Central Asia CEPA workshop for national biodiversity focal points

14 December 2011 | News story

CEC member Tina Trampuš introduced the tools, methods and positive messages of Communication, Education and Public Awareness to CBD focal points in Central Asia.

"You took us to totally different dimensions.’’ This is how one of the participants was thanking me on facilitating CEPA session at the Regional workshop for countries of Central Asia on the updating of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, held in Istanbul, Turkey on 17-20 October 2011.

I was invited to facilitate the CEPA session at workshop for national CBD focal points from Central Asia. This was quite a challenge as I come from central part of a different continent. Identified as closest CEC member I took a challenge that turned out to be even bigger as the workshop was held in three languages (English, Russian and Turkish). The organizer provided simultaneous translations, which were OK for presentations. Working in groups was difficult, though, as flipcharts lists were done also in Russian and discussion was possible only by reading everything out loud and use of headphones.

Back to the dimensions. Most of presented CEPA principles were very new to the participants. Ministries or national teams working on biodiversity strategies have poor CEPA practices and countries suffer from common ‘diseases’ such as low public awareness, low support of other sectors and difficult implementation of biodiversity strategies.

The message from the video ‘Love. Not Loss.’ was hard for them to grasp, almost as coming from another universe. There is no Russian version of the video available (would be useful as some participants beside their native languages spoke only Russian). But as simultaneous translations were provided I believe language was not the reason for lack of understanding. The idea of concentrating efforts on positive information and messages was new for most of participants and quite different from the tasks they are mostly dealing with at work and also at this workshop (e.g. analysis of biodiversity loss for each country). The need for the use of positive message was not recognized after watching the video only one time and we could have spent the whole session discussing it.

As participants, they had quite big expectations (they wanted to learn about CEPA in detail), I decided to go through other topics, too (e.g. know your audience, use plain language, be strategic). I finished the session sharing a resources list and encouraging them to continue their learning. About a quarter of them will not be able to use the resources unless translated to Russian or other Asian languages.

As a facilitator, I would have liked to have known in advance about the three language working approach. That way I could have had some material translated prior to arrival, and I would have considered simplifying the session content because of more difficult circumstances for debate. It might also be a good idea to focus only on one message, such as the 'power of sending positive messages' or 'how to be strategic'. If a similar workshop is about to be organized, finding a facilitator who speaks Russian might be a good option (possibly for the whole workshop). It might also be useful to reconsider different working approaches, after consulting regional facilitators or CEPA experts; participants expressed difficulties working in groups and sharing ideas the way people from other cultures usually do. I was not able to detect any possible solutions but it might be good to adjust the workshop to the audience and different cultural background. That way at least the working approach would be a familiar dimension for participants, giving more chance for new CEPA ideas to fall to fertile ground and to grow to become an accepted dimension of their biodiversity communication.

Presentations from the Istanbul workshop >>

For more information, contact Tina Trampuš, IUCN CEC member, Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation, tina.trampus@zrsvn.si