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


Monday 7 May 2007

Joint fact finding

Positive Change - the Spiranthis spiralis IV
One of the most important elements of stakeholder management is joint fact finding. During lunch it seems an argument breaks out between the villagers and the scientists. It appears it is about the location where to find the Spiranthis spiralis. For years the scientists have mapped the location, but the villagers say there is nothing to see at that location. This year though, they have seen lots of orchids on a different mountain. The decision is taken to have a look together.

After lunch everyone gets in the cars brought by the experts and we drive out of the village, leave the cars at a tiny river, cross the bridge and start climbing the hills. The view on the landscape with the mountains far away is beautiful. I seem to be the only one to enjoy it. The biologists have only an eye for the orchid and the villagers are too used to their environment to notice it. Some are interviewed by the regional TV station that was specially invited for the round table and has just arrived.

At a certain spot the team members get excited. They have found the small sticks they have put in the earth on the spots where they found the orchid last year. Everyone bends down and starts searching the grass. There are many tiny flowers and a diversity of grasses. But no orchid to be found. We go up higher and higher. After two hours we have not found a single orchid. The experts come up with the explanation that we are maybe a week too early as it has rained so much the last months and it was a bit cold. The villagers claim that they know a better spot.

It is decided we first go back and have some more hot goulash and schnapps at the community center. One car drives on to the other mountain. Two villagers and two team members go to check. When they return we learn that the villagers were right. We should have trusted the local knowledge. The team still grumbles, they had found their sticks from last year, how is that possaible? But giving credit to the village helps to break the ice, we slowly start talking business.

The joint climbing of the mountain, the lunch, the fact that we as experts have come down from our scientific throne by taking interest in the views of the villagers, it all helps to create a real round table. Without any orchestration three small groups are sitting around a bottle and talk. Facts are compared, ideas tested. It appears that the State Nature Conservation Authority has already managed to negotiate a deal with the Regional Agricultural Authority to stop their afforestation programs in the localities of the orchids. Now we come to talk about their sustainable agricultural policies. Someone knows they cannot spend the budget. In another group they realize that the co-operative of the manager, who had left half way the morning session still has sheep. The idea for the phone calls is born.

All are proud to be part of the solution, and their role in it. The villagers are also happy with the exposure their village gets on TV. They realize it is because of the orchids. They seem to have some degree of renewed trust in the scientists. They commit to cleaning some meadows each year and monitor developments. The teacher is happy with the orchid materials and T-shirts. The conservation organizations sense the improvement of their reputation. We sign the Village Book, more toasts: Nazdrovje! Then satisfied in many ways, we leave. Good communication is simple and personal. But at the same time, not easy! Look here for information on joint fact finding.

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