear bile demand has caused significant declines in Asiatic black bear (aka moon bear; Ursus thibetanus) and sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) populations. In Eastern medicine, bear bile is extracted from the gallbladders of bears and is then used to treat a wide range of inflammatory, liver, and degenerative ailments. However, the use of bear bile has had significant impacts on bear populations. Given that communities in Northern Vietnam have a lengthy history of using bear bile and bear bile is easily accessible, merely advocating for wildlife conservation is not an effective, culturally sensitive solution. This research took place one hour outside of Hanoi, Vietnam in a peri-urban bear bile farming community that is a bastion of bear farming. Human-centered design was trialed as a tool to identify culturally appropriate means to shift Vietnamese villagers away from using bear bile. During four months between 2018 and 2019, the research team used a combination of human-centered design and social science experimental research to survey community and identify influential community members and their motives for various health decisions. We then created and tested messaging and behavior change experiential prototypes aimed at reducing bear bile demand in the target bear farming community. In 2019, we iteratively tested and refined prototypes for the most accessible persona to our all-female team - the family matriarch (aka “Granny” persona) as a potential change agent in shifting the behaviors of the majority of community members - women and children - away from bear bile use. The final and most compelling design idea was a collection of herbal medicinal recipes collaboratively created by and for family matriarchs that would be shared through a recipe book and workshops to demonstrate how to harvest and create herbal medicinal alternatives to bear bile.


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