The need to scale-up conservation initiatives is widely accepted, but understanding how to catalyze the adoption of conservation initiatives remains elusive. To address this challenge, we used diffusion of innovation theory and Best-Worst Scaling experiments to rank the factors that influence the adoption of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) by villages in north Madagascar. The most important driver for respondents to adopt LMMAs was the wellbeing of future generations, while the most important barrier was conflict within and between villages that could arise from the adoption of LMMAs. This emphasis on the benefits and costs of adoption is consistent with diffusion of innovation theory. However, our results indicate that people’s intrinsic values (e.g., benevolence and peace) were more important to survey respondents in the adoption of LMMAs than is generally reported in the diffusion of innovation literature. Concerns about conflict from LMMAs and the distribution of livestock incentives warrant further consideration to support the adoption of this conservation initiative in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our study can guide future conservation research and practice to identify the “best” and “worst” attributes of LMMAs and other initiatives to increase the adoption of conservation.