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


Wednesday 18 September 2013

Visiting Boč ten years later!

In 2002 – 2003 I was involved in assisting Slovenian protected area managers in dealing with the issue of threats by visitors to biodiversity in the mountain landscape park of Boč. After long discussions they decided on a strategic focus to deal with only one threat (trampling of the Pulsatilla Grandis) during one specific event (1st of May celebrations). See story board for the change that took place and the role of communication. 

Five years ago I went back. Simona Kaligaric showed me around and explained that since 2002 the 1st May event is every year managed more effeciciently by the municipality. The community now really takes care of the site. E.g. the hunters association decided to turn the adjacent corn field they owned into grassland. They were afraid that the fertilizer they use for the corn, may harm the soil of the Pulsatilla.. "It changed my professional life", Simona said then. "Leaving my desk and interacting with the people in the field, makes my life definitely more complicated, but also much more succesful."
Last week on a sunny saturday – it is now ten years after the project - I was again in Boč. And again Simona showed me around. When we came to the foot of the mountain at the end of the village we saw many cars nicely parked at a parking. “Yes” Simona said, “these days many people use the trails to walk up the mountain through the dense forest. These challenging nature trails are an initiative of the mountaineering society; they look after the paths here”. 

When we came to the mountain inn, we saw more cars parked on a small parking and not a single one parked ‘in the wild’ as was the case ten years ago. A group of people from a nearby town were practicing karate on a field. “Look behind them”, Simona pointed out, “there is the basketball court that we made ten years ago – it is still maintained by the inn and used by groups of young people who come here during the year. Actually all facilities, e.g. campfire and camping places we made for the event management of the 1st of May are now used during the whole year. And people take responsibility: the hunters associations mow the pulsatilla field every year to make sure there is no overgrowth. The municipalities take positive interest. I myself have not been here for quite some time, as I am now promoted to head our office in Maribor. But I am always surprised how well it works when you define the communication objectives properly. We used to think in terms of agriculture or biodiversity. We now know we have to be much more concrete and start small. Define stakeholders, find opinion leaders and listen to explore how they can be part of the solution.” Then we went to the two sites of the Eastern Flower: they are doing well, much better than ten years ago and Simona and her colleagues hope that the habitats will slowly grow bigger.

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