Highlights from my National Marine Sanctuary Tour

People connect with national marine sanctuaries in many different ways. For example, a surfer may view a sanctuary as a recreational escape; a fisherman, their livelihood; a vacationing family, part of a tradition; a local, a place for relaxation. To explore this idea further, I set out to hear from those who engage with national marine sanctuaries. My internship with NOAA specifically took me to the five national marine sanctuaries along the West Coast in Washington and California.

At each sanctuary I spoke with fishermen, sanctuary staff, visitors, indigenous people, sanctuary volunteers, and locals to better understand how they feel and identify with the place. Afterwards, I produced an acrylic painting for each sanctuary to summarize and celebrate the species, activities, and emotions mentioned during the conversations. I decided to paint my findings, because art can showcase the ocean’s beauty, as well as capture complex stories, relationships and emotions that are otherwise difficult to express. Here are some overviews of the five sanctuaries I visited. I am still completing some of the paintings.  Continue reading

Designing Scalable Programs – Lessons for Non-Profits

Being resource constrained is the reality for nearly all organizations, regardless of industry, mission, or size. Non-profit organizations, however, face the additional challenges of being mission-driven, not cash-flow generating with big plans and small budgets. In working with a small, San Francisco-based non-profit this summer designing a strategy to scale their organization’s reach on a global scale, I learned a lot about the questions to ask and had the following thoughts:

  • Define success early, figure out how to measure progress towards it 6-ways from Sunday, and design flexible-enough programs that can be adjusted as the understanding of success changes.
  • Design IT infrastructure and technology ecosystems that will allow you to capture the information needed to measure success across geographies, manage/facilitate your communication with relevant stakeholders, and provide data to support your flexible management approaches.
  • Understand your organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses and staff accordingly. When scaling internationally, ask yourself if your organization geographic, cultural, technical prowess to be successful – and identify and (aggressively) screen local partners that will play to your weaknesses.
  • Make a timeline! Don’t worry about sticking to it – but use it as a roadmap to keep your organization on track.

Key Takeaways from a Summer Facilitating Greener Marine Transportation

Photo by Fahrul Azmi

Over the past few months, I have had an opportunity to work on projects mostly focused around enabling businesses to be more sustainable in their marine cargo supply chains. While this work was extremely interesting, the overwhelming majority of it had more to do with learning the languages of supply chain procurement, business logistics, and collaborations. Here is a brief summary of what I have learned:

  • Everybody reports up, s**t  always rolls downhill, and there are always going to be more people involved in a decision that you originally anticipated. The take away here is that it is always important to ensure that you understand the objectives of a business as well as your clients before you make a recommendation. So always start by asking questions, taking notes, and encouraging the company to bring all relevant decision-makers to the table early so that you can get the background and make the right recommendations that will resonate.
  • Businesses want to do the right thing – the right thing for their bottom line, their shareholders, their customers, their social license to operate, and the environment. In a world where there is so much chaos and opportunity for improvement, it is important to find the lowest hanging fruit first. Identifying opportunities for business to do the “right thing” that will also positively impact another one of their Key Success Factors (KSFs) and working your way up the tree by building trust and a good working relationship is the key to bringing about more meaningful change in the private sector without having to resort to policy.
  • There are two types of organizations: Organizations that want to be ahead of policy, and organizations that are compliance driven. While it is important to keep in contact with both types of organizations, it is even more important to understand that behavior change is a long and arduous process, and your time might be better served working with the cutting edge to then inform sound policy and bring the laggards along that way.
  • Understanding inter-company dynamics within a value-chain or business ecosystem is important for the purposes of coalition building. Without profound vertical and horizontal collaboration, progress in the area of efficiency gains and sustainability is virtually impossible.

Photo by Josh Spires