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


Wednesday 22 December 2010

Season's Greetings

Sending season's greetings is one of the tools to keep relationships alive. At the same time it can also be a way to update and clean the relation management system. About ten percent of my three hundred 'electronic best wishes for 2011' bounced back, as addresses were not anymore correct. I could immediately update my address book. Another twenty percent of immediate response were people thanking me and sending me their best wishes. Around five percent reacted on the photo, mostly asking where it was taken. I took the picture at a small Tibetan monastery that looks after the Pragbodhi cave where the historical Buddha practiced austerities and asceticism before attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya. It is situated on a mountain range overlooking dry forests and deserts, an hour by car from Bodh Gaya, India. One cave contains a statue of a very skinny Buddha. Another cave a more traditional Buddha statue. We put up prayer flages, lighted candles and incense in the late afternoon.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Bush meat message

‘Imagine it alive. In the Amazon Ecuadorians eat ten tons of bush meat each year’. The proposal for the pay off was: ‘Be a responsible tourist’. It does not refer explicitly to extinction, however it is a loss not a love message. We are discussing the campaign of an IUCN/TRAFFIC project in the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve aimed at small road side restaurant clientele in the Amazon region of Ecuador. They are American and European backpackers, oil company employees and middle class citizens of small cities in the region. The back packers are only 1% of the clientele. So forget about them for the moment. Ecuadorians love bush meat. That’s why the small restaurants still supply the demand. But how to communicate behavior change to the demand side? Appealing to rational weighing costs and benefits of behavior change often does not work. Better to appeal to emotions of national pride and love for the Amazon region and the people living there. And add a real action perspective: ‘don’t eat bush meat’ or 'try this time something else than bush meat'. Maybe explore whether 'solidarity' associations would stick: ‘so the tribes who depend on it, won’t go hungry’. As long as communication is not fully alligned with enforcement, we may influence attitudes and maybe the behavior of a small segment of the audience, but no big changes. Therefore it is worthwile to invest in a parallel dialogue with the police, local authorities and restaurant owners how to work together for positive change. In any case pre-test draft messages.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Communication plan to establish a PA

The communication strategy is based on getting support through a participatory process. The assignment asks students to write a communication plan to get support to establish a protected area.
Before I read their assignments, I do the assignment myself. I realize the communication objectives are to inform opinion leaders about the idea of a dialogue, get them interested to participate and help create word of mouth based on the outcomes of the dialogue. My plan focuses on internal and external communication.
Internal communication to clarify:
1. What the initiators really want (elevator talk) - message to use externally
2. Degree of flexibility of initiators with regard to the idea of a PA
3. ToR of the stakeholder dialogue process
4. Available time of the other initiators to engage in dialogue
5. Budget for stakeholder dialogue process
6. Procedure for reporting and decision making based on stakeholder dialogue.
External communication to get support of local stakeholders:
1. Identification of stakeholder groups and their opinion leaders
2. Establishing relationships with opinion leaders and get a first idea from them about local situation and previous (communication) interventions; knowledge, attitudes and practices of local stakeholders; motives and obstacles to change.
3. Engagement in a stakeholder dialogue process: identification and invitation of participants; planning and facilitation of the process; prioritization and objectives of communication interventions to wider audiences.
4. Creating supportive word of mouth: implementing communication interventions to wider audiences; monitoring and evaluation; positive feedback to opinion leaders and wider audiences.

Monday 13 December 2010

Exhibits in information markets

Often we participate with an exhibit in an information market because we feel we have to be present. Presence can be an objective. But it is more strategic to formulate specific communication objectives: e.g. expand the relation network with at least 50 people. It means collecting business cards and doing a mailing or other forms of follow-up afterwards. It helps when the stand has one clear message and not too much information. It also helps when you have some trinkets, sweets or fruits that make passers-by slow down to pick it up and provide a reason to start a conversation, surf the product (songs) on the computer or take interest in the hand outs. Have an action proposal, e.g. "come to the concert tonight". These were some of my lessons learned when representing my wife at the Dutch Jazz and World Meeting Information Market ten days ago - along with another hundred suplliers of jazz and world music in Amsterdam, where she did one of the showcases in the evening. I collected 50 cards of international producers and organizers of a festival. And today I received the first response on the follow-up mailing I did last week.