By Carole Excell (Posted: February 10, 2015)
At the foot of the dark green mountains that surround Bogotá, Colombia, over 90 energetic access rights and forestry advocates spent three days learning from each other during the 2014 TAI Global Gathering. The Gathering created a space where new ideas mingled freely with established approaches, and veteran TAI members, new members and forestgovernance experts could build meaningful relationships. Held from October 29-31, 2014, the 2014 Global Gathering was the largest in TAI’s 13 year history and included participants from 42 countries. The event was sponsored by four WRI programs – The Access Initiative, Global Forest Watch, theGovernance of Forests Initiative and the Land and Resource Rights Program – as well as the Open Society Foundation. Hosted by Colombian TAI member organization Asociación Ambiente y Sociedad, the conference was centered around the theme of “Using Information, Data and Technology to Protect Forests and Strengthen the Rights of Forest-Dependent Communities”. The innovative facilitation style of the Gathering capitalized on the strengths of this unique combination of participants was accompanied by an innovative facilitation strategy. Allen Gunn of Aspiration guided the participants through interactive sessions, which encouraged meaningful discussion and collaboration focused on concrete outcomes. The event agenda was shaped by participants on the first day of the event, and reflected common areas of interest and desired outcomes from the Gathering. The agenda retained significant flexibility to allow for new sessions to teach participants the specific skills they identified as most important to their work. The constant teaching/learning that defined the Gathering involved a skill share, dozens of interactive sessions and a ‘science fair’ where participants demonstrated their tools for effective monitoring and advocacy for access rights. The following tools were presented at the science fair: 1. Sarawak GeoPortal – Bruno Manser Fonds (Simon Kalin) 2. Open Development Cambodia – Open Development Cambodia (Terry Parnell) 3. Sapelli Mobile Tool – ExCites UCL (Gillian Conquest) 4. Pollution and Illegal Logging Maps – Digital Democracy (Gregor Maclennan) 5. GFW Commodities – Global Forest Watch (Benjamin Jones) 6. GFW Fires – Global Forest Watch (Rachael Petersen) 7. Development Alert! – Jamaica Environment Trust and The Access Initiative (Danielle Andrade, Carole Excell) 8. Environmental Democracy Index – The Access Initiative (Jesse Worker) 9. Indaba – Global Integrity (Monika Shepard) 10. Release and Transfer Registers – Environment People Law (Viktor Yurochko) 11. EIA Resource and Response Center – LIFE (Ritwick Dutta) 12. STRIPE – The Access Initiative (Elizabeth Moses) While the sessions were open to any and all who wanted to attend, the regional sessions on the last day created a space for a more structured conversation about specific network priorities. Led by the TAI Core Team members, these sessions divided participants by geographic region and produced a short list of regional priorities that will define the TAI network in the coming year(s). The regional sessions were followed by a Core Team Accountability Session, in which TAI members could ask questions and share opinions about the past and future network policies and activities. While building and cementing relationships formed the core of the Gathering, the thematic focus highlighted valuable approaches to work on access rights. The Global Gathering offered an opportunity to test the proposition that technology can revolutionize natural resource protection. Many of the sessions provoked discussions about innovative data and technology use, but also reminded participants that access to these new tools isn’t enough. Communities of practice like TAI are essential to supporting the effort to ensure that technologies with great potential are implemented well and have a positive impact. To build on the momentum and excitement created in Bogotá, the TAI Secretariat collected the principal ideas and outcomes into the 2014 Global Gathering Outcome Report. Please read through it to find more about what was discussed at the Gathering and the network’s plans for the future!