The dramatic and diverse land and seascapes of western Alaska’s ocean and islands make up the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands Landscape Conservation Cooperative (ABSI). Their mission: to promote coordination, dissemination, and development of applied science to inform conservation of natural and cultural resources in the face of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors. In 2016, Nautilus facilitated two workshops introducing the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation to ABSI staff and partners.
The Open Standards (OS) approach was developed by the Conservation Measures Partnership, a collaboration of conservation organizations committed to “advance the practice of conservation by developing, testing, and promoting principles and tools to credibly assess and improve the effectiveness of conservation actions.” Ian Dutton, Principal of Nautilus, helped build the Conservation Measures Partnership in 2004 and has facilitated OS trainings and workshops for over 10 years.
The Open Standards approach is designed to answer common questions that arise when practicing landscape scale conservation: What is the relationship between ecosystems and human communities? What ecological and cultural indicators are we going to use to measure ecosystem health? What strategies can be implemented to reduce threats? Are we succeeding? Ultimately, Open Standards provide a basis for communication and learning across conservation projects.
What happens in an OS workshop?
The two OS workshops with ABSI were organized around breakout groups, allowing steering committee members to roll up their sleeves and dive into brainstorming, filtering ideas, and building visual frameworks with colorful sticky notes. Steering committee members settled on sea birds and human community sustainability as workshop targets. Two separate groups – one for each target – practiced carrying their target through each OS step in rapid progression: Assessing viability, identifying and rating threats, building a situational analysis, developing initial strategies, and creating a monitoring and operational plan.
Newly trained OS coaches Charla Sterne (USFWS) and Amanda Robertson (USFWS & Coordinator at NW Boreal LCC) assisted Ian Dutton in workshop facilitation. Nautilus Program Associate Katherine Schake captured each working group’s discussion, analysis, and logic maps within the Miradi software (project management software specifically designed to accompany OS framework and display geospatial logic maps). This provided ABSI with a valuable summary of workshop knowledge and outputs for future sharing and continued discussion.
The role of OS in landscape scale conservation is to provide a framework that allows teams to be systematic about planning, implementing, and monitoring their conservation initiatives. “We have a lot of preloaded knowledge in the group,” said Douglas Burn, Coordinator for ABSI. “A lot of these ideas have been floating around already, but now are settling into this framework.”
Ian Dutton reiterated throughout the workshop that OS cycle is meant to be double-looped, meaning the group is continually revisiting the steps of the process, revising and adapting to what they’ve learned during the process. It is results oriented!
If you would like Nautilus to facilitate an Open Standards workshop for your organization, please contact us! 1-907-222-5157