Cultivating Essential and “Super” Skills
There are essential skill sets that everyone needs in the field of community-based marine conservation. These include listening, effective teamwork, compelling communications, cultural adaptability, critical strategic thinking, and the ability to use an integrated approach. The ability to work in a team may be the most important of all. Practitioners without these core skills will struggle unless they recognize and compensate for gaps by working effectively with people who have complementary skills.
Facilitation, and the ability to walk in different worlds are highly valuable “super skills.” Many leaders spoke passionately about the power of listening, observation, and facilitation to chart the course forward or transform conflict into resolution.
Facilitation is key to the success of group meetings regardless of size or composition, whether small teams of three or four staff, complex multi-sector partnerships, or large community meetings with hundreds of participants. Every conservation practitioner and program benefits from applying basic facilitation skills and tools in their work, from clear agendas, advance meeting preparation, and timely action items, to knowing how to brainstorm and prioritize. There are extensive training opportunities and literature to learn facilitation, and that’s a great place to start. However, most highly-skilled facilitators learn from mentors, peers, and experience.
Community-based marine conservation takes place in remote and rural areas, but the resources and policies that support these efforts emanate from individuals, governments, foundations, and other institutions in global centers of power and wealth. Conservation professionals who are the most influential in the long run can straddle these different worlds, multiple cultures, and work settings -- from remote villages to board rooms and international summits. These individuals tend to be more effective at securing the policies and resources that underpin successful conservation and better able to leverage success.
Paradoxically, walking in different worlds does not mean being a chameleon. On the contrary, in all these different settings, it is important to act consistently and in alignment with your mission and core values regardless of setting or audience. This consistency makes you trustworthy in each setting with each audience.