Wildlife Adventures in Eastern Europe 2012-15 – a new book

david book

A good friend of mine, David Withrington, has just had a book published. I went with him, several years ago, on one of his adventures to Slovenia and had a hugely enjoyable and knowledge expanding time.

Wildlife Adventures in Eastern Europe 2012-15: Estonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia, Hungary and Slovakia – an illustrated account of summer visits by a group of naturalists from England. David Withrington and Paul Raven, 2017. 104 pages with 360 colour photographs. Available here from Natural History Book Service £12.50

What do staff of the statutory nature conservation agencies do when they retire? Go on holiday of course!

In June 2012, David Withrington, Paul Raven, Neil Hailey, Peter Marren and Steve Berry – all former staff of English Nature and its predecessor body – decided to visit Estonia, a country to which none of them had been before. The objective was to discover the country’s wildlife, especially the birds, butterflies and flowering plants. The accommodation and itinerary were arranged after online research by David.

The main features of Estonia are – its Baltic coastline, large areas of peat bog and Lake Peipsi, which sits on the border with Russia – though this did not seem to deter the birds. It was not just the amazing variety of wildlife and habits which made the holiday, but encounters with people, cultures and nightlife. All these are chronicled and illustrated in the book. The reader lives the journey with our intrepid adventurers. 

Continue reading “Wildlife Adventures in Eastern Europe 2012-15 – a new book”

Ecology of Knowledge – Menu of services

Ecology of Knowledge Menu V1 front

I have finally managed to create a menu of services that I am happy with. Click on either image to enlarge. The PDF version can be downloaded here, a version complete with prices is available on request..

Ecology of Knowledge Menu V1 no pricesand yes, before you ask, I do have 25 years experience of providing discos and music quizzes so why not end (or punctuate) your event with a participatory musical high.

Alicia Juarrero on Constraints that enable #innovation

I have heard Alicia mentioned many times before but have never seen her present and this short 27 minute video is a must watch. This is from the recent Lean Agile conference (but don’t let that put you off) in the US back in April  and I notice that last years video of Alicia is also available here.

Alicia is a professor of Philosophy and when she speaks you can hear the perfect insightful explanations just click into place without any visible signs of notes or cues.

The study of living systems (and especially of ecosystems) has taught us that nature and evolution do not favour stability and equilibrium: instead, natural processes select for resilience and adaptability—for characteristics that foster evolvability. Living things learn from the past and anticipate the future – and then modify themselves to handle ambiguity, uncertainty, and unwelcome perturbations. Handle and manage, not avoid and eliminate ambiguity and uncertainty.

I have also found, on Google books, what looks to be a terrific read in a book entitled ‘Mind, Brain and the Elusive Soul from which this is a brief extract:

alicia juarrero quote

More likely to sustain

When people are organised in groups, and their knowledge is sought, incorporated and built upon during planning and implementation, then they are more likely to sustain activities after project completion

…long term sustainability was only guaranteed when local institutions were strong…

…projects failed when there had been no focus on institutional development and local participation”

Jules Pretty as quoted from Agri-Culture – Reconnecting People, Land and Nature

Save the World – A Community workers Masterclass

The RiPPLE Project
Building a community around the local support of COPD in Coventry

Over the years I have worked with many communities, enabling them to make sense of their different perspectives on today, the past and their shared futures, and in doing so, map their narrative landscape.

I have helped them experience their shared Ideality and the benefits they hope to achieve, map their resources and model their current system.

I have begun to catalyse creative and inventive ideas, plotted on cynefin to make sense of complexity and then assessed against their benefits.

I have facilitated problem solving, peer reviewed feedback and storyboarding of these ideas to nurture them into viable, inspiring experiments and projects that gain maximum buy-in.

I have shown them how to use a Kanban to open up their action planning and how to avoid damaging target setting but instead measure the impact of their actions so that they can get “less stories like that and more stories like this”.

During the course of this I have studied Theory U, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), Participatory Narrative Inquiry (PNI), Cognitive Edge, TRIZ and the work of Steve Denning, Joanna Macey and the Tales2Sustain storyworkers to name just a few of the giants upon whose shoulders we must stand.

I now feel the time is right to give back and share this joined-up, ‘best of the best’, portfolio of knowledge and understanding in the hope that it can be focussed on building local communities resilient, adaptable and sustainable in the face of Austerity, cut backs and 360 degree threats to the environment.

I have therefore set up, as an experiment, the first of what I hope will be many, ‘Change the World, one community at a time’ masterclasses on eventbrite.

This first event will be held in central Peterborough on 15th September. Early bird tickets are available until 15th of August for only £89 for a full day.

If you are interested, and I hope you are, please sign up as soon as possible, and come and join us to share what you know, gain what you need to know and perhaps even learn some things you didn’t even know you needed to know.

Hefted

https://vimeo.com/40765099

Have you ever wondered how the flocks of sheep on the fells are separated from one another by the farmers without using walls and fences? A HEFTED flock is one that stays in the same place. The HEFTED sheep simply don’t wander far from where they were born, it is as if they belong to that piece of land.

As a great example of oral history, this wonderful short film explores hefting in relation to the sheep and then the farmers themselves.

I love the idea that the sheep do not need traditional boundaries. Listen out in particular for the old lady who locates her personal sense of belonging to the surrounding geology.

It is still a puzzle to me why I seem to have shifted my ‘primary heft’ from Sunderland (where I was born) to Whitby, where my heart does indeed arise on the approach road down from Pickering and the North Yorks National Park.

HEFTED was commissioned by Eden Arts as a companion piece to their FLOCK project.

Hares in places never seen before

lights out

Back in October 2006 English Nature ceased to be, so in the August we put together a newspaper to celebrate some of our achievements. I came across my treasured copy this morning and thought you might like to share some of our more humorous stories…

First up, the North East Team.

Conducting a site visit with a consultant and DEFRA to discuss a great crested newt case, wearing (unknowingly) a hard-hat with an ‘I’ve been to diggerland’ sticker on it.

Convincing a keeper that our advice on managing his blanket bog would not affect grouse numbers, whilst one of the few remaining grouse got up from under my feet, leaving most of its feathers behind and others falling off as it flew away.

A lady phoned to tell us she had found a moth that looked very rare. A Conservation Officer advised that the museum would be interested in seeing it and so explained how to ensure its safe-keeping overnight. When I returned to the phone to relay this information, the lady said “Oh, I am sorry, my cat has eaten it”.

A Director arrived at the office with his large pilot’s case and was delighted to be greeted with a cheerful “Ah, we have been waiting for you, come this way”. Only to be led to a disembowelled photocopier needing repair by our new receptionist.

Evacuating a huge shared office complex and calling out the bomb squad to dispose of what turned out to be a punnet of strawberries.

On receiving a phone call from children who had found a bat, I was about to launch into the standard advice when they told me that the problem was that they did not know what to feed it, so had tried a bowl of cereal which the bat had promptly fallen into and was now covered from head to toe in milky sugar puffs.

Now a few from the Wiltshire Team:

Our Deputy Team Manager and Assistant conservation officer parked the 25 year old minibus on Parsonage Down National Nature Reserve, and left the doors open. Heifer number 25 got in and ate the keys. No spare keys left, so the bus had to be rescued by a flat bed truck. Subsequently featured in the Times…

Pesky stone curlews ruined a local village celebration of the Queens’ 75th birthday by nesting next to a beacon stopping it being lit. A Conservation Officer had to explain this to the villagers.

A nameless Wiltshire Team Manager addressing the Team at a Team Building event stood back and stepped on an English Nature sheepdog’s tail. The dog duly responded with a bite to the Team Manager’s inner thigh – priceless!

A small child covered in elephant hawkmoths at a moth evening.

During the foot and mouth crisis one of our Conservation Officers made the immortal quote to the local press. “There are hares in places we have never seen before”.

I will share some of our ‘nature successes’ stories in later blogs but it is interesting how the story of something that went wrong is so appealing and memorable.

An age of innocence and wonder

fairy dell

Evidence that I was always interested in nature from an early age. Back in about 1964 a photographer from the Sunday Sun (a North-East England Newspaper) approached us in a local park in Sunderland and asked if we would pose for a photograph. This is the picture that was published that Sunday. Although captioned that we were catching sticklebacks, the bucket is full of water boatmen who’s ability to walk on water was far more interesting to us than a few easy to catch fish.

We were out on our own, exploring the park, beach and seafront at the highly responsible age of seven. That’s me in the middle, Stephen on the left and Stuart on the right. I love the detail of my knitted jumper and the fact that Stephen obviously didn’t have a handkerchief.

 

 

 

Participatory storytelling about Natural Capital

NCparticipatory

In November I ran a PNI (Participatory Narrative Inquiry) -based workshop at the Valuing our Life Support Systems Summit #VOLSS at the British Library in London.

The summit, hosted by the Natural Capital Initiative (NCI), brought together 250 scientists, policy makers and business representatives to debate how we can better preserve the elements of nature on which human society and the economy depend.

Knowing that we (Sarah Chimbwandira, director at Surrey Wildlife Trust and myself) had less than an hour in total, we designed the session to maximise the participative elements. I trimmed out my introduction entirely, saying they “could find out more about me on-line if they so wished”.

Our promotion of the session via a pre-conference blog by Sarah on ‘Natural Capital needs relevant stories to be told as well as good science‘, together with mentions on Twitter and at previous sessions meant that we were oversubscribed, which was exactly what we wanted.

A very brief overview of the excellent progress so far of Surrey Connects, by Mark Pearson the CEO, set the scene and we were off with hand-cut hexagons and sharpies (other marker pens are available).

The participants were invited to capture their thoughts and feelings about the current state of ‘Natural Capital’ and then, in reverse (to disrupt linear thinking) they were asked to complete a hexagon for each of the key decisions, events and turning points that had led us to where we are today.

I ran around the tables to encourage participation and keep the energy and progress as high as possible.

Next they were asked to “imagine in two years, if everything that could go right (in relation to the adoption of Natural Capital), does go right. What would that look like?” Then, again in reverse, “what might be the decisions and events that might need to happen?” I added that “the first step might be the most important to focus upon”.

NCnarrativeQuickly moving on, nominated storytellers told the story of their table to two, separately, visiting groups in around five minutes each.

NCinquiry Finally and perhaps most importantly of all they were invited to reflect upon the similarities, differences and surprises between their own story and the two new versions they had heard.

The overall view was that the stories were fairly similar (not really surprising as this was half way through day two of the conference) but that they differed considerably on perspective ie economics, natural environment and business – focus.

A quick comparison of the ‘first (important) step’ suggested by each of the six groups reveals:

  • Communications, starting at where people are at
  • Identify all critical Natural Capital Assets
  • A miracle!
  • Increasing consumer awareness
  • More pilots to test
  • Communication between Sectors

What do you think? I think this is a good set of first steps to ensure the ‘Natural Capital’ approach proceeds with caution and is adaptable and resilient in the face of uncertainty.

Feedback was hugely positive. Cheat sheets were eagerly taken away.

My reflections afterwards were that:

  1.  The pilot session we (Sarah, director of Surrey WT and Mark CEO of Surrey Connects) had been vitally important to test the instructions, timings and examples of outputs).
  2. I would have preferred a session right at the very start of the conference as an ice-breaker, test the temperature of the ‘crowd’, and chance to reflect on what was important before the first speaker started to influence our thinking.
  3. It is right to sacrifice ego and glory to maximise the participatory nature of such a session. Participation, instead of listening to one person make a point or observation generates engagement, involvement and ultimately personal satisfaction.
  4. Natural Capital is a new and emergent force. A PNI approach to developing where it might go, what it might look like and which systems it may overturn, seems to me to be the perfect match to develop a bottom up, grounded but revolutionary ‘Natural Capital Ecosystem’.

If you are interested, my full report on the session, complete with all the outputs,  every hexagon, is available on the Natural Capital Initiative website. We hope to be doing a lot more in this hugely exciting area in the coming months, so watch this space.

[This post also appears on our new Participatory Narrative Institute Blog over at PNI2.ORG – please have a browse and register on the site if you are at all interested in joining us to see what a difference we can all make, with working with stories]