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


Saturday 20 September 2014

Change strategies: two stories

Improving community resilience through nature based solutions in Kenya
Boka – situated in the North Eastern region of Keya - in our grandmothers time provided the only water resource for all pastoralist communities in a vast dryland area of over 200 km2. The Boka wells and rainy seasons offered enough water for people and cattle and there were no conflicts of any significance. Problems that did surface were dealt with by the council of elders.

After independence a disconnect developed between the new legal systems  governing water, land management, other jurisdictions and the old traditional system of the council of elders dealing with these issues. Population was growing, so were the numbers of livestock. Climate change caused an increasing numbers of droughts which caused water scarcity and conflicts over access to water.

These conflicts often came to a climax of serious fights over who can feed his animals first and there is no family that has no history of family members being killed or severly wounded in such fights. These desperate situations led to attention of donors and investments of them in water management and related themes in the area. IUCN put in place a series of interventions that repaired the disconnect between the old and new water governance systems by helping local authorities and communities formulate Bylaws that regulate access and use of water. IUCN also put Infrastructure in place to channel water from the river in the rainy season into the wells and keep them better fed than before. This all being accompanied by a series of capacity development  and awareness raising activities.

Now the settled and pastoral communities in Boka can use the water resources for both human consumption and for livestock in a an organized way and satisfying all basic needs again. Any conflict is solved through dialogue and other measures foreseen in the Bylaws. The water conflicts out of the way means a huge positive change for the communities as far as health is concerned, family income, education for children and peace in the communities. More investment in water management infrastructure and local capacity development will offer even more opportunities for communities to cope with the effects of climate change and increased droughts.

Improving community resilience through nature based solutions in Uganda
Arwotngo – situated in the Northern region of Uganda - in our grandmothers time was a peaceful Parish, where people lived a simple but good life. They had ample livestock and the fertile soil provided many opportunities for agriculture. People were used to drinking milk and eating meat and vegetables. There was no indiscriminate cutting of trees and when you needed one you went to your grandfather to ask for permission. There were no conflicts of any significance. Problems that did surface were dealt with by the council of elders.

In the nineteen seventies things began to change. Tribes with weapons started to rob us from our livestock. Women were raped. Children were abducted and never returned. Then all out war started. There was little food. When the LRA entered the stage things became even worse. In 2002 all people fled from the rural areas to Lira, where we lived in refugee camps depended on International Relief Aid. Outside the camps it was not safe. Inside we barely survived. In 2005 things began to improve and the first community members went back to their homes. In 2008 the majority was back.

Life in the camp was bad, but returning home was maybe worse. We had no international support anymore, we had no housing, no food no nothing. So people started to cut trees to cultivate crops and sell charcoal to the trucks that came from Lira to collect the fuel. Wetland were turned into rice paddies. There was a lot of domestic violence, we were constantly struggling for money. Water points were shared between people and livestock, there was no sanitation causing a range of health issues. Wetlands were drained and during droughts we had almost no water and in the rainy season the rivers flooded our crops. Then IUCN came. First we thought they were going to grab our land, as we were growing rice in the wetlands. Later we realized they meant well with us as they gave us small sums of money we could use to buy seedlings.

We established a relationship of trust and they taught us saving, agro-forestry, the use of fruit trees, e.g. the shea nut tree. They started conservation fund from which we could borrow money to improve our income, on the condition that we participated in their water management activities by demarcating riverbanks, fencing water points, organizing ourselves to formulate by-laws etc. Very soon we saw the positive results: more and better quality water, more income for households, more peace at home, no more tree cutting, less floods. Now we have a much more positive vision for the future and we feel we can cope better with extreme droughts and floods.

Comparing the change strategies
In Kenya the land and water management changes did not really affect business as usual in the community. The men continued to be pastoralists, their women looked after their families, they started jointly a garden to diversify their livelihoods. The behavior change of community members was driven by the harsh experience of two years of extreme drought: no water for people and cattle. The pain of changing was far less than the pain of not changing. Improving and co-managing the water resources, especially by integrating the traditional governance systems was not a painful change. The only big change was the increased role of women in managing the resources and  the new phenomenon of girls going to school (a consequence of the new position of their mothers). A pain that men at last could deal with.  

In Uganda a similar strategy to technically improve land and water management, diversify livelihoods, strengthen self governance and learning did not work automatically. People were not interested to participate in the IUCN project. In the end they asked for a community revolving fund for small loans as a condition to participate in the project. Here the pain of changing without the fund would have been far bigger than the pain of not changing. Giving up their charcoal burning and rice paddies without an alternative would mean no income. In the camps they had learned to trade and set up small businesses, in the fund they saw the opportunity to use these skills and have a source of income for the short term. Fortunately IUCN was flexible enough to adapt their strategy. Then the change in the community started to develop along similar lines as in Kenya.

In both countries women were driven by values as self-direction (they saw the opportunity to become more independent) and security (they realized the importance of diversification of livelihoods). The men were driven by tradition (the by laws gave a new impetus to the traditional governance intstitutions such as the Council of Elders). These values proved stronger for both men and women than the values underpinning their behavior before the project came. For men driving values had been power (men are the owners of the cattle and that was more important for them than anything else) and hedonism (easy life). The behavior of the women was mostly driven by conformity (obedience). To upscale the project it is important to take into account the driving values of current and desired behavior.

Friday 8 August 2014

Change strategy

We asked groups of staffs of provincial Environmental agencies and school principles in Guiyang:
Choose in your group one environmental problem and then:
  • Identify a desirable alternative behavior
  • Identify factors that will promote this desired behavior
  • Identify existing values that could be used to promote this desired behavior
  • Identify and explain good communication strategies
  • Identify target population segment and message content for each segment
  • Craft message
  • Identify delivery mechanism/medium/media
  • What other persuasive strategies could be used to address the problem? Think about:
    • Social influence
    • Use of commitment
    • Removing material barriers
The illustrations are some of the templates filled in by the various groups.


Problem analysis

We asked groups of staffs of provincial Environmental Agencies and School Principles in our conservation psychology workshop in Guiyang:
  • Identify up to four key environmental problems in your local area, including around your school. For each problem:
  • Identify and explain the behaviors that lead to those problems?
  • What factors motivate such behaviors? Why do people behave the way they do vis-à-vis that problem?
  • How does existing cultural values shape these behaviors?
  • What other reasons for the existence of such problems?
The illustration summarizes some of the group work.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Human values

This is what I learned from Stanley Asah in our workshops on conservation psychology. Human values are transsituational goals of varied importance, that serve as guiding principles in people’s personal life and in the life of their society.Values are goals or deep rooted beliefs. They pertain to a desirable end state or mode of conduct. Values transcend specific situations. Depending on the person some values are more important than other values. People have individual systems or patterns of value priorities.

Values are acquired through socialization with dominant group values and personal experiences. Values are relatively very stable, much more than attitudes, cultural influences, worldviews,  perceptions or influences from the social environment. Individual value priority systems determine one’s identity and behavior. Values interact sometimes in conflicting ways.

Ultimately values drive people’s behavior, serve their interests, are standards for judging others, and enable people to cope with reality through transforming existential necessities into expressible specific values to facilitate communicative action. Values are responses to our needs as biological organisms, for coordinated social interaction, for the smooth functioning and survial of social entities. 

Universal human values are salient motivations towards the following different end goals:
1.       Power – social status and prestige, control or dominance over people or resources (the end goals is authority and or wealth)
2.       Achievement – personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards (the end goal is to be successful, capable)
3.       Hedonism – pleasure and sensuous gratification for oneself (the end goal is to have pleasure, enjoying life)
4.       Stimulation – Excitement, novelty and challenge in life (the end goals is to have a daring, varied life)
5.       Self-direction – independent through choosing action, creating, exploring (the end goal is creativity, freedom, curiosity)
6.       Universalism – understand, appreciate, tolerate and protect the welfare of all people and nature (the end goals is equality, justice, protecting the environment)
7.       Benevolence – preserve and enhance the welfare of people with whom one is frequent personal contact (the end goal is to be helpful, honest, forgiving)
8.       Tradition – respect, commit to and accept the custums and ideas of traditional culture and/or religion (the end goals is to be humble, devout)
9.       Conformity – restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others, violate social expectations or norms (the end goals is politeness and obedience)
10.    Security – safety, harmony, and stability of society of relationships and of self (the end goal is compliance with social order)
11.    Meaning – find meaning in life, spiritual life, inner harmony (the end goal is spiritualiy).

Saturday 21 June 2014

Know the psychology of your audience

MomentUs, launched in January 2013, is a new strategic organizing and communications initiative designed to build a game-changing increase in personal and institutional support for climate change solutions by using local and regional impacts and preparedness to engage the breadth of the American public in mitigation. They just published BEYONDSTORMS & DROUGHTS: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change.

A summary is published here. For this blog I selected some key excerpts from the main text:

Understanding Climate Change
One reason why people may not accept or act on climate change is that the problem is often perceived as global, distant, and difficult to understand.
Learning about the local effects of climate change can make climate change more tangible and thus make people more likely to accept it as a reality.
Experiencing the effects of climate change sometimes makes people more likely to accept climate change, although psychological factors and people’s worldviews and ideologies can complicate this link.

Helping people understand the psychological impacts of climate change could be one way to increase people's willingness to respond to the issue.

Different Types of Climate Impacts: Disasters vs. Gradual Effects

Disasters onset at a specific point in time and are often highly visible. Examples of disasters include floods, hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, and droughts.
Gradual effects build up over time and are harder to observe. Gradual effects include: slow changes in mean temperature, humidity and dew point; sea level rise; spread of disease; changes in agricultural conditions and associated increases in food insecurity; changes in natural landscapes, changes in land use and habitation and associated increases in numbers of displaced people; ecosystem disruptions; increased air pollution; and decreased availability of fresh water.

Impacts on Mental health
Some of climate change’s impacts on mental health will come about from the direct and immediate physical impacts of climate change. Others will come about as a result of climate change’s more gradual impacts on the environment, human systems and infrastructure.

Some of the key impacts of climate change on mental health include:
Trauma, Shock, Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Complicated grief, Severe reactions, such as PTSD, Strains on social relationships, Substance abuse, Mental health emergencies, Sense of loss, Hopelessness, fatalism, and resignation, Loss of autonomy and sense of control, Loss of personal and occupational identity.

Drought is a special case of natural disaster that can have par­ticular effects due to the drought’s potential to impact people’s livelihoods, especially farmers’.

Women, children, and older adults may be especially susceptible to some mental health impacts.

Experiencing adversity from climate impacts is not inevitable. In some cases, adversity can result in personal and psychological growth, a phenomenon known as post-traumatic growth.

Tips to prepare and strengthen communities
Planners, policymakers, and other leaders may have experience preparing for the physical impacts of climate change. However, they may be less well-equipped to plan for psychological impacts. Here are 9 tips that planners, policymakers, and other organizations can use as they prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change:

1.  Strengthen community and social networks.
2.  Involve and inform the community.
3.  Encourage residents to incorporate mental health into existing disaster preparation efforts.
4.  Develop trusted and action-focused warning systems.
5.  Pay special attention to vulnerable populations.
6.  Create a sense of safety, calm, and hope.
7.  Foster optimism.
8.  Shore up infrastructure to mediate psychological effects.
9.  Be sensitive to the needs of displaced people.

Thursday 19 June 2014

Spanish translation strategic communication course

La traducción al español del curso estratégico de comunicación en línea gratis está disponible en La traducción fue realizada por Juanita Castaño, científica social y miembro de la CEC. Juanita ha tenido una larga carrera en el trabajo para el desarrollo sostenible de las organizaciones nacionales e internacionales y, últimamente como directora del PNUMA en Nueva York. 

Sunday 8 June 2014

Formulating the identity of your park

Template for group work in a workshop next week for directors of national parks on corporate communication. First decide in your group what the three most important audiences are for your national park. Then brainstorm about the key elements of the idfentity of your park and fill the boxes with key words.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Waste free supermarket

Biodiversity communication: Not what you say communicates, but what you do! Especially when it appeals to traditional values, like this German initiative.

Thursday 5 June 2014

Leadership or wisdom

 I have always had some difficulties – for many reasons – with the concept of leadership. One reason e.g. being that after all this years of sustainability leadership investments, I ask myself: in which positions did these students finally land, where can we see the impact?  And people Ghandi never were trained as leader nor did he like to be a leader, however hundreds of thousands wanted to follow him. So I was very pleased when a few weeks ago I saw this on the net about thought leadership. For me we should - like Lao Tse - not talk about leadership but about wisdom. 

Thursday 1 May 2014

Concept note for an anti-rhino-poaching campaign

Asked to comment on a project proposal for an anti-rhino poaching campaign, I noticed that it was very much an activity driven project proposal. My reaction was: "next time before starting to fill in the donor's template make a short concept note that you circulate to others to get input. Now it is difficult to give strategic advice as there is no real strategy. The project proposal immediately focuses on activities that seem to be fun and not on desired results in specific audiences. For me the main reasoning of such a concept note in should be something like this:

All signs indicate that Rhino poaching in Namibia will be an increasing issue in the very near future. The entry of international organized crime into Namibia will not only threaten species and decrease Namibia’s natural heritage and capital, but it also will introduce other forms of crime and corruption, damage Namibia’s reputation as a tourist destination, negatively affect the life of people in local communities to name only a few consequences. Legislation, law enforcement and economic measures alone will be insufficient to adequately tackle the issue. In reality what mostly happens is that politicians call for committees or expert meetings; national enforcement officers put an other priority on their list; local enforcement officers are confronted with again another priority and continue business as usual; other ministries look away as do small and medium enterprises who may suspect their clients are involved in illegal wildlife trade. In short these instruments may not work without a serious investment in awareness raising, attitude and behaviour change of a number of actors.

This project offers an opportunity to help realize a future without Rhino poaching in Namibia. A future of Namibia as an African country where rhinos and other wildlife flourish. A future where parliamentarians are keen to set the right priorities for appropriate legislation and governance. A future where law enforcement institutions and officers are aware of the challenges, are immune for bribes and motivated to take these challenges  head on. A future where the relevant ministries mobilize funds to provide financial incentives to local communities to monitor wildlife and immediately report crime or criminal intruders. A future where there is a broad support in Namibian society for all efforts to prevent, reduce and eradicate poaching, where travel agents, hotel owners, car rentals, restaurants and shop owners  do not facilitate in any way the stay and operations of people involved Rhino poaching. Where media give positive feedback on rhino conservation successes, where they provide education and are a channel for messages from local people and bottom-up initiatives. Where media make rhino conservation the talk of the town and stimulate word of mouth. A future where rhino is a broadly shared national emotion!

The vision of this project is that to reach such a future, one needs to raise awareness about the uniqueness of the rhino, its innocence, its beauty, its place in folk tales. People also need to know of the heroic activities of normal community members and organizations who in the past and today already are conserving the rhino, the opportunities for many in Namibia to better capitalize on the current rhino population, the negative impacts that wildlife crime will have on society if no action is taken, the concrete possibilities people have to contribute to rhino conservation. The way to raise this awareness is not by telling people what is good, but by appealing to their traditional value systems and link these values with the Rhino issue: how the rhinos in our community make us happy; how it is a longstanding tradition and normal in our society not to kill rhinos; how we view in our culture rhinos and other wildlife as integral part of our natural environment almost like family;  how we protect the innocent rhinos against poachers who want to earn a quick buck; how we see rhino conservation as part of our social justice in Namibia, how we see it as immoral to in anyway assist poachers and illegal traders.

The strategic initiatives this project offers – when designed and executed fast enough and well enough will make the vision described above a reality. The initiatives comprise activities of compiling and distributing local stories, individual stories, children’s drawings, songs, poems, music events, campfire events, competitions and other cultural activities that illustrate how traditional and cultural values link with rhino conservation. Some activities are focused on the general public and distributed through mass media. They provide the general messages and create the feel, emotion and motivation for a Namibian future with Rhinos and without poachers. Other activities are tailored strategically to specific audiences, e.g. schools, universities, parliamentarians, law enforcement, tourism SMEs etc. They appeal to specific emotions and values of each target audience and convey concrete messages of how they can contribute to a future of Namibia with rhinos and without poachers.  The activities are initiated by a coalition of government institutions and NGOs and coordinated by Natuye, with strategic advice of IUCN CEC. The costs of such a project far exceed the current budget of the proposal. If that is a problem you make this a pilot project that shows how it can work and explores ways to roll it out over the whole nation.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Mattheus passion: 5 performances – 5 experiences

It is a Dutch tradition to perform the St. Matthew Passion in the week before Eastern. In churches and concert halls. By professionals and by amateurs. This year I watched 5 different performances on the BRAVA TV Channel. Every night one. From beginning to the end. I listened to hear the differences. All performances made a deep impression on me in different ways. The contagious enthusiasm of  the Vocal Markant Ensemble. The passion of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra to get deep into the intentions and feelings of the composer. The celestial boys’ voices of the Thomanerchor with the Gewandhaus orchestre in the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. The “classical” version in which Mendelsohn rearranged the composition to reintroduce it to ears, hearts and minds of the 19th century inhabitants of Leipzig, by the Dutch Symphony Orchestra. And finally the special and familiar sound of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, realized over the last 100 years of performing this piece every Eastern season.

One thing I noticed was that all performances seemed to me to be faster than when I first heard the Passion in the nineteen fifties. One more than the other. Ton Koopman was especially fast. It was fascinating to hear the violin solo of the Aria ‘Gebt mir meinem Jesum wieder’. In the interpretation of the Concertgebouw and the Gewandhaus orchestra the tempo was slower and the violin played more in the traditional way the Chaconne for violin solo is mostly played. Such tempo and style bring old memories back. I hear my father practicing and performing.However in the Koopman interpretation you really could hear and see the silver coins rolling down the temple steps. Mendelsohn had left out this aria altogether, as well as most of the Chorals. He must have thought that these reflections on specific events in the story were unwelcome interruptions of the dramatic flow of music and text for the ‘romantic’ audience of his time.

The performances also showed how the environment influences the performance: in the church it gets a real protestant (Lutherian) meaning, while in the concert hall it becomes more a secular reflection on the forces of good and evil in our lives. Other interesting details are the way the basso continuo was performed, sometimes without organ, sometimes with one organ, some times with an organ in each Coro. Performing with only male voices (or almost only)  or with a mixed chorus had different effects. Then the line up of the two orchestras. In the church they were most probably closest to the possibilities Bach had himself. On the concert hall podium, the orchestras were much larger and the Coros had much more players. What stayed the same was the powerful music: deeply moving by touching on a range of emotions. I remember how long it felt the first time I sat in the church listening to the Mattheus. How incredible it was to play the violin in Coro I and be in the middle of the sound with our student orchestra. And how I slowly over the years learned to apprecfiate the different parts of this phenomenal composition, always discovering something new. I look forward to next year.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Monday 24 February 2014

Frequently made mistakes in organizing a side event

An organization has developed a new initiative for conservation. They want to bring this initiative a step further by organizing a side event with their partners during a conference. The communication officer is asked to develop a plan for the side event:

In short her objectives (and means) are:
Present the current conceptual framework our initiative in the light of current discussions of the conference (through a presentation by one of the initiators)
      Present the logframes developed as a way forward for our initiative (by a panel discussion with experts).
     Invite suggestions on the challenges of applying this contextual framework at national and global level (through buzz groups).

Asked for suggestions on this plan she got as feedback this not going to work. You are jumping to means, you focus on the wrong audience and you have objectives that are not helpful to make the event a success.

Before developing the plan, she should have asked her boss:
Is this really possible? (no, the effective time one has for  a side event is only one hour)
Would this audience be available to attend our side event? (no, they would have their own events).
What is it that you really want and what we realistically can achieve? (e.g. support from conference participants for our initiative). 

On the basis of such last objective, she then could have developed communication objectives (see examples in illustration 1). Once her manager agreed with them she could look at how to achieve them and plan the session (see examples in illustration 2).

A good side event is based on good communication. Good communication is based on a clear and focused communication objectives that are the basis for the means and approaches chosen for the side event. It is not the other way around. And mind you: give enough attention to the attuitude objectives, they mostly come last if given any attention at all.