Forests & Communities
The best way to protect forests is for the people that live in and depend on them to be the ones in control. That’s been my experience so far, anyway. Unfortunately, all too often, there are powerful interests at play that mean that local people don’t get to take the decisions and even find themselves dispossessed and displaced. So the work I’ve been involved in over the years is about trying to support people to challenge that.
I’ve worked in a range of ways: Supporting groups to get the information they need to understand the outside interests that are having an impact on them and to challenge them; working with people to find ways to document and demonstrate how they manage and protect their forests; supporting people making plans as they get to grips with new challenges like climate change. Some of the work has been practical — planting trees, making forest management plans, doing surveys. Some of it has been about supporting groups to make their own plans and develop their own campaigns and some of it has been about training forestry professionals who are coming to terms with new ways of working with communities. I’ve worked in four continents, learning new things every time and it’s been a joy meeting and working with inspirational people all over the world.
Sometimes it’s useful to have someone who’s not involved in the day to day nitty gritty of a project, campaign, policy, or organisation to help those who are involved all the time to take a fresh look at what they’re doing. That is what I can offer as a facilitator: suggesting processes and asking questions that help groups of people to take the next step in their work.
I’ve worked with community groups, with small and large organisations and have been a facilitator in a huge range of meetings, from small gatherings of like-minded people to national level workshops or round tables full of conflicting interests from many different backgrounds and levels of power and influence. The process varies depending on the needs and interests of the groups concerned: it’s for them to define where their starting point is and where they want to get to. My job is to make sure that discussion takes place, that everyone’s voice is heard, that disagreement is handled constructively and that the decisions that are reached by the group are ones that everyone involved accepts as being the best that were possible at that point. And to make sure that people have a good experience!