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


Sunday 30 November 2008

Form follows function

The communication objectives of the anniversary celebration of an organization are to improve its image and public relations. The seminar and party on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Netherlands Committee for IUCN were a statement about the relevance of the Committee and its core functions. The attendance by the key stakeholders, the venue of a redesigned old gaz factory, the vegetarian and biological food, the pleasant and time conscious facilitator, the party for the personnel of all member organizations - it all supported the messages of the seminar: we need nature and therefore we need transformational change. I don’t remember much details of all the messages of the speakers. They represented the various aspects of international biodiversity conservation in the Dutch context. There was not much looking back, and much more looking forward. The presence of the Queen, the Minister, the DG of IUCN and conservation celebrities upgraded the event and the Committee to a level, that it now can capitalize on for its core functions: convening and mobilizing. For short video click here.

Friday 28 November 2008

The core brand value of climate change

Metaphors are often the best way to communicate complex issues. Take climate change. "Scientists and politicians still frame their observations in terms of 'if by 2050 the temperature rises by 3,5 centigrades…', says Richard Leaky at a seminar for the 30th anniversary of the Dutch Committee for IUCN. He uses the story of that train loaded with highly toxic and inflammable chemicals in the station of a mountain city to frame the core of the climate change issue. “The engine driver just returns on the platform from the cafeteria with a coffee in his hand and he realizes that he has forgotten to put the train on its breaks. He sees the last wagon disappearing from the station. What should he do? Warn the people down the mountain to get away as fast as possible? Ask colleagues along the track to jump on the train? Run himself after the train and to try to stop it? The issue of climate change is not if that train will pick up speed, derail and cause a disaster - it will! It is too late to talk about if the train picks up a speed of 30 or 60 kilometers! The engine driver hast to acts fast now, run and make others run after the train to try to slow it down and ultimately stop it. That is the core of the climate change issue."

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Invest in preparation and facilitation

People support what they help to create: meaningful involvement is key in any process of change. To create positive change for biodiversity on a local or sub-national scale participatory action planning is often a good investment. To guide such a process successfully one needs three disciplines: project management, strategic communication and facilitation of group processes. Based on these disciplines Ramsar has published a participatory action planning guide for managers of a wetland site or river basin. The tool is designed to develop a wetland outreach plan, but managers of any landscape can easily use this guide to develop or update any management plan. The material provides the manager with insight and tools for the interactive processes of clarifying the context, charting change, validating ideas, and moving to action. For a manager the success is in enough time for the first phase and in finding a skilful neutral facilitator.

The footprint of websites

A usable website has a navigation which can be used intuitively by its customers. Design and lay out should help a user to stay on track and find the information he is looking for. As a regular user of environmental websites I often get very annoyed when looking for information. It is much easier and faster to use google or Wikipedia. High time for these organizations to invest in usability research? Usability is a new discipline that focuses on human-computer interaction, communication and engineering. It helps to improve websites, mobile phones and other new media by testing interfaces, observing and measuring user behavior and factors that influence that behavior. It leads to advice how to increase user satisfaction. It also helps to reduce the footprint of the organization, says Mercedes Sanchez. She is specialized in usability research and wrote about the relation between usability in the private sector and its effects on the environment.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Leadership messages for change

"Few challenges facing America -- and the world -- are more urgent than combating climate change. Many of you are working to confront this challenge....but too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office." Yesterday President-elect Barack Obama set out his vision on combatting Climate Change in a short video. Addressing the US Governors Climate Summit, Obama emphasized his enthusiasm for the Poznan Conference and promised that his administration would mark a "new chapter in American leadership on climate change." On YouTube I saw that his video in one day already had more than one million viewers. Change needs leadership. Leadership makes strategic choices in communication modalities to get the messages for change out, so we all can buy in.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Exploring new transatlantic leadership

“Obama made everyone in the US feel good about themselves. And in Europe he made people want to like America again. He collected a huge amount of political capital. He now has to invest it in transformational change and make sure people and other nations buy into this change”. This is a quote from Michael Ryan, Defence Advisor of the US Mission to the European Union. He was one of the speakers during the seminar “After the Vote: Implications of the US Elections for Foreign Policy, Climate Change and International Security” in the European Parliament. The following is what I learned from the seminar.

We need a new transatlantic leadership that deals with climate change in the same way it has dealt with the Montreal Protocol in the nineties. In a relatively short period it phased out 96% of the CFCs. We need to learn from Kennedy’s transformation of the US space program: “Man on the Moon”. Maybe we should rally around: “Energy Independence”. Since the financial crisis a larger role of the state is possible: the state could – like in Australia - ban inefficient light bulbs from retailers. Ban inefficient energy use in office buildings. Set standards for military energy procurement. The savings of these measures are enormous: e.g. the average costs of fuel for a military vehicle are now three dollars a gallon; in the field this price increases to forty two dollars. The military seem to be ready – they just published the Environmental Guidebook for Military Operations. It is up to us to make change happen!

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Alternative methods for information transfer

When organizing a training workshop, formulate the outcomes and focus on methods to create learning experiences to generate the outcomes. Outcomes are formulated in terms of desired knowledge, attitudes and skills. Preferably based on demand articulation in advance. Professionals learn little from presentations. Learning increases with the degree they are in control of their own learning process. To create learning experiences one has to think in alternative methods for one-way information transfer. In some recent workshops I used:

• Story telling in small groups about what worked
• Multiple choice or quiz questions about basics
• Group brainstorm to outline concepts, definitions, principles, strategies
• Brainstorm on aspects of issues at four flipcharts (carrousel)
• Group interview with the resource person (“how-to” questions)
• Group work on specific issue or question and plenary presentations
Conversation café.
Group learning can be enriched through feedback by the facilitator and resource persons. The facilitator has to bite his/her tongue and only adds some extra wisdom where the group – though its peer exchange – has laid the foundation for the next ‘zone’ of learning. A workshop blog can help to generate reflection, trigger new questions and add to learning beyond the oral exchange and time limits of the workshop. When initiated by participants it also can become a driver of further knowledge networking when everyone is home again.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Carnaval as kick off to celebrate IYF

The United Nations have declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, as an issue that needs worldwide public awareness. The CBD Secretariat is in the lead and will provide countries with the logo and some other framework support to built awareness campaigns on. In our workshop we have a group interview with the CBD focal point to better understand the idea and context. Then we outline in groups a campaign strategy for three imaginary Caribbean islands: Bahiti, Trimaica and St David 1. The creativity of the groups led to three basic findings:
* the objectives are to raise public awareness: have a simple zero measurement in advance and another survey at the end (maybe just check how well known the word biodiversity is and what associations people have).
* link with local culture: have a kick off with carnaval, make biodiversity the theme for celebrations and formulate as central message: "biodiversity, that's us!" The more attractive the plan the easier to fundraise.
* use intermediairies: schools of journalism could make videos for TV that showcase positive change and could be exchanged with other countries; hotel associations and other business could organize biodiversity awards, NGOs could organize exhibitions of island biodiversity etc.

Thursday 6 November 2008

Evaluation CEPA workshop

The workshop had four time slots for exchange on CEPA: mainstreaming biodiversity into other sectors; CEPA and media; how to integrate biodiversity into education; how to prepare for the International Year of Biodiversity. Asked what was most meaningful, participants noted for each session their personal learning points. They then shared their learning: e.g. strategies to collaborate, principles of change, building relationships between journalists and civil servants, framing messages, concept of biodiversity, shelf-life of stories, use of intermediaries, packaging, using festivals such as carnival, use of intermediaries, scheduling of events, planning of IYB process, KAP research and objectives, zero-measurement before awareness campaigns. We ended with group photos and exchange of contactinformation.

Framing assigment for a case study

Mainstreaming means change interventions focused on nature and on the social environment.This morning groups are reporting back from the field trip to Nariva Swamp. The assignments were rather focused on the technical content of change: biodiversity conservation, climate change impact, climate change response, livelihoods. In general most reporting focused on what is not working and I am wondering to what extent that has to do with framing the assignment. Suppose they were asked to explore what had changed positively in nature and society during the last few years. From the literature I tried to describe the positive change (see matrix), even if it is clear that there are still many difficulties and conflicts to be solved.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

CEPA experts meet journalists

The meeting between government CEPA experts and journalists brought to light how easy the first group uses acronyms that unknown to the other group. Other jargon elements that needed explanation were: watershed, ecosystem, ecosystem services, invasives, in-situ and ex-situ. The CEPA toolkit contains glossaries that exlain such concepts. A joint brainstorm about what the essence of nature was brought to light that both groups share the same vision on the core brand values of biodiversity. It reminded me of the way of the way the German government branded biodiversity earlier this year. Asked to brainstorm about entry point for stories in the media showed differences: journalists could not do much with the (rather abstract) ideas of CEPA experts. The journalists had quite a list of good ideas for stories:
* Progres report on implementation of CBD the challenges involved
* Impacts of development on biodiversity
* GMOs and its potential impacts on traditionally grown food
* GMOs and public health
* Impact of mining on forestry
* Examination of threatened species
* Impact of invasive species on the natural environment and livelihoods
* Economic impacts of degrading coral reefs.
The meeting made it clear how important it is to invest in personal relationships between government experts and journalists to generate mutual trust and respect. At the end Indi Mclymont, the workshop facilitator gave tips on how to deal effectively with the press. In the CEPA toolkit you can find more details on How to inspire the Press, how to work with the Mass Media.

Change, yes we can!

Mainstreaming biodiversity is an important part of this CBD workshop. Mainstreaming means a transformational change in a specific sector. Transformational change only happens when interventions focused on the natural environment are combined with measures in the social environment. I am asked to do a presentation on how to facilitate the process of change and how to use strategic communication for change. After so many presentations I propose to make my points by giving feedback to group work. We ask groups to brainstorm what would work in mainstreaming biodiversity. Eight groups present us with the outline of a strategic approach. Each for a different sector. When I look back the next morning at the flipcharts with my feedback notes, I can cluster the following change and communication principles:
* Enough time to establish mutual trust and personal relationships.
* Segment the audience and explore what new knowledge, attitudes or skills they need.
* Simple and personal messages in the language of the target group.
* Understand the psychology of resistence to change.
* Be positive, use 'we'-messages, not 'I'-messages.
* Use participatory approaches that guarantee meaningful involvement.
* Use credible intermediairies to send messages to decision makers.
* Start with pioneers and small steps, like you do when introducing an innovation.
* Understand that communication is part of the instrument-mix of 'stick-carrot-drum'.
This morning - after ´Change, yes we can´, became true - I would add one more principle:
As Biodiversity leaders we should live the change we want to see in the world!
Read more about transformational change in the stories about an IUCN CEC workshop about Deep Change.

Monday 3 November 2008

NBSAP experiences from the Caribbean

In this CBD workshop participants are sharing experiences with formulating, implementing and mainstreaming National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. This is what I picked up from one and a half day country presentations.

Ninotchka Tjin Kong Poek (Ministry of Labour, Technology Development and Environment) describes the experiences with the formulation and implementation and identifies some major challenges with regard to participation
• who leads the process to get participation of lawmakers?
• how to deal with the fact that NGOs not always properly represent local communities?
• how to deal with ignorance about biotechnology?

Dominique Saheed (Environment Protection Agency) shared lessons learned from the consultative process of NBSAP 1 to take into account when form ulating NBSAP 2:
• Multidisciplinary team
• Identify priority progr areas, e.g. mainstreaming or climate change
• Use high level advocates for getting financial compensation to keep the forest standing

Trinidad and Tobago
Robin Cross (Environment Management Authority) explained that the NBSAP process focused on early buy in and a large investment in the preparation through preparatory processes. Stakeholder involvement and management was central in the process. The main lesson learned were the benefits of participation:
• Shared sense of urgency and vision
• Increased goodwill and mutual trust among stakeholders
• Improved information sharing and knowledge networking
• First steps towards positive change.

St Lucia
Anita James (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment) shared lessons learned that will be taken into account when updating the NBSAP:
• Formulating clear targets to be met
• Mobilizing commitment as a driving force behind the implementation
• Knowledge and management sharing
• Mainstreaming BD into other sectors, e.g. through awards, community forrestry.

Andrea Donaldson and Ava Tomlinson (National Environmental Planning Agency)described the NBSAP process, including the development of brochures, posters, cartoons to raise awareness for a biodiversity vision, workshops for sectors and public consultations with local stakeholders. Implementation through projects, but only 40% of the project qualified for funding. Challenges are integration, mainstreaming, enforcement, training and strategic communication.

Bradley Guy (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment) shared the various BD challenges to the island, e.g. deforestation, overgrazing, pollution, inappropriate legal frameworks, biotechnology risks etc. Specific challenges in day to day practice are:
• knowledge sharing
• capacity development
• equitable sharing of benefits
• climate change.

St Kitts and Nevis
Ashton Stanley (Department of Agriculture) explained that his country deals with biodiversity through EIA and other legislation, e.g. the national physical development plan, national environmental strategy and the project Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods. The NBSAP is used to develop numerous projects and initiatives.

Stacy Lubin-Gray (Ministry of Environment) explained that the consultative NBSAP process raised awareness on the relation between biodiversity and livelihoods on the various islands. Ten years after the formulation major restraints are that:
• NBSAP is not a government priority
• Human resources are lacking
• Proper institutional framework is lacking
• Most regulations and plans stay in draft form.

St Vincent and the Grenadines
Anthony Simon and Glenray Gaymes (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) explained that intersectoral integration of biodiversity is basically done through personal relationships. There is a succesful forestry program with marihuana farmers to look into alternative livelihoods. Much effort goes into research and data collection on species (parrots, black snakes and frogs). Awareness raising is done through in schools. Enforcement and compliance is a challenge because of lack of effective legal frameworks. Training and funding are problematic. Climate change through more and heavier tropical storms is a new major threat.

Antigua and Barbuda
Orvin Paige (Environmental Department) shared the experiences of an economic transition from a focus on agriculture to a focus on tourism and the reflection of this reality in the goals NBSAP. Climate change brings more hurricanes and rainfall, but still water shortage and droughts are a major problem. Skills and competences are another challenge. There was poor attendance at NBSAP consultations and lack of political will to drive effective implementation. The government cannot do it alone, it needs grassroot awareness and support.

Dalia Salabarria Fernandez (Ministry of Environment) presented the experiences since the nineties at various levels: consultative formulation, mainstreaming through workshops and programs. Over time it led to the need to update the NBSAP with new priorities, new thematic areas, more realistic goals and a shorter list of actions. Awareness is raised through a TV Course "University for all", NGOs, universities and a National Strategy for Environmental Education. A central driver is the Global Environmental Citizenship Project (UNEP).

Joseph Ronald Toussaint (Ministry of Environment) explained of the current process to formulate the NBSAP in a difficult political situation with many setbacks over the years. Among the challenges are to get commitment from major NGOs, capacity development and better understanding of basic concepts. At the moment the 2010 targets offer an opportunity to finetune the NBSAP process.

Saturday 1 November 2008

CEC Chair Distinguished Leadership Award

During the CEC members meeting at the WCC in Barcelona, I was awarded by Keith Wheeler, the CEC Chair the newly instituted CEC Chair Distinguished Leadership Award. If I had known it in advance I would have prepared a few words of thanks. They could have been about Leadership in CEC over the last 15 years. Mine was that of re-pioneering the Commission in a time CEC was seen as as completely irrelevant to IUCN. The characteristics of my leadership were: autocratic, direct communication, personal relations, improvising, 'marketing and family-building throughout the IUCN regions'. When I stepped down Denise Hamú brought to CEC a leadership of differentiation: specialist groups, more formality, better planning, better external relations, a focus on WCLN, CEPA and ESD. The current CEC leadership by Keith Wheeler is focused on integration, coordinating and motivating members and secretariat, improving internal and external communication and bringing out the best in people: driving change. It feels good to see the stages of improvement of the CEC knowledge network and still being tolerated and allowed to contribute: "Keith, CEC - Thanks!"