Stuart Cowell

Stuart Cowell


Working in Canada in the midst of a pandemic – what that has meant for Conservation Management

Now seems like a good time to reflect on the last year and the challenges that we have all faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and what this has meant for businesses, communities and society more broadly. We work with many groups within Australia and around the world and the global lockdown definitely created some hurdles; however, it also showed us how resilient and adaptive communities can be and are. The pandemic highlighted for us that work, connection, and a sense of community is not constrained to a specific place but functions across place and time.

The projects we have been supporting in Canada last year show how it is possible to adapt and to work across the world from our home offices wherever they are – to collaborate and support Indigenous groups to achieve amazing things.

In collaboration with Amanda Sheedy in Montreal and supported by Parks Canada, Nature United and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we have delivered a series of Healthy Country Planning (HCP) workshops that have been a success in the utilisation of online resources and virtual platforms of delivery.

“It was fortuitous that we had structured the course based on teams of people who were already planning to work together. We had 6 teams from across the country each led by a co-facilitator who took responsibility for supporting the learning exercises. This created a more intimate space for everyone to connect through and I think was an important part of the success. We had a fantastic group of people who were part of the training. A number of groups dug into their place-based Indigenous Knowledge and frameworks to help make sense of the HCP process. This was inspiring for all of us to see the creative interpretations of how HCP can be adapted. I’m hopeful that we can continue to build on this work to further adapt HCP to the Canadian context” (Amanda Sheedy).

This experience has pushed us to explore new ways of engaging, sharing and facilitating. We’ve started using online tools and platforms such as Google Classroom, Jamboard, and even YouTube in new ways to provide our services, and, of course, have clocked up countless Zoom hours.

None of this works without the trust, patience, and willingness of communities to work in ways that are not at all connected to typical ways of working and building relationships. The 6 teams worked incredibly hard to adapt and overcome the limitations of the remote approach. The things we learned from this experience will go on to further influence the development of Healthy Country Planning as a tool for communities to use.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we can maintain connections and utilise our creativity and innovativeness to explore alternative ways of working across the world, continue to reach people from the safety of our homes, and make a difference, and as Amanda wonderfully summarises “COVID gave us lemons and we made lemonade”.

Photo Credit: Amanda Sheedy

Photo Credit: Amanda Sheedy

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