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


Wednesday 2 May 2007

Impact of a phone call

Positive Change - the Spiranthis spiralis I
Can a phone call trigger change? Yes, if you think about communication strategically: what is the essential change? Who has to do something differently? What would motivate? Who should do the talking? What is the message?
Help us to improve our education program to convince villagers to re-introduce traditional ways of sheep farming on their mountain meadows. As sheep farming has stopped, shrubs and trees are overgrowing the meadows. Biodiversity is threatened, especially the Spiranthis spiralis, a tiny orchid." In short this was my briefing.

After a long bumpy ride we arrive in one of the villages. We pass a small Russian Orthodox church, a small Greek Orthodox Church and then we arrive at the village community building. In front are three containers for separate waste collection. I had not seen such progress in any city so far in this country. But here they are!

A stone monument with a red star on a tiny green grass field commemorates the liberation by the Russians in 1944. Liberation also had brought here a system of collective agriculture. Large scale sheep farming. But since the introduction of the free market in the early nineties, most cooperatives had gone bankrupt, people had left the villages, only old people stayed back. The schools had to be closed. So change through educating kids in schools, I thought: no way! But I decided to bite my tongue, better ask questions.

“We actually need to educate these villagers about the Spiranthis Spiralis. They have no knowledge of nature and care only for material things”, lectures the retired professor and chair person of the Orchid Club, while we are entering the building. The hall contains two long rows of tables with chairs facing each other. At the end is a podium. The biodiversity team starts working on the sitting arrangements and sets up the overhead and slides projectors.

A next time I will tell you about the round table meeting, the joint fact finding and other details. Now I want to tell you how it all ended. The team already had developed educational materials for the schools, including a puzzle and brochures, so they went on with their education work for the schools in the city closeby. But we also found a way to trigger real change. It were two phone calls that did it.

One was to the regional agricultural authority and we found out that they had difficulty to spend their budgetline for sustainable agriculture. The second was to the chairman of a co-operative at the other side of the valley that still had sheep: yes, he could load them on trucks and drive them to the mountain meadows at the other side of the valley, if he was reimbursed for the extra costs.

The subsidies could take care of that. The Conservation Authority staffs would help with the bureaucracy. The villagers were given a role to monitor impact and help cleaning the meadows. A positive change that energized the people as everyone likes to be part of visible success.

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