The last three weeks have been a busy time at IUCN West Asia. I have spent all three weeks working diligently at my desk in Amman to complete my first two draft project proposals. This has been a challenging experience for me, and I have appreciated the opportunity to develop new skills in conservation project design.
My approach has consisted of several components. In my first week at the office, I spent the vast majority of my time organizing myself and my materials to plan for the summer. This included collecting as many names of what I call “key informants” as possible. These key informants represent all of the scientific, environmental, policy, and community experts and representatives with some connection to the region and issue I am researching. I created a spreadsheet of my key informants with all of their contact information, and very quickly began reaching out. And in that step, I came across my first challenge. In this region in particular, and generally across the world, professionals in all fields are inundated with emails on a daily and hourly basis. Not only that, but in a region like West Asia, internet connections might not be 100% reliable at all times. Additionally, the nature of conservation in the development context requires regular community involvement and field visits. As a result of these factors, emails have to be pithy AND timely to garner a response.
In the three weeks following my trip to Bahrain, I’ve since spoken with some of these key informants via email, and a number of others via Skype and landline. However, obtaining accurate, up-to-date information regarding management plans, invasive species projects, and other related activities from my desk in Amman remains challenging. Thankfully, I have managed to complete two drafts of the project proposal. These drafts include a lengthy “Background & Rationale” section on the marine invasive species issue both globally and regionally, including pathways of introduction, threats posed by invasives, and a summary of existing regulations.
Additionally, this initial section describes the three selected pilot project sites for the project (including regulation/policies, current action, status of the threat, etc). After lengthy review of the marine invasive species literature produced by IUCN and others and discussions with my colleagues here at IUCN West Asia, I have decided that the project will consist of three components: 1) building capacity for implementation of ballast water management regulations (local level), 2) building capacity for marine invasive species identification and eradication (local level), and 3) improving coordination between regional seas organizations and others working on the issue (regional level). Therefore, I have been working to identify the three best locations (one each in the Mediterranean, Red Sea / Gulf of Aden, and Arabian Gulf) for implementation of the local components.
The drafts also include, of course, objectives, activities, and expected outputs, along with regional and local partners, a Gantt chart (timeline for implementation), and a Results Chain. Coming back to the communication challenges, the project proposal still needs work with respect to the implementation strategy. More specifically, with whom will IUCN work on the ground in each location, what role will each organization play, and how do these organizations contribute to the sustainability of the project? Hammering out the details of the on-the-ground coordination has proven difficult…
Any suggestions out there for how to tackle this problem, without making visits to Lebanon, Yemen, or others?