Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Mattheus passion: 5 performances – 5 experiences

It is a Dutch tradition to perform the St. Matthew Passion in the week before Eastern. In churches and concert halls. By professionals and by amateurs. This year I watched 5 different performances on the BRAVA TV Channel. Every night one. From beginning to the end. I listened to hear the differences. All performances made a deep impression on me in different ways. The contagious enthusiasm of  the Vocal Markant Ensemble. The passion of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra to get deep into the intentions and feelings of the composer. The celestial boys’ voices of the Thomanerchor with the Gewandhaus orchestre in the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. The “classical” version in which Mendelsohn rearranged the composition to reintroduce it to ears, hearts and minds of the 19th century inhabitants of Leipzig, by the Dutch Symphony Orchestra. And finally the special and familiar sound of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, realized over the last 100 years of performing this piece every Eastern season.

One thing I noticed was that all performances seemed to me to be faster than when I first heard the Passion in the nineteen fifties. One more than the other. Ton Koopman was especially fast. It was fascinating to hear the violin solo of the Aria ‘Gebt mir meinem Jesum wieder’. In the interpretation of the Concertgebouw and the Gewandhaus orchestra the tempo was slower and the violin played more in the traditional way the Chaconne for violin solo is mostly played. Such tempo and style bring old memories back. I hear my father practicing and performing.However in the Koopman interpretation you really could hear and see the silver coins rolling down the temple steps. Mendelsohn had left out this aria altogether, as well as most of the Chorals. He must have thought that these reflections on specific events in the story were unwelcome interruptions of the dramatic flow of music and text for the ‘romantic’ audience of his time.

The performances also showed how the environment influences the performance: in the church it gets a real protestant (Lutherian) meaning, while in the concert hall it becomes more a secular reflection on the forces of good and evil in our lives. Other interesting details are the way the basso continuo was performed, sometimes without organ, sometimes with one organ, some times with an organ in each Coro. Performing with only male voices (or almost only)  or with a mixed chorus had different effects. Then the line up of the two orchestras. In the church they were most probably closest to the possibilities Bach had himself. On the concert hall podium, the orchestras were much larger and the Coros had much more players. What stayed the same was the powerful music: deeply moving by touching on a range of emotions. I remember how long it felt the first time I sat in the church listening to the Mattheus. How incredible it was to play the violin in Coro I and be in the middle of the sound with our student orchestra. And how I slowly over the years learned to apprecfiate the different parts of this phenomenal composition, always discovering something new. I look forward to next year.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Monday, 24 February 2014

Frequently made mistakes in organizing a side event

An organization has developed a new initiative for conservation. They want to bring this initiative a step further by organizing a side event with their partners during a conference. The communication officer is asked to develop a plan for the side event:

In short her objectives (and means) are:
Present the current conceptual framework our initiative in the light of current discussions of the conference (through a presentation by one of the initiators)
      Present the logframes developed as a way forward for our initiative (by a panel discussion with experts).
     Invite suggestions on the challenges of applying this contextual framework at national and global level (through buzz groups).

Asked for suggestions on this plan she got as feedback this not going to work. You are jumping to means, you focus on the wrong audience and you have objectives that are not helpful to make the event a success.

Before developing the plan, she should have asked her boss:
Is this really possible? (no, the effective time one has for  a side event is only one hour)
Would this audience be available to attend our side event? (no, they would have their own events).
What is it that you really want and what we realistically can achieve? (e.g. support from conference participants for our initiative). 

On the basis of such last objective, she then could have developed communication objectives (see examples in illustration 1). Once her manager agreed with them she could look at how to achieve them and plan the session (see examples in illustration 2).

A good side event is based on good communication. Good communication is based on a clear and focused communication objectives that are the basis for the means and approaches chosen for the side event. It is not the other way around. And mind you: give enough attention to the attuitude objectives, they mostly come last if given any attention at all. 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Think like a marketer: What advertising can teach about changing consume...

From the perspective of working in the private sector, Eric Phu discusses how marketing and advertising can be used to effectively change behavior in Asia.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Ten principles and values of a consultant

Since many years when asked what I do for a living, I answer that I am an environmental  consultant, specialized in communication. Many of my colleagues focus on a specific discipline, e.g. branding, advertizing, facilitation or PR. I offer advice on all stages of the management cycle, always from the perspective of strategic communication, processmanagement and learning. I am not interested to become the best in my trade or to make a lot of money. I love to concentrate on results that make a difference to the client and to nature or sustainable development. In the plane a young professional asked me what my professional values were. I shared with him these ten principles and values that guide my work:
  1.     .   Love nature. Love people.
  2.       . Know your qualities and your limitations.
  3.       . Focus on the issue behind the question.
  4.       . Be humble and customer oriented.
  5.       . Always keep learning, view everyone as your teacher.
  6.       . Publicize the success of your clients.
  7.       . Dream the future, that will inspire others.
  8.       . Be honest and transparent and ask that from others too.
  9.       . Listen to your (ex) customers and their stakeholders to see what cannot be seen. 
  10.     Work hard, do not complain and give the credits to others.

See also:
Frogleaps onstrategy

Saturday, 14 December 2013

We are all curious. Creative. Connected. We are part of a larger story. One that is still unfolding. 

These are the first lines of a compelling learning tool about nature, interdependence and the complex context of our human condition. A learning tool developed by Macquarie University a must read for everyone who wants to know where do we come from and where are we heading? It provides a sound basis for education about conservation and sustainable development.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Learning pathways

Frogleaps is now a few months on line. We are analyzing the behavior of the users of the two courses on frogleaps. Maybe not surprisingly the multiple choice questions on the strategic communication course are frequently answered by most visitors and users. So this weekend we also uploaded such questions in the various topics of the storytelling course. 

Both courses end with an opportunity “to do it yourself”. To make these “do it yourself” key subjects more attractive we added tools to help users with developing a communication strategy or writing a story. Some of these tools provide instructions for individual use. Other tools provide instructions to develop steps jointly with colleagues or partners. In that case the advantage is that users in those cases have to explain parts of the theory to their colleagues and or partners and will in this way enhance their own individual learning. Then there is the blog to update the content of the courses. This leads to the follwoing learning pathways:         
  1. Reading through the course in a linear way and updating your knowledge by occasionally looking at the blog
  2.  Following the blog and occasionally check the content of the theory that is referred to in the blog
  3. Surfing through the key subjects and tasting the content by doing the multiple choice questions
  4. Starting with the “do it yourself” subject and using the tools to learn and occasionally go back to the theory explained in the previous key-subjects
  5. Using the group learning tools to enhance your own learning, by introducing the exercises to colleagues and partners
  6. Using the tools in your own Communication training workshops.
      The individual linear learning pathway of reading through the parts or the whole course may only be done by some users. Therefore we thought to suplement this learning pathway by a route to taste the content through multiple choice questions, and an opportunity for individual and for group learning by adding tools to be used with colleagues and partners. 

      Most of the tools we have tested ourselves in training workshops or during university lectures. The students of the Klagenfurt University MSc  Course on Protected Area Management were thrilled to discover how useful the stakeholder analysis tool was. “We now really understand the importance of researching stakeholders in advance, the theory we got never really gave us the insights that you have to look for those stakeholders that can become your partners”, was one of their comments.

In a workshop with local communities in Sierra Leone, we used some of
the storytelling tools to let participants dream up a change strategy for
coastal management. In a workshop in Jordan we used some storytelling
tools to help birdlife partners from the region flash out success stories that
could be used as supportive testimonials in a campaign to mainstream the
issue of migrating soaring birds into various sectors. 
Some CEC members shared already their tools they thought could add
value: recently Suzana Padua from Brazil send us her tool to do a
simulation game.

      We very much look forward on feedback from users about the different learning pathways and how we can improve them. We also like to hear from users about their experience using the tools. Please feel free to comment below or to write a blog article! 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

We are finding infinity

We are finding a future based on infinite resources. Here is our story over the past 3 years. We are on an adventure around the globe to inspire people to see the beauty, logical and inevitability of powering the world using only renewable energy and making this place self sufficient. This is a teaser highlighting what we have been doing and where we are heading, from throwing solar powered parties, to road tripping on vegetable oil and meeting up with some of the most innovative minds on the planet, we are searching for the solutions to make it all happen. We stay at the coolest hotels in the world, Design Hotels and help them reduce their impact as we go. Follow our journey.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Changing habits

The Chunoti Co-Management Committee was a 2012 Equator Prize Winner from Bangladesh. The project is described in United Nations Development Programme. 2013. Chunoti Co-Management Committee, Bangladesh. EquatorInitiative Case Study Series. New York, NYHere we try to retell the story from the perspective of the Committee sharing their learning over the years with staffs and decision makers of the forest department.

Strategic Story Elements
Target audience: Forest department officials
Key point: Effective co-management means that communities should be in the lead
Conflict: Habits of forest department and habits of communities 
Hero: Anwar Kamal
Adversary: Forest department and villagers

I am Anwar Kamal. I feel proud to be the Vice President of the Chunoti Co-Management Committee from Bangladesh. I have loved the Chunoti forest all my life. This wonderful forest lies South of Chittagong city. It used to be green all year round with tropical trees and areas of sungrass, which were used for many purposes. The forest is the home of many animals, birds, and rare plants. Even elephants pass through the forest on their way to Myanmar and back. The small farming communities in the area used to slash and burn small parts of the forest for their livelihoods.

When my parents were young the Chunoti forest was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary. But they also witnessed the start of more and more logging to meet the demand form the brick and timber factories in Chittagong. Slowly the forest began to make place for waste land and plantations. To make the Wildlife Sanctuary work the forest department engaged in dialogues with the local communities to promote co-management of the area. The result was the Chunoti Co-Management Committee. I was part of the Committee right from the start. However we soon found out that for poor protected area-dependent communities to stop destroying natural resources for their livelihoods, they must have the chance to ensure basic alternative livelihoods.

Changing behaviour and challenging age-old livelihood practices is no easy task. Motivation and awareness can help enlighten communities but nothing should be imposed on them. Communities should lead the planning and work, with only facilitation from external groups. This was difficult from the perspective of the forest law and the way the forest department always had functioned. But co-management only started functioning when the communities could take the lead. When I finally reached that point with the forest department, women started to lead patrols trough the protected area to prevent illegal logging and poaching. We introduced bamboo craft making, fish farming, basket weaving and we in the Committee helped to ensure fair prices and market demand. 

Now the communities are working on eco-tourism. The Committee decided that part of the revenues is for the community, part is to be invested in reforestation. The Committee also influences legislation and governance practices. In my experience working in protected area co-management, three major threats are: a lack of any sense of ownership among communities in and around protected areas; the dependence of ultra-poor people on these areas for their basic livelihoods; and corruption in the authorities responsible for protected area management.