Thursday, 28 June 2007
As our joint lunch during each mission had become for him an opportunity for some mentoring and coaching, I started to ask questions to explore the issue of formulating terms of reference and provide a proper briefing. By the way the CEPA toolkit gives some guidance on briefings on page 50 of section 4. But apparently that was not the problem. It had more to do with the criteria for choosing either a private consultant, a university, a commercial company or an NGO. Here follow my notes on our dialogue and exchange of experiences that followed.
There are two types of consultants. The one you hire because you do not have the time to do the job yourself, and the one you hire because you do not have the knowledge, skills or competences to do the job. In both cases the job can be formulated as a project limited in time, budget and with a well defined result.
In conservation examples of the first category jobs are e.g. the formulation of Terms of Reference for national or international conservation projects, writing or implementing a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for a Ministry, or the evaluation of an environmental program for a donor. Quite often it is not difficult to find specialists in the networks of the Ministry. Often it are biologists who carry out these projects, either employed by a NGO or university that gets the contract, or as a private consultant.
The second category are professionals that are supposed to have a special expertise (e.g. management, marketing, communication etc.), the hiring organization does not possess. Mostly the organization is anticipating or undergoing change or facing a special challenge. These consultants have to deal with high and often rapidly changing expectations along the way, as new horizons become visible for the learning clients. Clients also quite often expect them to care about the impact of their work beyond their contract. The regular networks of the conservation units of a Ministry or international organization have much more difficulty to select a good consultant here.
I still have the two matrixes which I later made based on the scribbles on our paper napkins. One on criteria and one on matching the varieties of demand for CEPA expertise with the corresponding CEPA specialisms. Click on the matrix for better reading.
Our conslusion was that in theory TQM (the ability to provide the right quality within the agreed timeframe and budget) should be the main criterium. But that in practice often the budget was the criterium. With regard to CEPA we concluded that TQM would require looking properly at what expertise really was needed. But that in practice CEPA was seen as some form of education and mostly NGOs were hired. We ended our discussion that probably it would be ideal to contract a joint venture of an NGO, an university, private consultants and a commercial company and have the latter be the lead agency!
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
This case illustrates that marketing, education and awareness are important tools to trigger a paradigm shift from export crops to subsistence crops. It also illustrates the impact of the underused and undervalued potential of women as drivers for positive change, triggered by motives of health, nutrition, income generation, education and personal growth.
Saturday, 23 June 2007
“Actually we should not talk about bio-fuels, but about agro-fuels", I interjected, a bit didactic. Immediately Yolanda’s eyes lighted up: “Yes, I have to write that down”, was her reaction, recognizing that framed this way, it is much easier to talk about the down sides of this development. A week earlier in Brussels I had had the same reaction when I heard the term agro-fuels for the first time from Sonja Ribi, representative of the Swiss National Committee for IUCN. We have to spread the message, I had promised.
If we talk about bio-fuels, our mind immediately associates bio with positive connotations such as biological, environment friendly etc. And we do not want to listen anymore to negative connotations. Agro is associated with large scale industrial production and intensive land use etc. That makes it much more easy to talk about. For e.g. land taken away from local food production etc.
The CEPA toolkit on page 27 of section 1 talks about framing: People have conceptual maps in their minds – or frames - that help them sort incoming information quickly and to make sense of it. The first words of a story can trigger a certain “mental model” in people’s minds so that they say to themselves “Aha, so this is about....” and stop listening to the details. This can make it difficult to change people’s ideas. Research shows that "framing" is a valuable tool for redefining an issue. Good examples from the political discourse are e.g. right-wing catch phrases such as ‘tax relief’ (positioning tax as negative; not as the basis of all the collective provisions we benefit from in our society) etc.
The creative challenge for communicating climate change or biodiversity is ‘how to frame the discourse’.
You can find more on the issue at: 'Framing Science' or 'Media attacked for climate porn'.
Wednesday, 20 June 2007
Barcelona 2008, the IUCN World Conservation Congress. A grand piano at one side of the stage, at the other side a table. Behind the table VIPs: the IUCN DG, the mayor of Barcelona, the Secretary General of UNEP, etc. In the middle of the stage is a low table with five different bows. One of Spain’s most popular TV presenters talks about brazilwood and asks questions to the panel. Then he looks into the TV camera and says: “And that ladies and gentlemen, is the reason why we do tonight the Paganini test.”
He then, explains that the most famous violinist ever, Niccolo Paganini (see drawing by Ingres, below), spent the winter of 1833 in Paris. His violin – a Guarneri, called ‘Il Canone’ - badly needed some repairs, revision and thorough cleaning. So he went to the best violin maker of Paris of that time, Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. After inspecting the instrument, Vuillaume told him he had to take the violin apart and reassemble it. It would take two months.
After two months, Paganini returned to the workshop to pick up his violin. He looked at it from all sides, weighed it in his hands, touched the strings and nodded approvingly. Then to his surprise, Vuillaume produced another violin, completely identical. “I am sorry, but this is your instrument: the original Canone. My apologies, I have taken the liberty to make a copy”. Paganini could not believe it. He played both violins and only after playing for some time, he could identify the original. “I will buy the replica” he said. “No maestro, let it be my gift to you”, Vuillaume answered. Years later Paganini gave the copy to his only student Camillo Sivori. Both violins (left Il Canone, right the replica) still exist. I saw them in the Municipal Palace of Genua (Italy).
“Now”, the TV presenter says, “we are going to do a similar Paganini test with bows: I have here five bows, one from brazilwood and four alternative bows. Conservation guests on the podium, you the audience in the hall: you all can vote with your voting machine. Viewers of the program at home, can vote by sending us an sms. The violinist who is going to play for you, also does not know which bow is made of brazilwood”.
Then the Russian master violinist, Maxim Vengerov, enters the stage. He picks up a bow, shows it to the camera and public and plays the 24th Caprice by Paganini. Silent voting. Another piece by Spanish composer Lalo. Voting, and so on. After five pieces, the results of the voting are made public. The VIPs are asked to motivate their votes. Then the anchor asks the violinist. He hesitates between two bows and asks: “you are sure that there is only one brazilwood bow?” “Yes”, the anchor says. The final choice of Maxim Vengerov is wrong. He tells the audience that he will be an ambassador for the protection of brazilwood and lobby for the use of alternatives. The IUCN DG presents him with all five bows.
The next day, pieces of the TV show are broadcasted on other European channels and the printed press interviews Maxim Vengerov, IUCN specialists and producers of alternative bows. E-mailing music schools all over the globe on how to download the video, follows. TV stations in France and Italy organize their own Paganini test. Other famous violinists make public statements. IUCN and the bow makers associations in Europe, America and elsewhere monitor the demand for the various bows; IUCN is praised by UNEP and CBD for the real impact it has made in the market place, and so on, and so forth. Then I wake up from my reverie!!!
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
This is the message of the Candle light campaign. On June 24, 2007, Japanese and South Korean non-governmental organizations will hold a "Lights Down" event. At 8:00 p.m., the lights in Tokyo Tower will turn off, and candles will be lit across Shiba Park. At 9:00 p.m. the N Seoul Tower will turn off the lights, and a candle performance will be held there. The South Korean event will be seen live on a solar panel screen set up at the event site in Tokyo.
To share messages about the event a special section of the website is made available for Japanese participants. This is the seventh time the event takes place. In 2006 over 7 million people participated. I was first made aware of this during the IUCN CEC meeting on Deep Change in November 2006. Junko Edahiro, Chief Executive of Japan for Sustainability , the brain behind the campaign made a presentation during this workshop and I immediately liked the concept. It invites people from all walks of life to taste aspects of a sustainable lifestyle in a pleasant way. A positive message about behaviour change. It just provides the opportunity to do something simple, without any difficult message or preaching about sustainabilty. Just experience the small first step: quality time - education and learning may come later, or may not. A good example of marketing for positive change.
Saturday, 16 June 2007
I feel even more uncomfortable when I read in the IUCN media brief:"(Pau Brazil) was once so economically vital for the red dye it produced that it gave its name to the only country where it grows. Bows from brazilwood, also known as Pernambuco, have been coveted by musicians since Mozart's time in the mid-1700s for their sound quality, density, rich color and strength in holding a curve".
”It is estimated that a single violin bow costs up to $5000 and uses 1 Kg of wood". "Attempts are underway to re-plant this species, although it is reported that plantation-grown wood is considered of inferior quality by bow makers". “This beautiful timber is valued and used worldwide. No comparable substitute is known for the making of bows for string instruments and therefore demand is likely to remain high internationally,” says the IUCN spokesperson in the IUCN News Release.
A day later I listen to the BBC and hear Richard Black on the same subject: “Top-flight violinists will be able to travel unhindered by endangered species restrictions after a compromise was reached on the wood in their bows”. And he continues: “The CITES meeting approved Brazil's proposal to put trade restrictions on the wood after a deal was made to exclude finished products. Conservation groups were disappointed that a bid to protect endangered cedar species failed. Latin American and Caribbean countries, which are home to cedars of the Cedrela genus, accused the European Union of not consulting them adequately before proposing trade restrictions. With no support from the range states, the EU was forced to withdraw its proposal, which would have put these species on Appendix 2 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).”
So what really is the case? I make some phone calls, look in a few books, surf the web and here is my side of the story. The demand for bows from brazil wood started long after Mozart passed away. Since the Middle ages violin bows were convex. Corelli was the first violinist to play with a straight bow – these are the bows Mozart has known and played with: made from ‘snake’ wood (Piratinera guianensis), imported from Africa. The problem was they did not produce much sound and easily broke.
The French watchmaker Tourte – yes a contemporary of Mozart, but he lived much longer - made the first concave bow (see illustration below), that allowed for more sound, more virtuoso techniques and was strong enough. He was the first to use the pau brazil. Tourte cooperated with violinists such as Ludwig Spohr and Adolphe Kreutzer until in the beginning of the 19th century the bow, as we know it today, emerged.
The bow was further perfected by the famous violon maker Vuillaume, who also started experimenting with hollow steel bows. Violinists such as Baillot and Charles de Beriot were adepts of this type of bow. Others, such as Kreutzer and Paganini favoured the pernambuco bow. In the end the latter became most popular. The second half of the 19th century saw the emergence of the modern symphony orchestras and was a big boom for the (semi) industrial production of musical instruments and the use of brazil wood for bows on a growing scale.
It takes at least thirty years before a tree can be harvested. Most plantations of foundations of (mostly French) bow makers are of recent date, so of course the quality of wood from those plantations at the moment is still a problem. Moreover to make a good bow, the wood needs years of processing and drying. TRAFFIC estimates that huge quantities of Pau Brazil are in France and Germany. Definitely true: each bow maker has a stock of old wood. The older the wood, the better. A bow maker in town told me “when a bow maker dies, his widow is besieged by colleagues who want to buy his stock…!” That is also a reason why bows by Tourte, Vuillaume and their students are so expensive. And 19th century bows are still in high demand. Violinists prefer them over a newly made bow.
Since a few decades experiments with alternatives have led to a growing production of new bows from fiberglass and carbon graphite (see illustration at the left). Through a quick call to the local conservatorium here, I learned that they have become increasingly popular with young students. Pau brazil being an endangered species is one of the reasons, the fact that they are far much cheaper (€ 100-200) is another reason.
My own bow is more than a hundred years old. Yes, it is made from pau brazil, cut from the forest at least hundred and fifty years ago. My father gave it to me when I played my first violin concerto. Ask any professional violin player, he will do his concerts with an old bow, maybe practice with one he bought brand new. The threat to pau brazil (Caesalpinia echinata), has been until the 19th century the dye industry, and afterwards mostly habitat loss due to indiscriminate logging of the Mata Atlantica, as a whole. It is too easy to blame the threast to pau brazil on the demand from violinists. But of course we have to deal with the threat.
What is needed - except for trade restrictions on pau brazil - is a global marketing campaign for alternative bows. That a Tourte bow is better than a new glass fibre one, is an idea just between the ears of old fashioned violin players! As CEPA exerts, we have here an internal mission: IUCN, TRAFFIC and other conservation groups will be more effective to protect the species by communicating and marketing the various alternatives to the brazil wood bow.
Friday, 15 June 2007
Communication and learning can be important elements of positive change in biodiversity and poverty alleviation. International awards can both be a stimulus for a project to continue and grow as well as inspire others to take similar initiatives. The Equator Prize is a good example. The prize is “awarded to recognize and celebrate outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation of biodiversity. As sustainable community initiatives take root throughout the tropics, they are laying the foundation for a global movement of local successes that are collectively making a significant contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”
In 2006 from 310 nominations, 25 finalists were selected. One of the five prizes awarded on Biodiversity Day 2007 went to Alimentos Nutri-Naturales from Guatemala. The prize also includes a Pride campaign, organized by Rare to highlight the success and raise more support for the project. Alimentos Nutri-Naturales also receives support from the Equilibrium Fund, on its website you can calculate your carbon footprint and support the project by donating a sum that equals your yearly carbon footprint.
The initiative itself was a mix of marketing, communication and learning. Some quotes from people participating in the project illustrate this:
"I have really enjoyed learning about nutrition and the recipes are really easy. I am happy you came to teach us these things, we will harvest and cook with Maya Nut from now on" says Evany Hernandez, from La Bendicion, Guatemala.
"I cut four huge Maya Nut trees this year because I thought they were worthless, now I am reforesting because I know how valuable they are", says Juan Jose Interiano, from El Salvador.
From the newsletter: The Maya nut (Brosimum alicastrum) was once a staple food for the ancient Mayans but is threatened with extinction due to the spread of logging and conversion of land to agriculture. In the buffer zone of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala, 56 women own and manage a business which employs over 650 community members to process Maya nut to feed their families and earn income. The Maya nut is not only an important source of nutrition for humans but 85% of endemic wildlife also rely on the Maya nut forests for food, shelter, and general habitat. The project has resulted in the conservation of 90,000 hectares of Maya nut forests and the planting of 150,000 new trees across Guatemala. Alimentos Nutri-Naturales has created a local initiative to resolve malnutrition, rural poverty and dependence on imported foodstuffs by marketing Maya-nut-based school lunches to local school districts. Through a partnership with the local government, Maya nut snacks will be distributed in schools as a healthy alternative to cookies at lunch time.
Thursday, 14 June 2007
In two groups - using the conversation cafe method - communication issues were explored that need more attention, if Countdown 2010 wants to realize the vision and strategic intent for the next few years, formulated in the morning session. Both groups came up with very similar findings. I share here the most important conclusions of the workshop.
• Target groups have to be better defined and researched on what would motivate them to take action. Opportunities for new target groups among municipalities, were identified through the partnership with ECLEI. The trend of ‘sustainable employment’ was mentioned as an opportunity to involve trade uinions ad potential partners. Business needs more attention and should be approached in a less 'NGO-manner'.
• Objectives have to be formulated more carefully. Awareness raising about the loss of biodiversity is different objective from motivating to become an active partner in Countdown 2010 and broaden the basis of support.
• Messages about the objective should be tailored to the target group. A general message is that everyone has a role to play, to contribute to halting the loss of biodiversity. For each group the message should also be clear on what they can do to contribute, preferably with inspiring examples of peers who already are engaged.
• The identity and brand of both Countdown 2010 and biodiversity need more work on. Countdown has to be more clearly presented as a campaign to broaden the support in society to halt the loss of biodiversity. Participants felt a strong need for a more positive branding of biodiversity and more links with climate change.
• Representatives appreciated the communication channels used so far: using the different networks of sectors, using the web across sectors, signing the Declaration, and triggering free publicity. They felt that the use of protagonists (e.g. football players, TV actors etc.) could add value to existing channels. The campaign should also capitalize more on using existing and planned vents.
Friday, 8 June 2007
Consumer markets are often pictured as a pyramid (standing upright), with products for different segments. The real bottom, especially in biodiversity rich countries is often considered as irrelevant, as poor people have no use of the products, no buying power, no knowledge of brands and are difficult to reach. Basic support and key innovations reach some but not all remote areas through NGOs (see the posting Learning the Missing Link). But today there is a huge potential according to Management Experts such as C.K. Pralahad and Stuart Hart. I quote here some examples from their writings.
Many biodiversity rich countries saw during the last decennia some important changes e.g.:
• increased access of the poor to radio, television, mobile phones, internet
• decrease in national and international aid programs
• increased efforts of international corporations to explore new markets
• increased efforts to discourage migration from remote areas to cities
These trends have led to more world brand products and services for the poor. Often smaller quantities per package (fertilizer per kg, washing powder per 100 grams, 5 cigarettes etc.). In Costa Rica, a pilot programme by Hewlett-Packard brought the 21st century to remote towns and villages. HP converted old shipping containers into "digital town centers:" Each container holds a satellite link, several computers with access to Internet and e-mail, educational videos and phone service. The project, known as Lincos, is sold to towns and villages through credit and also creates work.
Free Energy Europe developed cheap solar panels for the remote markets in Brazil, Kenya and Indonesia. Fiat and Tata are developing cheap cars for the Indian market, that will costs 100.000 Rupees (one Lakh Rs is €1.700,-). Unilever developed for the same market Anapurna Salt, salt with jodium, and for the African market Fair & Lovely cream that makes the skin lighter. Grameen Bank and Danone build next year a yoghurt factory in Bangladesh. Small credits will enable poor people to buy a cow and produce milk for the factory.
Hindustan Lever has been investing in a distribution network of women in remote areas to sell soap, toothpaste and washing powder in their villages. After a few months the women earn from their sales 800 Rupees a month (€ 16), which is enough to live on; most double that income after a year. Team members learn in eight weeks how to read and write, as this is needed for their administration.
This is all business, based on mutual benefits. It is not aid, based on what experts 'assume' is good for the poor. E.g. USAID wanted to use the Hindustan Lever network to distribute malaria medicines. Hindustan Lever understood enough about the CEPA basics and end user participation to ask the network first what they needed most. The result: diarrhea was a bigger problem. Now the network distributes also a cheap water purification product, that can deal with 8 -12 liters a day, enough for an average family in the country side.
Access to world brand products also positions and emancipates poor people as critical consumers, strengthens their self confidence, provides opportunities for income generation, access to education and health care. It triggers their own enterpreneurship and creativity and does not make them dependent. Of course other structural measures also are needed to alleviate poverty, but it shows the added value of the private sector in addressing the bottom of the pyramid in the process of positive change towards sustainable development.
What I think we can learn from the corporate sector in dealing with poverty is in the marketing and distribution networking. Here CEPA and biodiversity conservation may find entry points, e.g. to explore what village products are of interest to other markets and what products and services may benefit local biodiversity. More and new joint ventures between conservation and the corporate sector are needed to capitalize on these emerging trends.
Tuesday, 5 June 2007
“If the answer was simple, you would not even ask the question”, I tried. But he insisted and we started talking about our recent experiences of what worked and what did not work. I told him about the blog and the CEPA toolkit. And by the time our planes left, I had enough to work out the matrix below of do's and don'ts when implementing a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). It is a bit like the short article ‘Communicating Nature Conservation: Ten Frequently Made Mistakes’, I wrote almost ten years ago. The CEPA toolkit addresses these issues in more detail in section 3 about mainstreaming and stakeholder involvement.
Friday, 1 June 2007
A good soldier is not violent.
A good fighter is not angry.
A good winner is not vengeful.
A good employer is humble.
This is known as the virtue of not striving.
This is known as the ability to deal with people.
This since ancient times has been known as the ultimate unity with Heaven.
Tao Te Ching, Verse 68
For me this means a good communicator respects 'ignorance'. Too often we tend to rely on information, preferably scientific sound information, to convince people. People have conceptual maps in their minds – or frames - that help them sort incoming information quickly and to make sense of it. It is the basis for their decision to zap to another channel, turn the page or just turn a deaf ear on the speaker. People read what they want to read, hear what they want to hear etc. In Verse 71 of the Tao Te Ching it reads:
Knowing ignorance is strength.
Ignoring knowledge is sickness.
So a good communicator does not just lecture, but listens and takes the audience serious. More about effective communication you can read in Section 1 of the CEPA toolkit: Good Practice of CEPA, especially the fact sheets on page 23 - 29. These fact sheets deal with the following aspects:
CEPA is more than giving people the scientific facts
Knowing that 'Perception is the only Reality'
Knowing that 'Said does not mean Done'
Getting attention for your issues
Take into account the need for framing.