Non-violent communication and stakeholder dialogue
How can we find out about our rivers and lakes, contact the people who can help us to do something to improve them, and possibly hold our leaders responsible for upholding the water and nature protection legislation?
This module is dedicated to Rémi Fraisse, the young water activist who was killed on October 26th, 2014 amidst protests against the building of the Sivens dam near Albi, in southwest France. We need non-violent communication more at this time than ever to make our world and its water better. More on the news here: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29820623
Why is it not so easy to talk about water protection?
The topic of water protection affects the interests of many different groups and actors. These actors are referred to as stakeholders. When it comes to deciding on the future development of a water body, these actors want a say. Some are very active, others - such as flora and fauna - cannot speak for themselves. So often these actors have not only different interests, but also different ways to make their voices heard. Some actors have power, they are in positions in which they can decide on interventions or precautions. Other actors have a lot of money that they can use on for example, an advertising campaign or for litigation and good lawyers.
If you have neither money nor power, there is still a way: be creative! Sometimes a critical mass of people wake up through this way, and are swept up into a movement - then they can no longer be ignored.
Are there ways in which a creative social dialogue can be kindled?
Many techniques exist to facilitate and smooth the path for creative social dialogue. Many of these have been borrowed or modified from previous social movements, such as the Indian independence movement led by Gandhi. He helped to spark a national consciousness and movement which eventually led to the British leaving India through symbolic and direct action. You can learn more about some of these techniques by checking out the links under "Dive deeper into the topic". It was Gandhi who originally used non-violent communication methods as a way to gain attention and support on an issue, and today many environmental movements and campaigns use and have used non-violent communication and stakeholder dialogue successfully to capture public consiousness.
What does swimming in rivers have to do with symbolic action?
The Big Jump is a fun and non-violent action, as well as a way to connect people to freshwater protection. The goal of having Big Jumps is to bring the topic of river and lake quality into the conversation. The swimming actions attract and create attention - for those who participate, for spectators, and for many other people, when it is reported about on the radio, on television, or in the newspaper. The swimming actions also reveal to authorities that many people are interested in policy, and the status of implementation of the WFD. So the topic is taken up not only among the public, but also in political debate. This can support and accelerate the search for solutions.
A big problem in the application of the WFD is malfuntioning or lack of effective planning due to poor or non-existent communication amongst the different stakeholders. Many opportunities are missed simply because no common strategy can be worked out. The Big Jump itself is a fun and non-violent way to point out these political failures and show the authorities that we do care about our rivers and lakes and their ecological status.
Take action! Tool for non-violent communication and creating dialogue
Learning about non-violent communication and instruments for creating dialogue
The main aim of this module is to empower youth dialogue with scientific experts, policy makers and other important stakeholders such as landowners and maintenance organizations for bodies of water. This module helps youth to communicate needs and concerns about water quality issues (and the Big Jump itself) in a peaceful, non-violent way and to prepare for workshops, conferences or other meetings with experts and stakeholders around water conservation.
The following two sessions each take approximately one and a half to two hours, depending on the flow developed in each section of the module, and on how quickly participants progress. This module is perhaps best suited for groups of about 20 participants, but can be modified to suit larger or smaller groups.
Note for instructors: This session requires about 100-120 minutes. It is best done once you have already completed modules 1 and 3.
A dialogue is a written or oral exchange between at least two people. In contrast to a monologue, there are replies to the addresses. A dialogue has an objective. Some just have an unconscious objective and in others there is an explicit aim to reach by the end of the dialogue. In a constructive dialogue it is important to remember that people listen and respond to each other in order to reach an explicit aim positively.
What is our goal today and how will we try to achieve it? Practice non-violent communication in a more structured way. You as the teacher, group coordinator, or leader can guide participants in the process if they have questions of course!
Dive deeper into the topic!
- General information about the basics of non-violent communication: http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/aboutnvc/aboutnvc.htm
- Gandhi and the Salt March as a demonstration of non-violent communication. Check here: http://beautifultrouble.org/case/the-salt-march/
- Maintaining nonviolent discipline: http://beautifultrouble.org/principle/maintain-nonviolent-discipline/
- Facts about the Water Framework Directive: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/pubs/pdf/factsheets/water-framework-directive.pdf
Try out more River Action Tools!
You want to find out about the state of implementation of water conservation policies in your country? You should take a look at the instructions for writing cross-country authority letters!
Or go back to the toolbox overview and pick out another interesting topic!