“We need to avoid re-inventing the wheel” is a notion that was frequently heard during the opening of the Regional Forum on Solutions for Oceans, Coasts and Human Well-Being in Asia and the Pacific. The event was hosted by the Blue Solutions Initiative, with IUCN as a partner, on Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines. It convened around 100 practitioners and decision makers, civil society, local community as well as government representatives.
The event explored a novel way of facilitating knowledge transfer and exchange of experiences in marine conservation and development, encouraging the scaling up of proven success. A series of “blue solutions” – successful, transferrable approaches – had been documented beforehand and was presented and discussed at the forum.
During the high-level opening, representatives of four regional organizations pointed out some common challenges in sharing knowledge across the region. These challenges include developing efficient ways to strengthen capacities and to “translate” knowledge into formats that different audiences can understand, and to facilitate exchange between different government departments and stakeholder groups.
“Solution providers” then presented their respective “blue solution” highlighting transferrable components (or “building blocks”), success factors and lessons learnt from their project experience. The sessions discussed three broad themes: Locally Managed Marine Areas, Ecosystem-based Approach to Fisheries, and Ecosystem-based Adaptation/Disaster Risk Reduction. "Being asked to present as a Solution Provider gave me a sense of appreciation for the work that I am doing", says Jimmy Kereseka, Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Community, Solomon Islands. IUCN colleagues presented their work on the development of an adaptive, community-driven and resilient co-management plan for the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia, and on Bridging Formal and Informal Management Systems in Nasoata Island, Fiji.
Many participants used the opportunity to document their own case studies using the Blue Solutions template, and adding them to the increasingly larger pool of success stories. “The Blue Solutions template provides clear and simple guidance on solution documentation using the building block approach.” says Marthen Welly of the Coral Triangle Center, Indonesia.
Sharing a successful approach is only the first step to its replication – the second step is its customization to and application in a new context. Participants engaged in a “Solutioning” exercise – utilizing building blocks taken from any of the presentations heard during the previous sessions, and recombining them to address a fictitious challenge, such as the establishment of a marine protected area against multiple difficulties. This exercise demonstrated how the Blue Solutions approach can help structure a planning process and showed how something that might not seem relevant to a different geography and context at first, can prove to be applicable indeed, if taken apart into its components. Some common challenges that were named in transferring and scaling solutions include the access to funding or the institutionalization and integration of successful approaches into policy.
Not losing sight of the primary goal of the gathering – connecting individuals to establish new networks for exchange and collaboration – participants were encouraged to connect their photos on a “network map” with those of the people they would like to follow up with. Over the course of the 3 days, the increasing density of the string web on the wall reflected the real-life connections being made between Pohnpei and Vietnam, between Indonesia and India, and between Seychelles and Solomon Islands.
The Blue Solutions project will be embedded into a larger initiative: the Resilience Exchange, a collaboration of 10 conservation and development organizations, that are joining forces to build out a solution sharing platform.
The Cebu Forum has given the Blue Solutions team a strong endorsement on the way ahead, and has helped strengthen regional knowledge networks, but also lead to some very specific collaborations.
“The forum has given me the opportunity to network with some leading scientists, allowing me to also share their solutions to the relevant colleagues in my organization”, says Viliame Waqalevu of IUCN Fiji.
Raphael Glemet of IUCN Laos adds: “Often when we share the results of projects or programmes, we insist on the local context and challenges specific to the country, but we sometimes forget about the core achievement: the step by step process we designed. Packaging our solutions in a neutral way makes them more easily accessible for partners from other parts of the world. It helps identify more synergies and similarities than we had initially thought.”
Similar gatherings in other regions will follow and build on the positive experience of the Forum in Cebu.