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


Friday 11 July 2008

History of CEC

Learning to Change the Future, A bird’s-eye view of the history of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication is the title of an article that Frits Hesselink and Jan Čeřovský are working on. As the history of a network is shared with many people, we are asking CEC members to have a look at the draft that is published here in various postings. Wherever members and other interested parties have suggestions for improvements of the text, they are invited to provide the authors with feedback. They will be mentioned in the final publication as contributors to the text.

So far feedback has been received from Bostjan Anko, Peter Bos, Wolfgang Burhenne, Susana Calvo, Ricardo Carvalho, Juanita Castaño, Vladimir Galushin, Wendy Goldstein, Denise Hamú, Shivani Jain, Chris Maas Geesteranus, Gillian Martin-Mehers, Gerald Liebermann, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Jeff McNeely, Cecilia Nizzola-Tabja, Mamata Pandya, Kartikeya Sarabhai, M.A. Partha Sarathy, Ana Puyol, Daniella Tilbury, Peter Townsend and Keith Wheeler.


The dynamics of a knowledge network – inspiration, new ideas, new learning. - is rarely documented. Years later all that is often left are publications on a shelf, names in archives and myths and stories about the old days. But let it not be forgotten that individuals initiated actions promoting programs, projects and opportunities for many others to improve their knowledge, attitudes and skills. In an attempt to learn from the development of the CEC knowledge network over time we studied various records and questioned eye-witnesses . We were most interested in the main shifts in paradigms, commission goals and leading thinkers, and less in a detailed description of all past events. We came across many strengths and weaknesses of a formal and voluntary knowledge network. We hope this short history will provide new generations in CEC and IUCN with some idea of where it all started and what metamorphosis the Commission went through since the early days of IUCN. For us it has been an exciting learning exercise.

CEC, the oldest Commission of IUCN

In 1948 IUCN was founded as the International Union for the Protection of Nature (IUPN). A small secretariat supported a Union of States and NGOs. It was the time of post-war reconstruction, decolonization and the beginning awareness of population pressures on natural resources. According to the statutes IUPN had six fields of work, including: “to educate adults and children to realize the danger which lies in the alteration of natural resources and the necessity of action against such a danger”. William Vogt (USA, 1902-1968), one of the founding fathers of IUCN and a well known ornithologist was appointed in 1948 in Fontainebleau to chair the first IUCN Commission, the Permanent Committee on Conservation Education to tackle this field of work. The Commission on Education - as such established in 1949 - initially had eight members. It was generally shortly referred to as Educ.

1950s: Promoting the concept of Nature Conservation

In the mid of fifties, nature was basically seen as wildlife with a strong focus on outstanding natural features: species, sites and areas, threatened by economic development and population growth. People needed to become aware of the importance of wildlife. To do so the Commission focused on schools. In 1950 with the support of UNESCO 39.000 booklets for teachers and 130.000 illustrated pamphlets for students were distributed in Italy in a first campaign to raise awareness. The idea was that the Commission would call on experts and make IUPN indispensable to UNESCO, thereby up-scaling the Italian approach.

William Vogt, Ira Gabrielson, Max Nicholson, the first IUCN Publications: CEC products!

In 1952 Ira Gabrielson (USA, 1889-1977), another founding father of IUCN was elected as Chair. During his term the Commission produced one of the first major IUCN publications ‘A Guide to Conservation’, prepared by Laurence Palmer. In 1956 the General Assembly in Edinburgh, UK, changed the name to IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in order to overcome “a much more limited and perhaps more defensive or sentimental image”.

The change of name broadened the scope of the IUCN´s action. In the fifties the Commission focused on outdoor and out-of-school nature education in accordance with the slogan “take them out” promoted by the famous conservationist Edward Max Nicholson (UK, 1904-2003), also a founding father of IUCN. He served as EduC Chair from 1958-1960. EduC helped to organize youth summer camps and in 1956 helped to create the IYF - International Youth Federation for the Study and Protection of Nature with Jacques de Smidt the Dutch university student as its first President.

1960s: Conservation education extends over a global scene

In 1960 the General Assembly took the decision to move the IUCN Secretariat from Belgium to Switzerland. The Assembly also elected the leading Russian conservationist Lev Shaposhnikov (1915-1979) as Educ Chair. He was the IUCN Education Commission Chair between 1960 and 1978, a long period, which has only been equaled by Wolfgang Burhenne, Chair of the IUCN Law Commission.

In the sixties the concept of ecology emerged. UNESCO started its program Man & Biosphere and IUCN its Commission on Ecology. Ecology, the inter-connectedness in nature and the role and impact of the human species meant for EduC meant a further broadening of its scope. Conceptually it meant the start of seeing conservation education – with a focus on building capacities for free and informed choices – as different from the technical paradigms of conservation itself.

Lev Shaposhnikov, Don Aldridge, Pierre Goeldin, Jan Čeřovský, Report on Nature Conservation in Eastern Europe.

In 1968 UNESCO convened the World Biosphere Conference of governmental experts in Paris, starting the global “first environmental wave”. The Conference was divided into three commissions, among them one on education chaired by Jan Čeřovský with secretarial assistance by the Venezuelan Gerardo Budowski (later the first Director General of IUCN). The result was the first international elaboration of the concept of environmental education. The IUCN EduC played an important role in the Conference, although it was still relatively small and consisted mostly of biologists from Europe and North America with an affinity for education.

From the mid fifties and throughout most of the sixties Johannes Goudswaard (Netherlands) started to serve the Commission as Honorary Secretary, in a voluntary capacity. In the late sixties Jan Čeřovský (Czechoslovakia, 1930) was appointed as the first education officer in the Secretariat, a position he held until the early seventies. The IUCN General Assembly in Poland 1960 adopted an EduC initiated recommendation to start establishing regional committees of commissions. In the early sixties the North West European Committee for Environmental Education (NWEC) was formed with the formed with the Norwegian Professor Ove Arbo Høeg as the first Chairman. Following its example, the East European Committee (EEC) was established in 1967 with Professor Tadeusz Szczecny of Poland as the first Chair and Mária Lexová from Czechoslovakia as Secretary. The uniqueness of this Committee was its lengthy position as the first and only internationally instituted conservation body eastwards of the “iron curtain”. For example, EEC and IYF arranged in 1969 the youth international camp in the Khoper Nature Reserve (south-east of European Russia). Between the late sixties and early seventies regional committees of EduC were established in India, North America and South Africa and French speaking West Africa: unfortunately, they were only short-lived ones.

Left: The establishing conference of the East European Committee, Praha, Czech Republic, September 1967. From left to right: Thomas Pritchard (EduC Deputy Chair), Lev K. Shaposhnikov (EduC Chair), Vladimir Novotny (Director, Czech Institute for Protection of Monuments and Nature), Jan Cerovsky (EduC Deputy Chair), Frantisek Tepper (Head, Department of the Czech Ministry for Culture), Joseph Berwick (IUCN Secretary General), interpreter. - Photo Archive, Czech Agency for Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection. Right: Break during the meeting of NWEC, Germany, May 1967. From left to right: Martha ("Muffy") Henderson (USA, later the second wife of Harold J. Coolidge, IUCN President 1966-1972), Jan-Piet Doets (The Netherlands), Thomas Pritchard (UK). - Photo Jan Cerovsky's archive.

1970s: Developing the concepts of Environmental Education

The seventies were marked by the Stockholm UN Conference on the Human Environment(1972) and the Tiblisi UNEP/UNESCO Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education (1977). IUCN EduC took part in the preparation of both of them and organized some preceding expert meetings in Europe and North America, where the concepts of environmental education have been further elaborated. Of special importance was the UNESCO-sponsored IUCN World Seminar on Environmental Education in School Curricula (Carson City, Nevada, USA, 1970) with a considerable number of participants from the South. IUCN EduC was also heavily involved in the first ever World Youth Conference on Environment in 1971 (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) preceding the Stockholm Conference. Another major event was the First European Conference on Environmental Conservation Education (Rueschlikon near Zurich, Switzerland 1971 attended by 109 representatives of 21 European countries and 9 international organizations, and 13 observers from countries outside Europe. In late sixties and early seventies EduC was supported by grants from the WWF.
The participants of the IUCN/Field Studies Council international course in environmental education for teacher trainees, Bets-Y-Coed, North Wales, UK, August 1971, interviewing locals about their environment. - Photo Jan Cerovsky. Education Commission Handbook of Environmental Education, Educ Conference Proceedings.

The NWEC was now meeting yearly. Governments and conservation institutions in the host countries provided financial support. One of the persons instrumental for the success and continuity of NWEC was Chris Maas Geesteranus (Netherlands, 1945) as its long serving Secretary (1975-1982) and later Chairman. The EduC continued its activities in Eastern Europe. Thanks to IUCN and its EduC activity at that time even in the Soviet Union some conservationists and educators appeared who strongly supported development of west-east mutual understanding and environmental collaboration . Both committees were in practice increasingly driving the global commission that still had a very small membership. The conceptual development of environmental education focused very much on pedagogy and the role of nature in personal development in various learning situations, and much less on conservation as the overarching objective.

Internationally the IUCN EduC was at that point in time in a strong position in starting up the IEEP (International Environmental Education Programme) of UNEP/UNESCO. But it did not capitalize on it, partly because of its conceptual focus and partly because it did not manage to avoid the ensuing leadership struggles. The position of EduC in the IUCN Secretariat was weakened by Jan Čeřovský having been retired by his government (for political reasons) back to Prague in 1973, and after that the EduC matters were administerd by Alfred Hoffmann who at the same time served the Commission on Landscape Planning. 1975 saw a major upheaval in the IUCN Secretariat and confusion during the General Assembly in Kinshasa.

In 1978 during the General Assembly of Ashkabad, USSR, Shaposhnikov gave up his chairmanship, with the result that there was no CEC candidate to vote for. In its next session after the General Assembly Council appointed a “an excellent Scottish Environmental Education expert Don Aldridge (UK, 1930-2008) as the new Chair. This appointment however was blocked by rival candidates”, as Martin Holdgate – maybe a bit biased - put it. Council then appointed the Swiss Representative to the IUCN Council as Acting Chair. Pierre Goeldlin (Switzerland, 1937), tried hard to find a new permanent chair. Reporting about EduC to Council, Pierre Goeldlin attributed – not surprisingly - the problems to “the abstract nature of educational concepts and the wide scope of the subject”. In hindsight the problems IUCN had at the time to position itself vis-à-vis UNESCO, UNEP and WWF may also have been a factor in the conflicts.

1980s: Education in the classical sense no longer an IUCN priority

In 1981 IUCN published the first World Conservation Strategy (WCS). Education was no longer a priority area of work for the Union. The conceptual work done by the Commission was much undervalued in IUCN as a direct connection with the programmatic work of IUCN was more or less lost. Things seemed to change with the election of Al Baez (USA, 1913-2007). This Chair had a background in science education, unlike the conservation or biology background of his predecessors. He focused on formal education and training, but did not avoid political confrontation.

Al Baez, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Educ Teacher Guides about the World Conservation Strategy and the Rain Forest

Among a range of products EduC developed a multi media pack for teachers on the WCS, a guide on training opportunities for protected area managers and a guide for the formation of wildlife clubs. However the IUCN Secretariat at headquarters expected from EduC what the mass media campaigns had done for WWF. IUCN wanted more support to reach governments and to enable them to influence and change their policies. EduC was perceived not to be up to that task. Al Baez did not stand for re-election.

There were quarrels between IUCN and WWF about education, and also between the IUCN leadership and the EduC Chair. In the meantime much of the conceptual environmental education discourse continued in North West Europe Committee. This committee embarked more and more on its own path. It played an increasingly important role working with its Eastern European counterpart in exchanging ideas and experience across the iron curtain. In 1984 both European Regional Committees held a joint meeting in Helsinki/Espoo, Finland. Al Baez and Julia Marton-Lefèvre acted as chair persons: the beginning of a new East-West cooperation in IUCN.

Left: Participants of the NWE and EE Committees' joint meeting, Bo, Norway, June 1988, starting to experience the "Take them out" in Norwegian style: a 2 day tour of 40 kilometres in the wild nature of the Telemark mountains. - Photo Jan Cerovsky. Middle: Conference on education for sustainable development for Norwegian educators, organized by the NWE and EE Committees, Bo, Norway, June 1988. John Smyth delivering his lecture. - Photo Josef Velek. Right: Joint meeting of NWE and EE Committees, Bo, Norway, June 1988, opening session. From left to right: Eniko Szalay-Marzso (Chair, EEC), Jan Cerovsky (IUCN Councillor), Chris Maas Geesteranus (Chair, NWEC). - Photo Josef Velek.

During the remaining years of the cold war the CEC Eastern European Committee served as an IUCN stronghold in this part of the world, and together with the CLP´s (Commission for Landscape Planning) Committee on Ecological Development of Cultural Landscapes (CECL) based in Central and Eastern Europe, played a vital role in te new IUCN East Europe Programme (EEP). There was a new North American Committee as well, led by Nancy Anderson. This Committee provided support to set up an East African Environmental Network, providing funds for a regional meeting each year. Nathaniel Arap Chumo was one of the key leaders in this network. At the end of the eighties the total membership of EduC was almost 80 members, predominantly from the North and mostly biologists, science educators, pedagogical researchers, teacher trainers etc.

Gerald Lieberman, M.A. Partha Sarathy, Youth in Environmental Action, A Guide to Environmental Administration In-Service Training, New Ideas in Environmental Education

During the eighties the Commission struggled vigorously for its survival, when shortly after his election 1984 as chair Gerald Lieberman (USA,1950) ran into a series of continuing conflicts with the IUCN Secretariat about lack of staff support for the Commission and about UNEP funding for the International Youth Conference on the Environment. In 1986 after consulting Kenton Miller, then DG of IUCN, Dr. Lieberman resigned in favor of Deputy Chair M.A. Parta Sarathy (India,1923). At the General Assembly in Costa Rica in 1988 Partha had the name of the Commission changed to Commission on Education and Training. As IUCN continued its denial of all support to the Commission, Parta Sarathy kept the network going for some time with voluntary support from Dr. Dart Thalman. He then decided to move the CEC Secretariat to Bangalore, India.

1990s: Regionalization and Strategic Planning

The early nineties were marked by Caring for the Earth (1992), IUCN’s second World Conservation Strategy and the concept of sustainable development. Using film as one of his main fields of interest, Partha widened the focus of the Commission for new approaches. The General Assembly in Perth changed again the name: Commission on Education and Communication. He was instrumental in raising funds from the Netherlands to give a new impetus to CEC. As his personal initiative he instituted the IUCN CEC Tree of Learning Award for outstanding contributions to environmental education. He continued as Chair until 1994.

Wendy Goldstein, Cecilia Nizzola-Tabja, building networks for CEC in regional offices and partner organizations

Dutch funding made it once more possible to have secretariat and operational support for the Commission. For over 14 years Wendy Goldstein (Australia) with the support of Cecilia Nizzola-Tabja (Peru) supported CEC. Part of the ‘deal’ on the funding in 1990 between IUCN, the CEC leadership and the Dutch government was the appointment of Frits Hesselink (Netherlands, 1945) as CEC Deputy Chair. As deputy Chair he focused on organizational improvements of the CEC network management, the CEC regionalization into the South and on linking environmental education and communication with the emerging goals of sustainable development and interactive policy making. Wendy and Cecilia proved to be excellent network managers, tirelessly supporting the emerging voluntary networks and the CEC steering committee on its new course. In Asia – under the leadership of Kartikeya Sarabhai - a regional network was formed called SASANEE and the secretariat for this network was undertaken by the Centre for Environment Education in Ahmedabad, India. The three European CEC Committees merged in 1993 under a new leadership.

Launch of SASEANEE 1993, Latin American Network Meeting 1995, European Network meeting after merger in 1996

Notwithstanding the substantial Dutch support and emerging regional networks, the added value of CEC to the IUCN program was unclear. In 1993 IUCN undertook a review which had the explicit intent to axe the Commission. The Secretariat commissioned a small expert committee (former IUCN DG David Munroe, former CEC Deputy Chair Julia Marton-Lefevre and outgoing CEC Chair M.A. Partha Sarathy) to come up with a proposal. Because of the recognition of the emerging new strategic direction in CEC, the Review recommended CEC not to be disbanded but to continue as an advisory body. This recommendation was not supported at the General Assembly of IUCN Members. Members could not see the difference between a Advisory Body supported by the Secretariat and a Commission, supported by the Secretariat. Therefore a CEC mandate for a full Commission – proposed by the outgoing steering committee – was approved.

Images that lead to the advice of the reviewers not to abolish CEC but to keep it as a Strategic Advisory Committee.

Frits Hesselink once elected as Chair in 1994, made an effort to bring CEC back into mainstream IUCN. He focused the CEC program on support to the work of IUCN in national conservation strategies. The CEC network was refocused to service IUCN members implementing conservation (and later biodiversity) strategies by strengthening their capacities in strategic planning of environmental education and communication.

Frits Hesselink, Strategic Planning of Education and Communication, Education for Sustainable Development

This also meant a change in membership. He broke with the idea that the Chair had to approve every individual member. In practice he delegated such to the regional chairs and the secretariat. He focused membership on practitioners, much more than on ‘education scientists’. He also changed North American and European dominance in the CEC governance system. By focusing on one common global theme, new and vibrant regional networks emerged. The network in Latin America was supported by Ana Puyol as a regional secretariat post – a definite success factor. In 1994 CEC had about 120 members. In 2000 there were over 600 members with a fair gender and regional balance.

In the nineties components of IUCN focused increasingly on policy and capacity support for the Conventions on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES and the ecosystem approach, creating tension with traditional programs in forests, species and wetlands. Likewise the focus of the CEC program was more and more on education and communication as social instruments - part of the instrument mix for governments to achieve environmental objectives. CEC actively engaged in capacity building to support this approach, not only within the context of the IUCN program, but also in the context of the Rio and other environmental conventions.

The internet had become a major driver for change in the management of the CEC network. The printed newsletter Nature Herald made way for electronic ones. CEC developed its first website and regional list serves. CEC experimented with the first internet debates and introduced the concept of knowledge management into IUCN. Despite all this the pressure was on from the Secretariat for the Commission to “spread the messages” from IUCN’s work. Although participation was high on IUCN’s agenda, the IUCN program was focused more on the technical aspects of conservation and less on the instrument mix of interactive policymaking. One could argue that the program was based on the assumption that information in itself will lead to change. In that sense CEC was ahead of the IUCN program.

2000s: Facilitating Learning, Communication Platforms and Partnerships for Change

In 2000 a much more coherent IUCN program focused on a small number of key result areas. The idea of One Program was introduced, meaning that Commission activities had to be part of the IUCN program. New and innovative approaches were stimulated leading to IUCN initiatives on water, sustainable livelihoods and poverty. Denise Hamú (Brazil, 1959) was the first female Commission Chair in the Union (2000 - 2005). She was assisted by Susana Calvo. Under their leadership CEC focused on impacting the policy environment and became, for example, an important actor in the inclusion and interpretation of an article on Communication, Education, and Public Awareness (CEPA) in the Convention on Biological Diversity. CEC increased its profile in the inter-governmental sphere through active participation in the COP processes, on advisory committees and other major events to support the CBD as well as other environmental conventions and became recognized as the major CEPA knowledge network for the Secretariats of the Conventions and national governments. One of the most important events Susana Calvo initiated was a conference in Valsain in 2002 on Communicating the Environmental Conventions. For this meeting CEC members Dr. Miro Kline and Frits Hesselink developed – based on their experience with communicating Natura 2000 in Slovenia and other accession countries - a special case-study format to capture learning on the added value of communication.

Denise Hamú and Susana Calvo, Working with the Environmental Conventions, other IUCN Commissions and the UN Decade for ESD

It was also during this time that CEC demonstrated leadership in the area of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Daniella Tilbury was the first Thematic Chair for ESD and coordinated a range of initiatives which build international momentum in this area. IUCN CEC featured in major international dialogues leading to the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. CEC members mobilized support for the proposal to establish a UN Decade in Education for Sustainable Development. This energy resulted in UNESCO and other international organizations recognizing CEC as one of the most important ‘portals’ to the worldwide community of experts in ESD and environmental education and communication.

By the time the Decade proposal was finally endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2003, CEC members were already engaged in activities to help practitioners make sense of ESD in practice and develop processes to support the Decade. CEC was successful in extending the ESD discourse beyond schooling to embrace informal learning, advocacy and communication activities. It recognized that most conservation and environmental decisions were taken by adults who needed support and opportunities to learn about sustainable development. Through its profile CEC was invited to sit at the table with other intergovernmental actors as they worked to affect policy at different levels. Like in previous post Tiblisi events CEC members were invited to shape the Tiblisi+30 conference through its steering committee and had an active role in a variety of workshops. Since the turn of the century CEC members, among others Marco Encalada, Ana Puyol and Marta Andelman were also key leaders in the Environmental Citizenship Project in Latin America, a project in partnership with UNEP and UNESCO.

Daniella Tilbury; Ana Puyol; Marta Andelman.

The turn of the century witnessed the global introduction of the second generation of interactive web utility, moving past static information-based web pages. CEC capitalized on this new technology through its existing members, and through an initiative to build a new sub-constituency within its membership of educators based in higher education institutions and universities. The World Conservation Learning Network was launched through this growing internal group, using new interactive online learning opportunities available globally for learning and professional updating. CEC experimented with a new interactive portal tailored to the needs of the users and equipped with tools for on line surveys and other knowledge management features. These examples which were soon followed by other parts of IUCN. In the same way training expertise, demand articulation skills, survey expertise, facilitation capacities and meeting management skills showcased by CEC were increasingly making their way into IUCN programs.

Launch of the World Conservation Learning Network Bangkok, 2004; On-line course on Environmental Flow; CEC Portal.

By the mid-2000’s and the wealth of knowledge that lies at each individual’s fingertips, attention has turned again to communication and learning, and their role in the behavior change needed for societies to use the information and knowledge available for action. The current CEC Chair Keith Wheeler (USA, 1952) is taking the development of CEC to the next level by focusing on change processes and the realization that facilitating partnerships is vital to cope with change. From mid 2005 the Commission is supported by a secretariat headed by Gillian Martin-Mehers.

Keith Wheeler, Gillian Martin-Mehers, International Workshop Exploring Deep Change Processes, 2006.

At this point in time learning, knowledge management and communication are the major knowledge areas of CEC. In the fast-paced, dynamic environment in which IUCN and other actors in the conservation and sustainability community find themselves, CEC positions itself as the knowledge network for creating strategic communication platforms, leveraging new learning for professional development and facilitating the co-creation of sustainable solutions. The focus is on new interactive technologies, the next phase and operationalisation of the World Conservation Learning Network; and on dialogue and consensus-building processes that help stakeholders move past knowledge to action. CEC continues to evolve responding to the changing world, the strengths that its Chairs, Governance Committees and Members bring, seeking to contribute to the work of IUCN as it works towards achieving its vision: “A just world that values and conserves nature.”