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


Saturday 30 August 2008

Visualizing a public participation process

A funnel is a good image to explain the process of public participation. You start such a process with an open mind and scope a wide variety of options, exploring stakeholder groups and opinion leaders for those groups. Their ideas, similar projects etc. You form a team. Explore with your bosses the conditions, limits and policy implications. You calculate human resources, time and other costs. This preparation phase is the most important and most time consuming task. At the end of it you prepare your first meeting.

Holding that meeting is a next step. It should be focused on jointly making explicit the various pathways for change. In the third phase a reality check is done through focus groups and surveys. In the last phase one has a meeting with key stakeholders to jointly plan activities to carry out the optimal change pathway. The result is a plan with clear tasks and responsibilities for the partners. The whole process focuses more and more on real change. Often people jumpt too fast to the first stakeholder meeting. The negative effects often come later. Starting small is another success factor for public participation. And for the meetings themselves the success is also in the preparation. Even here the funnel image works - preparation - creating the right environment - scoping the issue - exploring options - learning and next steps. We used this image in our evaluation of the recent Valsain workshop.

Dalai on Positive change

"What distinguishes human beings is that we are capable of positive change". The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book succinctly explains how to deal with emotions creatively and employ our intelligence in a beneficial way.

I am not sure how much aware the Dalai Lama is of His endorsement in the advertizement for this book. I wrote down this sentence earlier this month during His teachings in Nantes. He went further to say: "the very essence of Buddhism is the transformational change from ordinary person to Buddha. Buddhism is based on a scientific exploration of the mind analyzing basic concepts such as impermanence and emptiness. It is practiced by developing Boddhicitta and realizing emptiness."

Change: where to start?

The environmental challenges of this century are so enormous that a business as usual approach will not bring about the transformational change we need. Everyone on the video tapes of interviews during the Wineland conference that I am studying seem to agree. They also agree on the need for new technologies that are useful for the poor and have less stress on the environment. But there are different ideas about where and how you start this transformational change: with yourself or with the next generation.

A university professor: “Old dogs like me you don’t change very easily, but you do change children and we can have very big impact that way.” A teacher: “I had to undergo a big change coming as a city teacher to the rural area. In the past 18 years I have grown a lot. The people here have changed me. All for the better.”

Friday 29 August 2008

Nature communicates

Suddenly I smell a strong sweet fragance. I walk on Nightingale street. In this part of Sao Paulo the streets are named after birds. Nothing is flying here but planes. It is night. On my left cars are passing by. On my right the double iron grills of the appartment buildings. Until now it has been a difficult day. I look up and see beautifull small white flowers hanging over the fence. The source of the fragrance. They seem to tell me: all is well - things are as they are. Later in the hotel I learn it is the Sweet Olive I have to thank.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Transformational Change

Eve Annecke, director of the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, South Africa, is interviewed on the tapes of video, I have to watch. The following resonates with me so much that I want to share it here. “We were very interested in looking what leadership meant on a continent in transition. Leadership is about transformation. Not so much the political transformation, but transformation in the social fabric and at the environmental level. The practices that rooted us in the conventional approach and technologies. The institute is a space for learning. If we think about the needs of children and how alternative futures may look like, then we might start figuring out how we engage each other at the social level and what technologies we are going to use to create a kind of community that is going to take on the challenges of poverty, food security, land reform and the environmental limitations.”

“Transformation is not only how we engage with nature differently in order for nature to hold us in a sense, but how we engage with each other and particularly our children to bring ourselves up in a way that can take responsibility for decisions or choices that have to be made; that can take responsibility - in stead of a culture of dependency: always waiting for government, or the private sector or NGOs. We can say no - we can make these choices by ourselves. But only when we have looked quite deep into ourselves and thought about what transformation might mean.”

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Communication Training - demand side

Ramsar managers of regional governments in Spain struggle with networking, public participation and strategic communication. A demand articulation survey I did for a training workshop shows that they have in particular a range of questions about the administration, the audiences, the impact and the process.

Administration - how to
integrate participatory approaches into governmental procedures?
ensure enough time and resources for public participation?
guarantee cooperation of other government departments?
avoid duplication with other projects?
deal with conflicting government policies and practices?
deal with the legal aspects of public participation?

Audiences - how to
deal with audiences that have no interest in conservation at all?
deal with conflicts of interests among stakeholders?
guide participation of both citizens and political decision makers?
work with other sectors and their decision makers?
deal with audiences that consider themselves as superior?
get participation of private sector, agriculture, real estate developers?

Impact on wetlands - how to
frame biodiversity as an issue that needs an urgent response?
link participation with conservation objectives?
plan participation in a way that it solves specific wetland issues
change behaviour?
measure impact of participation?
design processes that have a sustained positive impact?

Process - how to
deal with different levels of knowledge and expertise?
work interdisciplinary?
use new media tailored to the audiences, e.g. youth or private sector?
generate interest and motivation?
network effectively?
plan a communication strategy?
choose the right social instruments?

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Success factors for a good briefing

Most clients who use the services of an advertiser, designer or video-maker often run into the frustration of expectations that are not met. E.g. creative concept and design are not in line with the core message the client wants to communicate. The root cause of this frustration often is that there was no proper briefing. Success factors for a good briefing are:
1. Make the briefing an interactive process between client and consultant as two equal parties. Take enough time. The success is in the preparation.
2. Focus the first interaction on the vision, mission, brand, objectives and market positioning of the project or organization of the client.
3. Make explicit the expectations of both client and consultant and agree on a common outline, and a procedure with milestones for feedback.
4. See the role of the client as the overall strategist and the role of the consultant as the expert in the field of media. Stay in those roles!
5. Focus the next interaction on a first rough scenario or design and explore together to what extent that fits into the conclusions from the first meeting. Only then formulate terms of reference and a contract.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Positive change in Boč, 5 years later

It is five years after the project effective communication for biodiversity conservation was closed. I want to see what is really left of our interventions. Simone Kaligaric drives us to the Boč mountain meadow in Slovenia. She explains that the project not only solved the problem of visitors trampling the Pulsatilla grandis. But 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. A few years ago even 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. Another story of a negative trend that has turned into a positive one. "It changed my professional life", Simona says. "Leaving my desk and interacting with the people in the field, makes my life definitely more complicated, but also much more succesful."

Friday 1 August 2008

Communication triggers change in trends

"Most important is the change from a negative trend into a positive trend". CEC member Tina Trampus answers my question "what is the biggest impact of the communication project we did five years ago?" I am back in Slovenia, we visit a few villages and I see more examples of restored ponds. In one of the villages a parked truck almost makes it impossible to read an interpretation signboard on a trail to the pond. I ask Tina to write her story of positive change and give her the format. Click on the matrix to read her story.