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On Landcare, fire recovery, and leaping

posted May 14, 2016, 11:12 PM by Ross Colliver   [ updated Aug 17, 2016, 4:43 AM ]
CLEA's presentation to the VLC's Dookie Forum struck a chord - that the social side of Landcare is a field of practice in its own right and central to the success of Landcare. I'm not sure that the notion of inquiry was much noticed, but there was a strong sense in people's comments to me that "yes, of course, yes, this is a shared practice, and it's good to think of it like that."

The feeling between us is critical. We are peers, each drawing on the social knowledge we have inherited, that is carried in our relationships. We heard a lot in the Forum about partnerships between organisations, but there's collaboration going on between innovaters in Landcare that's at least as interesting as those partnerships, that underpins them in fact, and makes them possible. My critique of the Forum agenda is that we had too much on the outer form of collaboration, the projects, and not enough discussion as peers about the practices that bring those projects into being and fruuition.

Fellow feeling is all. Why? Peer-to-peer learning is not paid and mandated but voluntary and chosen collaboration. My observation is that I will put serious time into collaborations where people are tuned into me, and active in pursuing their own interests and ready to team up with others when they find them. If that's not there, then walk on by.

But there's also inquiry, and that's high in CLEA's contribution. Innovators have a restless relationship with the present. They take it in, they critique it, but they are following a creative impulse, and they don't stop at critique. They look for what can be made. Is inquiry relevant? You bet. It's not the kind of inquiry that stops at assessment, but that leaps to try the next mad thing out. Inquiry in the midst of creative collegial relationships is a joy, most of the time!

There were many possible inquiry directions highlighted across the Forum. Here are two of mine: Landcare and fire recovery, and leaping in Landcare.

The role of Landcare Networks in recovery from fire and flood. The three case studies showed how Landcare moved into the open space between government programs and the community in which each Landcare Network operated (2009), how Landcare shared knowledge and staff time across boundaries (2012), then was unused in the governance arrangements developed between levels and agencies of government (2015). The issue here is how Landcare negotiates for a role and recompense that fits what it uniquely can offer, and each level of that issue is as critical: the question of just what Landcare's role is and what it needs in governance relationships to contribute that, and the issue of how the Landcare movement should go about negotiating that place. From case studies to lessons learned to a better design to specific requests within the policy making structures of government seems are the interrelated steps.

The Systemic Inquiry's Pilot #3, on co-design for operationalising an investment priority, might suggest a co-design process, but that's a little difficult now that committees and their membership have been "decided".  How to point out that when the structure of government's response was being designed,  Landcare was not in the design team, and what it can do is neither authorised or resourced.

In the case of Systemic Inquiry into co-design, the pilot will be on design for resilient landscapes in the Southern Otways. The content might be landscapes, but the research focus is the co-design process. The proposition is that we have to learn our way to a co-design process that works. The best way to do things is not there to be drafted by someone expert, but there to be crafted by those who do the work.  [A comment from my colleague Bod Dick on the precendents for this in organisational design would be illuminating.]

On leaping. Naomi Edwards from Intrepid Landcare said "let's do it", and Andrew Campbell said let's keep community thinking and action strong. Both struck the same note for me, one of spirit and spunk, urgency with a wild laugh. They both spoke to their foundation stories, and shared them with great style.

Naomi's feeling for place and for the people she met on that first volunteer day (which happened to be on a coast) got me going. My hunch is that more than a few of us saw through her story to that same enthusiam in our own lives, in the origins of our involvement in Landcare, and in our present involvements. Perhaps we found ourselves questioning: where is my passion now? do I follow and resource it the way I want to?

We face an abyss (see previous post), and I'll take Naomi
Edwards as my role model and leap. Way to go, girl! Adventurous, impetuous, let's do it now! It's always good to meet a fellow disturber of the peace.

When I got home, I sighed, and went walking down by the creek.  L
ooking after a bit of country has opened me up, stirred me up, invited me to be more enterprising on behalf of what I know to be important. Taking responsibility for a bit of country grounds me and teaches me. The reality of a living land forcing me to knuckle down and find practically what is needed, and what can be done, and not remain only idealistic.

That means our commitments to place are as important as our techniques of rehabilitation. It's out of our love for place that we sustain action: heart and mind and hands, these dimensions put together more closely. Gardens to feed the city, just across the inlet, beside the rail tracks. Fields that feed and nourish us, close by. We need this in our physical places and in the arrangement of a life. We cobble each together as well as we each can, but in an urbanised, urbanising world, what Landcare brings what is learned when one takes on responsbility for place.

Putting this in front of urban dwellers, more vividly, is one of Landcare's great challenges. How? I don't quite know ... and that is the leap.

Ross Colliver,
May 16, 2016, 6:44 PM