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


Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Corporate Season's Greetings

How to send seasons greetings on behalf of the company and still be simple and personal? The closer people are to us, the more personal and direct (face to face, phone, sms) we convey our best wishes. Privately most people still send greetings cards by normal mail. Companies are learning to avoid the footprint of the traditional greeting card and increasingly send electronic greetings. What can they do to increase the satisfaction of the receiver and add to their reputation? A few tips:
Design a card yourself and insert it in the text window of the mail. Don't use free or commercial online greetings cards. Use a photo, a drawing or painting. Be careful with music or video (time and audience). Make sure the message is short, simple and personal. Don't forget your company's tagline and website. Have staffs send the card to their own relations. Individual mailings cost more time but offer staffs the possibility for an extra personal message.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Illustrating climate change tipping points

A picture says more than a thousand words when we talk about the climate change tipping points. "A few decades ago we thought that melting glaciers in the Himalayas would be an issue for our grand children, a decade ago for our children, but today we realize we will have to cope with it ourselves", said A.K.Singh, Air Marshal, India Air Force (retired), during a conference in Paris, early November. John Navis took the photo of Rongbuk Glacier in the Mount Everest range at the top in 1968. The photo at the bottom he took in 2007. See the short video of the Greenpeace expedition and Novis' story.

Climate change: the opposite of chess

Metaphors can help to communicate difficult concepts. During a conference in Brussels earlier this week, Ambassador Olof Ehrenkrona compared the complexity of climate change with chess. In chess when you reach the end game there are less and less pieces on the board. With climate change it is the opposite: the closer you get to the end game (implementation measures) the more pieces are on the board. He quoted Clemenceau: "la guerre est une chose trop sérieuse pour être confiée à des militaires". Similarly we cannot leave the combat against climate change to the environmentalists, we need to bring in all sectors and listen to them to find the right solutions.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Effective project presentation

How to engage in effective project presentation and how to steer projects on main policy lines? My client asks me to attend a meeting of the advisory board of the organization. Project managers present their projects. They sum up activities they have undertaken. They can go on for hours. The board - it is the first time they are briefed on the projects - starts asking questions about all kind of details. Soon the meeting reaches the point of micro-management. Later I am asked how to avoid this. I share a simple format that allows an advisory board to stay at the main policy level. It is advisable to keep the presentation short not more than 5 - 7 minutes and allow enough time for questions and feedback.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Project debriefing: biting your tongue

A debriefing session with the donor on the results of the project is an exercise of talking and especially listening. The client I am working for just had such a debriefing. I had proposed to do it this time differently from his normal routine of giving a long presentation and answer questions. So we started with shortly reformulating the objectives of the project. Then we showed a short video with the highlights of the process and products. Afterwards we asked questions: what was most meaningful for them, what questions the images triggered, to what extent the project met their expectations, how it added value to their policy and what next steps they would advise us. We had to bite our tongue, not to start giving more information, just listen and recapitulate. This way we collected useful feedback and building bricks for a follow-up, partly 'owned' now by the donor.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Form follows function

The communication objectives of the anniversary celebration of an organization are to improve its image and public relations. The seminar and party on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Netherlands Committee for IUCN were a statement about the relevance of the Committee and its core functions. The attendance by the key stakeholders, the venue of a redesigned old gaz factory, the vegetarian and biological food, the pleasant and time conscious facilitator, the party for the personnel of all member organizations - it all supported the messages of the seminar: we need nature and therefore we need transformational change. I don’t remember much details of all the messages of the speakers. They represented the various aspects of international biodiversity conservation in the Dutch context. There was not much looking back, and much more looking forward. The presence of the Queen, the Minister, the DG of IUCN and conservation celebrities upgraded the event and the Committee to a level, that it now can capitalize on for its core functions: convening and mobilizing. For short video click here.

Friday, 28 November 2008

The core brand value of climate change

Metaphors are often the best way to communicate complex issues. Take climate change. "Scientists and politicians still frame their observations in terms of 'if by 2050 the temperature rises by 3,5 centigrades…', says Richard Leaky at a seminar for the 30th anniversary of the Dutch Committee for IUCN. He uses the story of that train loaded with highly toxic and inflammable chemicals in the station of a mountain city to frame the core of the climate change issue. “The engine driver just returns on the platform from the cafeteria with a coffee in his hand and he realizes that he has forgotten to put the train on its breaks. He sees the last wagon disappearing from the station. What should he do? Warn the people down the mountain to get away as fast as possible? Ask colleagues along the track to jump on the train? Run himself after the train and to try to stop it? The issue of climate change is not if that train will pick up speed, derail and cause a disaster - it will! It is too late to talk about if the train picks up a speed of 30 or 60 kilometers! The engine driver hast to acts fast now, run and make others run after the train to try to slow it down and ultimately stop it. That is the core of the climate change issue."

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Invest in preparation and facilitation

People support what they help to create: meaningful involvement is key in any process of change. To create positive change for biodiversity on a local or sub-national scale participatory action planning is often a good investment. To guide such a process successfully one needs three disciplines: project management, strategic communication and facilitation of group processes. Based on these disciplines Ramsar has published a participatory action planning guide for managers of a wetland site or river basin. The tool is designed to develop a wetland outreach plan, but managers of any landscape can easily use this guide to develop or update any management plan. The material provides the manager with insight and tools for the interactive processes of clarifying the context, charting change, validating ideas, and moving to action. For a manager the success is in enough time for the first phase and in finding a skilful neutral facilitator.

The footprint of websites

A usable website has a navigation which can be used intuitively by its customers. Design and lay out should help a user to stay on track and find the information he is looking for. As a regular user of environmental websites I often get very annoyed when looking for information. It is much easier and faster to use google or Wikipedia. High time for these organizations to invest in usability research? Usability is a new discipline that focuses on human-computer interaction, communication and engineering. It helps to improve websites, mobile phones and other new media by testing interfaces, observing and measuring user behavior and factors that influence that behavior. It leads to advice how to increase user satisfaction. It also helps to reduce the footprint of the organization, says Mercedes Sanchez. She is specialized in usability research and wrote about the relation between usability in the private sector and its effects on the environment.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Leadership messages for change

"Few challenges facing America -- and the world -- are more urgent than combating climate change. Many of you are working to confront this challenge....but too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office." Yesterday President-elect Barack Obama set out his vision on combatting Climate Change in a short video. Addressing the US Governors Climate Summit, Obama emphasized his enthusiasm for the Poznan Conference and promised that his administration would mark a "new chapter in American leadership on climate change." On YouTube I saw that his video in one day already had more than one million viewers. Change needs leadership. Leadership makes strategic choices in communication modalities to get the messages for change out, so we all can buy in.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Exploring new transatlantic leadership

“Obama made everyone in the US feel good about themselves. And in Europe he made people want to like America again. He collected a huge amount of political capital. He now has to invest it in transformational change and make sure people and other nations buy into this change”. This is a quote from Michael Ryan, Defence Advisor of the US Mission to the European Union. He was one of the speakers during the seminar “After the Vote: Implications of the US Elections for Foreign Policy, Climate Change and International Security” in the European Parliament. The following is what I learned from the seminar.

We need a new transatlantic leadership that deals with climate change in the same way it has dealt with the Montreal Protocol in the nineties. In a relatively short period it phased out 96% of the CFCs. We need to learn from Kennedy’s transformation of the US space program: “Man on the Moon”. Maybe we should rally around: “Energy Independence”. Since the financial crisis a larger role of the state is possible: the state could – like in Australia - ban inefficient light bulbs from retailers. Ban inefficient energy use in office buildings. Set standards for military energy procurement. The savings of these measures are enormous: e.g. the average costs of fuel for a military vehicle are now three dollars a gallon; in the field this price increases to forty two dollars. The military seem to be ready – they just published the Environmental Guidebook for Military Operations. It is up to us to make change happen!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Alternative methods for information transfer

When organizing a training workshop, formulate the outcomes and focus on methods to create learning experiences to generate the outcomes. Outcomes are formulated in terms of desired knowledge, attitudes and skills. Preferably based on demand articulation in advance. Professionals learn little from presentations. Learning increases with the degree they are in control of their own learning process. To create learning experiences one has to think in alternative methods for one-way information transfer. In some recent workshops I used:

• Story telling in small groups about what worked
• Multiple choice or quiz questions about basics
• Group brainstorm to outline concepts, definitions, principles, strategies
• Brainstorm on aspects of issues at four flipcharts (carrousel)
• Group interview with the resource person (“how-to” questions)
• Group work on specific issue or question and plenary presentations
Conversation café.
Group learning can be enriched through feedback by the facilitator and resource persons. The facilitator has to bite his/her tongue and only adds some extra wisdom where the group – though its peer exchange – has laid the foundation for the next ‘zone’ of learning. A workshop blog can help to generate reflection, trigger new questions and add to learning beyond the oral exchange and time limits of the workshop. When initiated by participants it also can become a driver of further knowledge networking when everyone is home again.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Carnaval as kick off to celebrate IYF

The United Nations have declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, as an issue that needs worldwide public awareness. The CBD Secretariat is in the lead and will provide countries with the logo and some other framework support to built awareness campaigns on. In our workshop we have a group interview with the CBD focal point to better understand the idea and context. Then we outline in groups a campaign strategy for three imaginary Caribbean islands: Bahiti, Trimaica and St David 1. The creativity of the groups led to three basic findings:
* the objectives are to raise public awareness: have a simple zero measurement in advance and another survey at the end (maybe just check how well known the word biodiversity is and what associations people have).
* link with local culture: have a kick off with carnaval, make biodiversity the theme for celebrations and formulate as central message: "biodiversity, that's us!" The more attractive the plan the easier to fundraise.
* use intermediairies: schools of journalism could make videos for TV that showcase positive change and could be exchanged with other countries; hotel associations and other business could organize biodiversity awards, NGOs could organize exhibitions of island biodiversity etc.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Evaluation CEPA workshop

The workshop had four time slots for exchange on CEPA: mainstreaming biodiversity into other sectors; CEPA and media; how to integrate biodiversity into education; how to prepare for the International Year of Biodiversity. Asked what was most meaningful, participants noted for each session their personal learning points. They then shared their learning: e.g. strategies to collaborate, principles of change, building relationships between journalists and civil servants, framing messages, concept of biodiversity, shelf-life of stories, use of intermediaries, packaging, using festivals such as carnival, use of intermediaries, scheduling of events, planning of IYB process, KAP research and objectives, zero-measurement before awareness campaigns. We ended with group photos and exchange of contactinformation.

Framing assigment for a case study

Mainstreaming means change interventions focused on nature and on the social environment.This morning groups are reporting back from the field trip to Nariva Swamp. The assignments were rather focused on the technical content of change: biodiversity conservation, climate change impact, climate change response, livelihoods. In general most reporting focused on what is not working and I am wondering to what extent that has to do with framing the assignment. Suppose they were asked to explore what had changed positively in nature and society during the last few years. From the literature I tried to describe the positive change (see matrix), even if it is clear that there are still many difficulties and conflicts to be solved.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

CEPA experts meet journalists

The meeting between government CEPA experts and journalists brought to light how easy the first group uses acronyms that unknown to the other group. Other jargon elements that needed explanation were: watershed, ecosystem, ecosystem services, invasives, in-situ and ex-situ. The CEPA toolkit contains glossaries that exlain such concepts. A joint brainstorm about what the essence of nature was brought to light that both groups share the same vision on the core brand values of biodiversity. It reminded me of the way of the way the German government branded biodiversity earlier this year. Asked to brainstorm about entry point for stories in the media showed differences: journalists could not do much with the (rather abstract) ideas of CEPA experts. The journalists had quite a list of good ideas for stories:
* Progres report on implementation of CBD the challenges involved
* Impacts of development on biodiversity
* GMOs and its potential impacts on traditionally grown food
* GMOs and public health
* Impact of mining on forestry
* Examination of threatened species
* Impact of invasive species on the natural environment and livelihoods
* Economic impacts of degrading coral reefs.
The meeting made it clear how important it is to invest in personal relationships between government experts and journalists to generate mutual trust and respect. At the end Indi Mclymont, the workshop facilitator gave tips on how to deal effectively with the press. In the CEPA toolkit you can find more details on How to inspire the Press, how to work with the Mass Media.

Change, yes we can!

Mainstreaming biodiversity is an important part of this CBD workshop. Mainstreaming means a transformational change in a specific sector. Transformational change only happens when interventions focused on the natural environment are combined with measures in the social environment. I am asked to do a presentation on how to facilitate the process of change and how to use strategic communication for change. After so many presentations I propose to make my points by giving feedback to group work. We ask groups to brainstorm what would work in mainstreaming biodiversity. Eight groups present us with the outline of a strategic approach. Each for a different sector. When I look back the next morning at the flipcharts with my feedback notes, I can cluster the following change and communication principles:
* Enough time to establish mutual trust and personal relationships.
* Segment the audience and explore what new knowledge, attitudes or skills they need.
* Simple and personal messages in the language of the target group.
* Understand the psychology of resistence to change.
* Be positive, use 'we'-messages, not 'I'-messages.
* Use participatory approaches that guarantee meaningful involvement.
* Use credible intermediairies to send messages to decision makers.
* Start with pioneers and small steps, like you do when introducing an innovation.
* Understand that communication is part of the instrument-mix of 'stick-carrot-drum'.
This morning - after ´Change, yes we can´, became true - I would add one more principle:
As Biodiversity leaders we should live the change we want to see in the world!
Read more about transformational change in the stories about an IUCN CEC workshop about Deep Change.

Monday, 3 November 2008

NBSAP experiences from the Caribbean

In this CBD workshop participants are sharing experiences with formulating, implementing and mainstreaming National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. This is what I picked up from one and a half day country presentations.

Ninotchka Tjin Kong Poek (Ministry of Labour, Technology Development and Environment) describes the experiences with the formulation and implementation and identifies some major challenges with regard to participation
• who leads the process to get participation of lawmakers?
• how to deal with the fact that NGOs not always properly represent local communities?
• how to deal with ignorance about biotechnology?

Dominique Saheed (Environment Protection Agency) shared lessons learned from the consultative process of NBSAP 1 to take into account when form ulating NBSAP 2:
• Multidisciplinary team
• Identify priority progr areas, e.g. mainstreaming or climate change
• Use high level advocates for getting financial compensation to keep the forest standing

Trinidad and Tobago
Robin Cross (Environment Management Authority) explained that the NBSAP process focused on early buy in and a large investment in the preparation through preparatory processes. Stakeholder involvement and management was central in the process. The main lesson learned were the benefits of participation:
• Shared sense of urgency and vision
• Increased goodwill and mutual trust among stakeholders
• Improved information sharing and knowledge networking
• First steps towards positive change.

St Lucia
Anita James (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment) shared lessons learned that will be taken into account when updating the NBSAP:
• Formulating clear targets to be met
• Mobilizing commitment as a driving force behind the implementation
• Knowledge and management sharing
• Mainstreaming BD into other sectors, e.g. through awards, community forrestry.

Andrea Donaldson and Ava Tomlinson (National Environmental Planning Agency)described the NBSAP process, including the development of brochures, posters, cartoons to raise awareness for a biodiversity vision, workshops for sectors and public consultations with local stakeholders. Implementation through projects, but only 40% of the project qualified for funding. Challenges are integration, mainstreaming, enforcement, training and strategic communication.

Bradley Guy (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment) shared the various BD challenges to the island, e.g. deforestation, overgrazing, pollution, inappropriate legal frameworks, biotechnology risks etc. Specific challenges in day to day practice are:
• knowledge sharing
• capacity development
• equitable sharing of benefits
• climate change.

St Kitts and Nevis
Ashton Stanley (Department of Agriculture) explained that his country deals with biodiversity through EIA and other legislation, e.g. the national physical development plan, national environmental strategy and the project Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods. The NBSAP is used to develop numerous projects and initiatives.

Stacy Lubin-Gray (Ministry of Environment) explained that the consultative NBSAP process raised awareness on the relation between biodiversity and livelihoods on the various islands. Ten years after the formulation major restraints are that:
• NBSAP is not a government priority
• Human resources are lacking
• Proper institutional framework is lacking
• Most regulations and plans stay in draft form.

St Vincent and the Grenadines
Anthony Simon and Glenray Gaymes (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) explained that intersectoral integration of biodiversity is basically done through personal relationships. There is a succesful forestry program with marihuana farmers to look into alternative livelihoods. Much effort goes into research and data collection on species (parrots, black snakes and frogs). Awareness raising is done through in schools. Enforcement and compliance is a challenge because of lack of effective legal frameworks. Training and funding are problematic. Climate change through more and heavier tropical storms is a new major threat.

Antigua and Barbuda
Orvin Paige (Environmental Department) shared the experiences of an economic transition from a focus on agriculture to a focus on tourism and the reflection of this reality in the goals NBSAP. Climate change brings more hurricanes and rainfall, but still water shortage and droughts are a major problem. Skills and competences are another challenge. There was poor attendance at NBSAP consultations and lack of political will to drive effective implementation. The government cannot do it alone, it needs grassroot awareness and support.

Dalia Salabarria Fernandez (Ministry of Environment) presented the experiences since the nineties at various levels: consultative formulation, mainstreaming through workshops and programs. Over time it led to the need to update the NBSAP with new priorities, new thematic areas, more realistic goals and a shorter list of actions. Awareness is raised through a TV Course "University for all", NGOs, universities and a National Strategy for Environmental Education. A central driver is the Global Environmental Citizenship Project (UNEP).

Joseph Ronald Toussaint (Ministry of Environment) explained of the current process to formulate the NBSAP in a difficult political situation with many setbacks over the years. Among the challenges are to get commitment from major NGOs, capacity development and better understanding of basic concepts. At the moment the 2010 targets offer an opportunity to finetune the NBSAP process.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

CEC Chair Distinguished Leadership Award

During the CEC members meeting at the WCC in Barcelona, I was awarded by Keith Wheeler, the CEC Chair the newly instituted CEC Chair Distinguished Leadership Award. If I had known it in advance I would have prepared a few words of thanks. They could have been about Leadership in CEC over the last 15 years. Mine was that of re-pioneering the Commission in a time CEC was seen as as completely irrelevant to IUCN. The characteristics of my leadership were: autocratic, direct communication, personal relations, improvising, 'marketing and family-building throughout the IUCN regions'. When I stepped down Denise Hamú brought to CEC a leadership of differentiation: specialist groups, more formality, better planning, better external relations, a focus on WCLN, CEPA and ESD. The current CEC leadership by Keith Wheeler is focused on integration, coordinating and motivating members and secretariat, improving internal and external communication and bringing out the best in people: driving change. It feels good to see the stages of improvement of the CEC knowledge network and still being tolerated and allowed to contribute: "Keith, CEC - Thanks!"

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Workshop evaluation

Evaluating a workshop implies checking to what extent the objectives are realized and what we can say about TMQ from a project management perpective. In our case we met our objectives. Time - although we received the financial support only a week before the workshop, we delivered all the planned products in time. Money - we stayed within the budget. We are now negotiating to use the left over for next steps. Quality - in ten days we will hear from our donors how satisfied they are. Our partners are. From our own professional point of view we are satisfied: a next time we may be better prepared for too much interest, have less introductions and more interaction. The video seems very useful. Publicity was good: on the web before and after the workshop, in official speeches in the congress and in an article in Le Monde.

Web-based workshop reporting

A web based video report is very different from a hard copy presentation. The screen decides how we read. On a page you might put the contents in a strict order, each item below the other and starting from the left margin. On a screen the eye goes diagonally. So a table of contents can look very differently. I learned it is better to make the presentations of each speaker separately available: the ten minute time slots are easier to download. And again visual langauge is all about simple images, associative bridges and rythm. Soft and quiet music can help with moments of rest, after moments of concentrated listening. A blog is another form of reporting. The Woodrow Wilson Institute's blog The New Security Beat gave a very journalistic impression of our workshop. It also added a podcast with their own interview with one of the organizers.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Workshop reporting

How many people read a workshop report? It depends very much how the information is presented. Sometimes it helps if the report contains short testimonials about the major issues or points made, accompanied by a photo and contact information of the speakers. Sometimes people like to find power point presentations on the web. In a few cases people would like to have the full texts of introductions. In written reports much of the dynamics of the workshop gets lost. A video report can help, especially if it has a short summary of the whole process, that triggers interest to surf towards more information. This is what we tried to accomplish with our video report. Note the pace, rythm and transitions of the visual language: very different from paragraphs and chapters in written communication. This is fundamental to keep the attention.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Workshop aftercare

A workshop is a means towards an end. In our case by bringing together the two worlds of environment and security in a roundtable workshop we aimed to generate one or more joint ventures . We therefore had planned a reception after the workshop. Here informal discussions on next steps took place. Video interviews on what had been most meaningful and what next steps we should take, may have stimulated those conversations. In the end there were ideas for a joint workshop during the next WCC where experts from both worlds would play a war games and deepen scenarios. There were ideas to put the issue on the agenda of NATO, to develop distance education courses on the ecosystem approach and sustainable development for peace keeping troops. And to influence the Copenhagen UNFCCC COP. This week we will send a thank you note to all participants with a link to the video report of the workshop. And the invitation to share with us last thoughts on the workshop and next steps. In the meantime we have made appointments for meetings with donors and partners to realize the various joint ventures.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The sky is the limit

The new sustainable development leadership has to show us the way not only how to deal with the climate and financial crisis but also how to deal with morality. The climate and financial crisis are two sides of the same coin: a moral crisis. A culture of grab what you can grab, everyone does it. You have to score now. A culture of theatre, idols and spectacles. Greed is good. Happiness equals possession of goods. The sky is the limit. Both crisis make it clear that we have now reached that limit.

We have to change. Environmental experts point at innovative energy systems, new CO2 markets, innovative natural resource management. Financial experts ask for new financial systems, national and international. A new balance between government, private enterprise and society. A new approach to what real added value is. Will that lead to positive change? To sustainability?

Only when we also tackle the morality crisis, the new systems will work. We need a morality that balances individual freedom with social equity and justice. A middle way between doing what you like and interfering in the private domain. Between autonomy and solidarity. Between emotions and ratio. Leadership training should not only focus on the knowledge and skills we need for the external world. But also for the internal world that guides what we think and do. Lao Tse, Aristotle, Erasmus, Ghandi into the curriculum...!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Future Leadership Training

Supporting the next generation of sustainable development leadership was the title of one of the workshops during the World Conservation Congress. It was well attended. What struck me was the amount of young enthusiastic professionals consuming silently an hour of speeches and the ceremony of signing an MoU. The speeches were about how CEOs and young professionals of sustainable development institutions had planned their career and what made them land into their current position. This 'framed' the discussion, that followed.

During the signing ceremony, there was a bit of a dissonant, when a young professional tried to make a point. Although he referred to an earlier meeting that I did not attend, what came across for me was that young people to a certain extent hold the older generation – the leaders of the sustainable development organizations included - responsible for the current crisis. They don’t like to hear: “we are too old for change: it is up to the next generation to make the real changes”, or words of a similar meaning.

For me he was at the core of the leadership discussion. If current leaders cannot change and walk the talk of new values and lifestyle, they cannot ask of the next generation, once they make place for them in the system, to say: “No, I don’t need that UN salary and the lifestyle coming with it. What the world now needs is leaders that simply live simple. Leaders that say no to personal or short term organizational gain when that goes at the costs of other people, the organization or society. Leaders that live the universal values that will make the earth a place where diverse cultures live together in a civilized manner.”

Leadership training should be about how current leaders learn and change. About what makes them take decisions to generate transformational change in systems, and how in the process they have had to change themselves to have a real impact. It is one thing to learn how to become a CEO or get a job in a sustainable development organization, but it is quite another thing to look at a range of challenges for leadership positions in societies all over the world that may not have the same pay but are similarly or even more important for the changes we need. The workshop ended with the hope of one participants that the next Congress we have an MoU with more than 400 organizations.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Innovative communication approaches

Beyond Jargon is the title of a workshop during the WCC in Barcelona in which National Geographic and CEC showcased new approaches to communicate the environment. Here are links to a few of the initiatives presented.
Earth Gauge is trying to transform weathercasts into "envirocasts." It helps to tweak TV weathercasts to provide context as well as content. In this way TV weather helps connect the dots and become a leading source of environmental education.
LIFEONTERRA is a collaborative filmspace and laboratory exploring the questions and ideas on the cutting-edge of science and at the farthest horizons of the natural world. The "TERRA: The Nature of Our World" video podcast launched in October 2005. TERRA films have been downloaded over one million times.
INCEF stands for integrating conservation and health through communications. It is dedicated to building capacity among local populations to create and disseminate their own conservation, health and community awareness films and other media on issues of local importance with respect for local languages and culture.
“Research Ambassador Program” (RAP) to facilitate the establishment of direct communication between scientists and the general public. One of its projects is to investigate methods to sustainably grow mosses for the horticultural trade, Research Ambassadors enlisted the help of inmates at the Cedar Creek Correctional Center to grow mosses.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Workshop preparation - do's and don'ts

There are different ways to prepare a workshop. Over the last few months I have been working together with scientists to prepare for a workshop next week during the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona. Being confronted with their normal apprach, I learned there are two different ways to prepare a workshop. You can focus on the content or on the impact. It makes quite a difference in organization. Click on the matrix to see the differences for yourself.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Positive reactions on Buddy experiment

Intergenerational partnerships: what does it mean in practice? Over the last five months members of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication partnered with Youth. 62 ( 35 Youth and 27 CEC members) out of 160 participants gave their opinion on this experiment in a web-survey held two weeks ago. The results showed a gender, age and regional balance among respondents. The average age of respondents was 36 with extremes of 17 and 72. On average buddies had contacted each other 7,3 times. Email was the most favourite way to communicate. Some buddies had had over 42 email contacts. A few had had face to face contact. Over twenty buddies had used skype and chats. A few had had no contact at all.

The objective of the survey was to learn about this modality of intergenerational partnerships. The majority of respondents thought that to have a buddy of the same sex was not a precondition for success. 2 male and 2 female respondents were of a different opinion. 38 buddies had discussed their professional work and career. Over twenty had communicated about professional skills or sustainable development. IUCN and Earth Charter were only a topic for 6 respondents. The added value of these contacts most respondents see in new ideas, inspiration and working together on a joint project. The buddy system was perceived by most respondents primarily as a learning tool for young professionals. Around 90% would participate again in a Buddy experiment or recommend it to others.

The average satisfaction level was neutral. This may have to do with the fact that especially Youth had high expectations and CEC members may have been too busy to invest enough time. From the comments and suggestions it is clear that buddies want to make their own choice who they would like to partner with, based on clarity of what the other party brings and want to take from the exchange. Quite a few respondents expressed the need for more facilitation, more reminders by the organziers, more joint projects and joint follow-up. During the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona the results of the survey will be further discussed in a special workshop. For more information on intergenerational partnerships: click here.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Framing the workshop theme

Talking in advance to panelists and participants, it appears that most people associate the theme environment and security with environmental care by the military. We want participants to think beyond environmental care. We are now testing some posters for in the workshop space to help frame the issue differently.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Organizing a round table

The objective of the workshop we are organizing during the World Conservation Congress, is to let the world of conservation meet with the world of security and explore new partnerships. Organizers, speakers and participants assume that this means every fifteen minutes another introduction. And as the military have to be specially invited to this Congress, they need to be a speaker in order to get permission of their superiors. We want a real meeting of minds, not a series of lectures. Round tables means everyone is a speaker. For a week I meet with partners and speakers. And over the phone I talk with invited guests. In the process we agree to invite the majority of guests as a speaker at one of the round tables. It works. We cannot get around all lectures. So we have now 3 key-note speakers, each 15 minutes, 5 panel members who submitted each two questions they would like to answer in two minutes and one and a half hour of 5 simultaneous round tables with plenary conclusions.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

How to handle stress?

My colleagues organizing a conference are under heavy stress. So much that it seems to impact their performance. I remember the deadlines we had to meet when we worked for a pitch. Often for days deep into the night. And the way we kept stress at productive levels. For that you have to know what you are dealing with. When stress becomes too much you feel first a certain alarm, then resistence and in the end you feel completely exhausted. A certain degree of stress helps your performance. If it gets too much it impacts your judgment: you don’t know anymore whether you are doing the rights things or are trying to do the things right. It turns positive energy into negative energy: you become unfriendly, angry or aggressive. Stress finally stops your mind totally from functioning. It leaves you behind helpless: time for sick-leave. Unless you act in time. What can you do? Double-click on the box to read some advice from the old days, which is still helpful for me.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Making a powerfull point

Today everyone uses Powerpoint for his or her presentation: here is an example - sent to me by Mercedes Sanchez - how to make a real powerful point. It shows that a presentation becomes powerful by keeping it simple and personal :
  • Each slide has a minimum of text and one message per slide.
  • The visual language supports the main message, using big simple images.
  • No details, no data, no flashy colours, no sentences, just statements.
    All slides contribute to the one point you want the audience to learn about and act upon. For more inspiring examples of making a powerful point look at: sustainable marketing.
  • Wednesday, 3 September 2008

    Powering Change

    “Be the change you want to see in the world." The idea is to put this quote on a wrist band as a take away in our booth at the World Conservation Conference. I like the idea. It may touch people, some deep learning. But I thought immediately why not have a choice. Other powerful quotes from Mahatma Ghandi are e.g.:
    “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
    "Poverty is the worst form of violence."
    "There is more to life than simply increasing its speed."
    "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

    Saturday, 30 August 2008

    Visualizing a public participation process

    A funnel is a good image to explain the process of public participation. You start such a process with an open mind and scope a wide variety of options, exploring stakeholder groups and opinion leaders for those groups. Their ideas, similar projects etc. You form a team. Explore with your bosses the conditions, limits and policy implications. You calculate human resources, time and other costs. This preparation phase is the most important and most time consuming task. At the end of it you prepare your first meeting.

    Holding that meeting is a next step. It should be focused on jointly making explicit the various pathways for change. In the third phase a reality check is done through focus groups and surveys. In the last phase one has a meeting with key stakeholders to jointly plan activities to carry out the optimal change pathway. The result is a plan with clear tasks and responsibilities for the partners. The whole process focuses more and more on real change. Often people jumpt too fast to the first stakeholder meeting. The negative effects often come later. Starting small is another success factor for public participation. And for the meetings themselves the success is also in the preparation. Even here the funnel image works - preparation - creating the right environment - scoping the issue - exploring options - learning and next steps. We used this image in our evaluation of the recent Valsain workshop.

    Dalai on Positive change

    "What distinguishes human beings is that we are capable of positive change". The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book succinctly explains how to deal with emotions creatively and employ our intelligence in a beneficial way.

    I am not sure how much aware the Dalai Lama is of His endorsement in the advertizement for this book. I wrote down this sentence earlier this month during His teachings in Nantes. He went further to say: "the very essence of Buddhism is the transformational change from ordinary person to Buddha. Buddhism is based on a scientific exploration of the mind analyzing basic concepts such as impermanence and emptiness. It is practiced by developing Boddhicitta and realizing emptiness."

    Change: where to start?

    The environmental challenges of this century are so enormous that a business as usual approach will not bring about the transformational change we need. Everyone on the video tapes of interviews during the Wineland conference that I am studying seem to agree. They also agree on the need for new technologies that are useful for the poor and have less stress on the environment. But there are different ideas about where and how you start this transformational change: with yourself or with the next generation.

    A university professor: “Old dogs like me you don’t change very easily, but you do change children and we can have very big impact that way.” A teacher: “I had to undergo a big change coming as a city teacher to the rural area. In the past 18 years I have grown a lot. The people here have changed me. All for the better.”

    Friday, 29 August 2008

    Nature communicates

    Suddenly I smell a strong sweet fragance. I walk on Nightingale street. In this part of Sao Paulo the streets are named after birds. Nothing is flying here but planes. It is night. On my left cars are passing by. On my right the double iron grills of the appartment buildings. Until now it has been a difficult day. I look up and see beautifull small white flowers hanging over the fence. The source of the fragrance. They seem to tell me: all is well - things are as they are. Later in the hotel I learn it is the Sweet Olive I have to thank.

    Thursday, 28 August 2008

    Transformational Change

    Eve Annecke, director of the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, South Africa, is interviewed on the tapes of video, I have to watch. The following resonates with me so much that I want to share it here. “We were very interested in looking what leadership meant on a continent in transition. Leadership is about transformation. Not so much the political transformation, but transformation in the social fabric and at the environmental level. The practices that rooted us in the conventional approach and technologies. The institute is a space for learning. If we think about the needs of children and how alternative futures may look like, then we might start figuring out how we engage each other at the social level and what technologies we are going to use to create a kind of community that is going to take on the challenges of poverty, food security, land reform and the environmental limitations.”

    “Transformation is not only how we engage with nature differently in order for nature to hold us in a sense, but how we engage with each other and particularly our children to bring ourselves up in a way that can take responsibility for decisions or choices that have to be made; that can take responsibility - in stead of a culture of dependency: always waiting for government, or the private sector or NGOs. We can say no - we can make these choices by ourselves. But only when we have looked quite deep into ourselves and thought about what transformation might mean.”

    Wednesday, 27 August 2008

    Communication Training - demand side

    Ramsar managers of regional governments in Spain struggle with networking, public participation and strategic communication. A demand articulation survey I did for a training workshop shows that they have in particular a range of questions about the administration, the audiences, the impact and the process.

    Administration - how to
    integrate participatory approaches into governmental procedures?
    ensure enough time and resources for public participation?
    guarantee cooperation of other government departments?
    avoid duplication with other projects?
    deal with conflicting government policies and practices?
    deal with the legal aspects of public participation?

    Audiences - how to
    deal with audiences that have no interest in conservation at all?
    deal with conflicts of interests among stakeholders?
    guide participation of both citizens and political decision makers?
    work with other sectors and their decision makers?
    deal with audiences that consider themselves as superior?
    get participation of private sector, agriculture, real estate developers?

    Impact on wetlands - how to
    frame biodiversity as an issue that needs an urgent response?
    link participation with conservation objectives?
    plan participation in a way that it solves specific wetland issues
    change behaviour?
    measure impact of participation?
    design processes that have a sustained positive impact?

    Process - how to
    deal with different levels of knowledge and expertise?
    work interdisciplinary?
    use new media tailored to the audiences, e.g. youth or private sector?
    generate interest and motivation?
    network effectively?
    plan a communication strategy?
    choose the right social instruments?