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


Friday 11 July 2008


Since 1948 CEC is the leading global network to co-create, manage and broker knowledge in learning, communication and participatory processes for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Over time CEC has helped the IUCN Program, members, commissions and partners to learn to change for the future and build public support for positive change in conservation and sustainable development. CEC brings to the conservation community appropriate tools, cultural, targeted and facilitated approaches to learning and participation, using the latest professional insights, methods and media.

Over the last sixty years CEC developed from a formal advisory body to the IUCN Council on conservation awareness and education into a formal knowledge network on learning, communication and knowledge management. While writing the history of CEC three questions arise. What is the value of a Commission? And in particular of CEC? What are lessons learned for the future?

A Commission network enables the IUCN program to have a direct impact on the daily professional activities of thousands of committed individual experts in a range of disciplines all over the world. In doing so it multiplies the IUCN vision, mission and programmatic messages far beyond the reach of the IUCN formal communication to its organizational members and the public. In return the IUCN program gains access to relevant peer reviewed knowledge far beyond the possibilities of the worldwide web and informal professional knowledge networks.

The CEC content may not be in the core of the IUCN program’s technical knowledge areas. However CEC brings vital knowledge to IUCN as technical and scientific information alone does not lead to change. And transformational change is needed at many levels in society to contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. To be relevant for IUCN, CEC should increasingly focus on the ‘chemistry’ of such change: how to frame the discourse, how to facilitate partnerships and how to manage individual, organizational and social learning processes.

Strategic planning of a Commission’s mandate and thus its added value to IUCN, prevents a Commission from becoming an ‘old boys network’ and a bureaucracy in itself. Especially when the Commission leadership also realizes the appropriate change in Commission membership and programmatic focus. Much can be won when knowledge can stream directly between CEC, component programs, other Commissions and IUCN members. Sufficient staff support to the Commission – in HQ and the regions – is vital to make such knowledge stream optimally. Relevance of CEC also implies investments in the future through allowing room outside the mandate for experiments, that later can be upgraded and up-scaled to be applied throughout the conservation community. CEC has demonstrated that it is best placed to experiment with such new approaches to building social capital or new knowledge management modalities for conservation.

Frits Hesselink and Jan Čeřovský
Utrecht – Prague, June 2008

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