Ecosystems Knowledge and Learning Forum
Birmingham, 13th February 2012
Over 40 representatives of projects from all over the UK that are reflecting an ecosystems approach participated in the first event of the Ecosystems Knowledge Network. The purpose of this Ecosystems Knowledge and Learning Forum was to help inform the activities of the Network as well as provide opportunities for projects to build connections with each other and exchange ideas.
While the projects represented at the event are working in diverse settings – urban and rural, marine and terrestrial, upland and lowland – the common factor is that they are reflecting an ecosystems approach in their work ‘on the ground’. They are all working in partnership with others and leading the way in taking a holistic approach to managing the places they are operating in and bringing together diverse agendas. There was a real ‘buzz’ among participants, eager to share their experience with others.
The morning started with an introduction to the aims and objectives of the Ecosystems Knowledge Network. Elements of building a network for knowledge exchange and learning about an ecosystems approach were outlined so that all participants started from a common understanding of what the Network will do and how.
In preparation for the event, the Network project team had spoken individually to all participants. This helped to identify the following general Network themes, which were believed to be important by the projects themselves:
- Developing a holistic understanding of ecosystems and their benefits.
- Recognising diverse values for ecosystem services in decision making.
- Building partnerships for change.
Additionally there were a number of cross-cutting themes, including the understanding of connection between different policy areas and an ecosystems approach.
In the first discussion session at the Forum, participants moved in groups from table to table to discuss all four themes and elaborate on them. They explored what issues and research questions the Network should consider in order to encourage learning, sharing and innovation within these themes, and how to form these areas of learning in a meaningful way to develop activities. Mind-maps were used to keep track of suggestions, questions and ideas.
The outcome was a summary of refined themes and new topics that people would like to know more about. Participants then voted using hand-held voting devices on what they felt were the most important learning areas within each of the four general Network themes. They identified 'Community based approaches to ecosystem services mapping', 'Conflict management around diverse values', 'Incentivising behavioural change: markets and payments for ecosystem services' and 'Exploring how an ecosystems approach can link different policy areas'.
Participants were then encouraged to turn their attention to brainstorming specific activities that the Network will undertake in the coming year. Ideas included:
- Themed papers, for example on the barriers to using an ecosystems approach, drawing on
- Experience from projects involved in the Network.
- Briefing papers on specific policy themes or areas.
- A searchable, web-based database of projects and their expertise around learning areas.
- Mentoring and partnering between projects to share ideas and discuss burning issues like conflict management.
It was suggested that the Network has a role in making information available on different levels – from introductory to expert – and that information should be made available in a variety of formats, including not just written materials but also videos and podcasts.
The Network project team is now reviewing all of the points made by participants during the Forum, with a view to initiating the Network’s first set of activities. Many new and unanticipated ideas where generated by the Forum. The report on the event is available for download.
The projects represented at the Forum are working alongside many others that are exploring new ways of managing land, coastline and marine habitat in accordance with an ecosystems approach. The Network is keen to talk to all projects so that activities can be designed for the benefit of all. If you have ideas on specific activities that will be of benefit to projects that are reflecting an ecosystems approach, or would involve new people and types of organisations, please contact the project team.