Last week, I assembled two sessions on communicating ecosystem services at the ACES 2012 conference. These sessions developed out of discussions on the topic on the soapbox of Ecosystem Commons earlier in the year. Here is my Prezi from the conference:
And here are my impressions of people’s challenges communicating ecosystem services:
1. It’s still a wild woolly world of jargon. Even for us insiders at the ACES conference, “ecosystem services” means different things to different people. I think we all get that the concept refers to the products and services that we get from Nature for free, but applying that concept to one’s work within a government agency, non-profit, or corporation is a big challenge.
2. We’re still working to make the case for incorporating ecosystem services into what we do. ACES attendees are still working to communicate the relevance of the concept of ecosystem services to agency leaders and corporate decision-makers. One big hurdle is leadership questioning how this is different than business as usual. Government agencies are already considering natural resources in their work. Businesses are already conducting Environmental Impact Assessments. They want to know succinctly, what’s the difference from what they already do (“what’s the delta?” I heard from one wonky friend of mine). And they don’t want consideration of ecosystem services to be just one more thing they have to do – one more report, one more analysis, etc.
3. Because people are working on problems #1 & #2 above, they don’t yet have simple communications challenges to address. I organized a working group session intended to let people work on their ecosystem services communications challenges and come out with a game plan. I envisioned that someone would come in and say “I need to convince the community about the value of watershed services” and then we’d get to work on a message to deliver to the audience, with help from my new buddy Brendan McLaughlin from Resources Media. Instead, what we heard from attendees were problems discussing ecosystem services within an agency due to a lack of common lingo. Or the challenge of communicating to different audiences at different levels of understanding of ecosystem services. Or how to develop an app for use in the developing world (ummm, I have no idea!).
So folks working in “ecosystem services” still have a lot to work on. Until we have everything figured out (…in 2030???), here are the basic messaging tips that our session highlighted in a nutshell:
Think about what you’d like to accomplish with your messaging, frame your message to your target audience &/or decision-makers, talk about common values, talk about the threats to those values, and then your solution to the challenge.
So easy, right? Good luck, folks!