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


Friday 30 April 2010

Communicating local stories

How to communicate messages from a wide range of voices around the globe about what they consider essential to make the world more sustainable and how they contribute themselves? The Guardian last year provided us with a good example: web page with stories how people experience climate change. You click on the image of a person and a small window opens with a short text in which this person tells his or her story. The project is called the human face of climate change. Although the content focuses on the threats, the format seems to me a good way to communicate local case studies on sustainable development to a worldwide audience.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

More than just a logo

The logo of the International Year of Biodiversity is used for many events. Here for an exhibition in the Edinburgh Zoo. Yesterday I saw the logo in the Amsterdam Zoo on a conference banner. What I did not see, nor hear is the story that gets me ´on board´. Yesterday there was a lot of jargon. Not many people seem to use the text and narratives developed specially for the IYB. E.g. non jargon messages are:
You are an integral part of nature; your fate is tightly linked with biodiversity, the huge variety of other animals and plants, the places they live and their surrounding environments, all over the world.
You rely on this diversity of life to provide you with the food, fuel, medicine and other essentials you simply cannot live without. Yet this rich diversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate because of human activities. This impoverishes us all and weakens the ability of the living systems, on which we depend, to resist growing threats such as climate change.
For more non-jargon bio-diversity messages read here.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Facilitation modalities

Bringing people together to make a joint next step. That is in general often the objective of a conference. In one week time I attended two similar conferences. They had the same theme: ecosystem management and human well being. However they were different in focus and process. Both had framed the theme in a catchy way: 'Nature - What's in it for me?' and 'The Great Escape - There is NO Planet B!' The photo at the left shows the power point lecturing approach of the first conference; the two photos on the right show the interactive round table approach of the second one. The first conference aimed to take stock how IUCN members in the UK are contributing to this program area. The second to start a dialogue between IUCN members and the Dutch development community. Both had official parts with ministers, and ample room for networking. Exciting innovation of the second was a session with opportunities to contribute through twitter. Exciting during the first one was a dinner where a new multimedia project was launched 'why a wilder Britain is good for you'. The last difference was the facilitator: an insider in the first conference, a real outsider in the second one. Normally I prefer an outsider, assuming (s)he has empathy with the audience and affinity with the subject. I look forward to see the impact in terms of next steps of both conferences. I wonder what national committees could learn from each other about organizing conferences.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Rethinking mobility, practicing slow life

Imagine a world without planes. The closing of most of the European airspace during the last six days - because of the eruption of a volcano in Iceland - faced Europe with the question how to cope without air transport. Ferries and trains were quickly sold out. Stranded tourists had to deal with inconsistent information. Importers of fresh fruit had to rethink their logistics. We environmentalists got stuck in an international meeting. We now have to rethink our conference habits and use the new media more strategically. I will practice slow life on my 17 hours train ride from Edinburgh to Utrecht. And with me many others.

Showing the link between people and nature

More than just some forest. That was the title of a picture of a British forest. The pay off was: Carbon store. Heat source. Playground. With powerful images and key words the 2020 vision for a wilder Britain was launched in Edinburgh at a reception for the UK Committee for IUCN. It was more convincing and to the point than any of the 20 power points shown during the day in the conference. Conservationist might want from now on to leave their power points home when they argue their case with non-experts in a ministry, an industry or the man in the street.

Sunday 11 April 2010

The fear to interact with stakeholders

Biodiversity experts from government and NGO have a similar fear to interact with stakeholders during an excursion in a workshop. You have to prepare them and push softly. They need to adapt to a new 'rationale', quite different from their normal professional interaction when they represent the law or gather scientific facts. Once they have overcome their initial 'cold water' fear, these interactions of probing into hopes and fears of daily life become meaningful. And afterwards they are perceived as the most successful parts of a workshop. Over the last 15 years I had exactly the same experiences in Latin America, Africa, Central Europe and now in Bangladesh. As facilitator you have to listen to all their objections and excuses in advance "why this part of the program is not appropriate and can disrupt already difficult relations". But keep in mind: perseverance will be rewarded!

Friday 2 April 2010

Effective messaging

When determining the message content we also have to think what flavour, personality or association will be needed to have the desired effect on the audience. Musicians do this all the time. As this is Eastern, here are - thanks to YouTube - seven examples of the "Erbarme Dich" Aria from Bach's St Matthew Passion. And these are the 'flavours' I hear/see:
1. The awe for the distant divine (Eula Beal, Yehudi Menuhin, Antal Dorati, US late forties).
2. A subdued desperation about loss and mercy (Herbert von Karajan, Kathleen Ferrier, UK, late fifties).
3. A personal appeal for transparency, harmony and compassion (Julia Hamari, Karl Richter, Munich Bach Orchestre, late sixties).
4. The power and volume of musical performance and perfection over guilt and pity (Vladimir Spivakov and Tamara Sinyavskaya, Russia, late nineties) .
5. The quality of sound to evoke universal sympathy (Makiko Narumi, Japan, 2000)
6. Reading heartfelt sorrow from the score (Maureen Forrester, Antonio Janigro, I Musici di Zagreb, 1997).
7. The mystique of how it must have sounded in Bach’s time (Delphine Galou, Francois-Xavier Roth and Orchestre Les Siecles, France, 2009).