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


Saturday 28 November 2009

How useful is end-of-pipe advice?

Most communication decisions were already taken, but still we were asked to give some communication advice to the global protected areas community assembled in Granada at their Climate Change Summit. After three days of listening to presentations around their new publication we were invited to share our impressions with the WCPA leadership. We expressed our doubts about the functionality of the publication to influence the process in Copenhagen. Oops - that did not feel good with them. Luckily we also had three main recommendations for the short term. To use the preface as an instrument for an e-campaign to all WCPA members and ask them to send it to the relevant policy makers in their country. To have a short article by the chair in the IHT, aimed at decision makers. To publish photos of Summit participants with testimonials of the main things they had learned. And to publish photos on the WCPA website illustrating examples of mitigation and adaptation in protected areas, each with a clear subtitle e.g. floods, landslides, storms, drought, water, food, fire, health etc. For the longer term we advised to use more personal communication, e.g. joint working groups with Climate Change experts or other groups. When my colleague shared our ideas in the plenary on the last day, only a few participants showed active interest, most seemed fully satisfied with their own communication efforts, inlcuding a long statement to feed into the Copenhagen process (even at this very late stage). It made us reflect on how useful end-of-pipe advice really is.

Personal communication channels

A testimonial from a credible source can enhance the acceptance of a proposition, or the findings of research. The prefeace by Lord Nicholas Stern in the WCPA Study 'Natural Solutions, Protected Areas helping people cope with climate change' definitely fulfills that role. In about 400 words the findings of the research are summarized in almost plain talk. Two messages: protected areas help mitigate and adapt to climate change. Policy makers should translate that positive role into policy and funding mechanisms. Lord Stern is an opinion leader and also an influential who can develop word-of-mouth referral channels to build a case for protected areas. So if 'used' in the right way, he can do more than just lend his name to the preface. Used implies here devoting extra time and effort to turn him into an active ambassador. Supplying him with the right tools and support to do such job. This is one of the recommendations we provided the organizers of the Granada Summit.

Communication analysis in advance can save money

The commissioners of the WCPA study on Protected Areas (PA) and Climate Change (CC) aimed to udate the PA community on CC and convince the CC community to give more attention to PAs. Unfortunately these two audiences are quite different in their attitude towards the subject: the PA community is not very familiar with CC, but quite favourable for a larger role and more resources for PAs. The CC community is hihly familiar with the subject, but not very favourable towards PAs: for them PAs have a rather negative image. The same messages that would update the PA community, would run a high risk of putting the CC community off. For them the communication residue would confirm their perception of the PA community as CC opportunists. Analysing in advance the beliefs, attitudes and knowledge of the audiences should have led to the conclusion that it would be better not to use the same media for different purposes to different audiences. In the end such analysis saves time and money and helps to realize the objectives.

Friday 27 November 2009

Maps give us the bigger picture

A picture says more than a thousand words and a map more than any other illustration. The newspaper this morning showed these two maps from the Netherlands. One from 1860 and one from today. They tell a story. Red dots tell about urbanization. That was what the article was about. But there is more: the white spaces tell us about the closing of inland seas, the Rhine delta and the reclamation of land. Where Schiphol airport is situated now, was a lake in 1860. Dark green spots tell about increased afforestation and the emerging conservation ideals. Light green areas tell about the disappearence of waste lands of dry peat and sand dunes. Around the turn of the century Holland had to cope with desertification. A photo illustrates an example or informs us about a detail. Maps tell the whole story, show the dynamic of change and give us the bigger picture. In communication for change: use maps!

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Include external knowledge in the project team

To succesfully capture and disseminate lessons learned it is useful to include knowledge management expertise when designing the project team. This is one of the messages of our evaluation of a multi-country forest governance project. The project focuses on a participatory approach with unpredictable and mostly intangible outcomes, depending on stakeholders outside the project. Learning on multi-stakeholder dialogues results mostly in implicit knowledge. To make such knowledge explicit you need expertise from outside the forest community. A good example of such need was the way a professor forest management was conducting a workshop to write up lessons learned (left column). The result were academic articles, with little news. Interviews with participants afterwards revealed that they knew much more and had more relevant insights than were written up in the academic exercise. In the right column a more effective approach is provided to make such knowledge explicit.

Monday 23 November 2009

Talking to the press

In the end it is the change in habits of the people that is needed to combat climate change. That was the main message I prepared for my interviews with the press when I was two days in Madrid for talks at the Casa Encendida. I also had prepared some examples of why it is so difficult to change behaviour, especially with regard to climate change. And how communication could help in changing attitudes and support new practices. The Fundación Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente had organized several interviews. Via a two press agencies articles appeared in a series of news papeers, magazines and websites. E.g. in: Europa press, 15 September 2009 and Extremadura al día, 16 October 2009. My message on Copenhagen that politicians only take adequate measures, when their voters press for it, at least came over loud and clear. In hindsight I must say that talking to the press is still quite a learning experience for me. I feel more comfortable with strategizing or organizing a press conference.

Thursday 5 November 2009

The future of disaster relief game

To get a process of peer learning going, CNA organized a game during the conference on "CLIMATE CHANGE, STATE RESILIENCE AND GLOBAL SECURITY". At the registration the over a hundred participants all got a game booklet with a scenario on climate change and global security in the year 2040. Each participant was provided with a card with the flag of the country (s)he was supposed to represent. It contained a 80-word description of the position of that country. A pannel of retired admirals played the role of a White House security advisor, the Joint Chief of Staffs, the Department of Defense Secretary, a Congressman and the Secretary of State. The audience had to vote on questions with regard to climate change and relief response: what would you do, how are you going to do it, how will this resource demand end. The panel then discussed what the response of the US administration should be. Afterwards a climate change representative of the current White House Council on Environmental Quality gave her reactions as an introduction to a lively plenary discussion.