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


Sunday 23 September 2007

Communicating eco-networks 2

How to package expert information to make it effective with non-experts? I have maps of internationally and nationally designated areas (Ramsar, World Heritage sites etc.). Maps of internationally acknowledged areas (Important Bird Areas, Important Plant Areas, etc.). Habitat maps showing existing non-fragmented natural and semi-natural areas considered large enough to sustain viable populations of species of European importance. I get many lists of actual distribution data of selected species. And I get descriptions of the existing relevant laws, policies and strategies.

Together all this is just data. Not information. When it goes out like this, nobody – except other experts – will understand it and agree with the design of this eco-network. Maps and statistics are not the reality. Reality is much more dynamic and also implies people of flesh and blood. And it is people we have to reach.

So I ask for real life stories that illustrate the need for the eco-network. I ask for photos that bring abstract concepts to life: world conservation value, threats to biodiversity, the culture, the demographics. I ask for quotes from local people. What they think of the current situation. Their dreams for the future. Their ideas for initiatives that will benefit both society and nature. Their motives to be part of positive change. With this support we write short simple texts. The data go into boxes or annexes. Section 2 of the CEPA toolkit deals with packaging biodiversity information in the second chapter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

According to my field experience, one of the main obstacles for packaging expert information in no-jargon non-expert form are the EXPERTS themselves (together with the availability of usable data).

More often than not, the comms people (if there are any on the local-level project) are perceived as responsible to technically serve the circulation of EXPERT material and promote the project, instead of providing expert comms advice on how to influence change of behaviour in accordance with the objectives.
This specially goes for the developing countries where even local languages are polluted with development industry and expert jargon due to resistance to at least translate it to the common local language terminology.
The underlying perception is that avoiding expert jargon would actually strip the message (and the expert, for that matter) of any authority...
Additional pressure is put on project people (especially the young ones) by the requirements of internal reporting which they then misconceive for appropriate communication and miss on the link with the broad picture.
Comms policy papers often do not reach project managers for one reason or another, so the only way to deal with this in field is time-consuming diplomacy on the case by case basis with unpredictable outcome.
This situation can only be improved by RADICAL INSTITUTIONAL PROMOTION of the status and authority of competent communications specialists by the donor community. The Durban Stream on Building Broader Support for Protected Areas recommendations are a good starting point. How long does it take to actually start incorporating them into project planning? What can I do to speed-up the process?