"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
The IPA project “Partnership actions for biodiversity protection in Western Balkans” is ending in December 2011. I had the pleasure to be involved in this project as manager of the various capacity building activities: face to face training in Montenegro and Serbia as well as exchange visits to Spain and Croatia. The project concluded with a final workshop and exhibition in Belgrade where the participants showed what they had achieved with the small actions from the project in year two. Looking at the pictures of the exhibition and reading the short text, the motivation of the participating organizations became tangible. In addition I had come to know most of them during the capacity building activities: their faces, the way they expressed themselves in the different workshops and I knew listening to them how difficult it is for small NGOs in Serbia or Montenegro to make their voices heard.
This project is only a small step in the long road that most of the organizations must follow. Hopefully some things may remain once the project is closed: better contact with other NGOs from their country or region, an understanding of the importance of working together and a sense of urgency or a sense of “Mission Impossible”. The environment, biodiversity, nature, earth – however you will call it – is threatened by us: by you, by me, by us. We know that our way of living destroys what we want to protect. We feel that we are part of the problem. But nevertheless we try to stop the process. We work for NGOs, smaller or bigger ones, we recycle, we eat organic food – but we are still part of the problem. Exactly here starts our mission impossible: to break the cycle, to show alternatives, to be different, to make the world a different, better place. This means that we as individuals and as an NGO have to find new ways of acting and thinking. In our training courses we use examples of what has worked so far, best practices, or we describe the project management cycle. But in a way this is the old way of thinking, the way of thinking which created the problems which we now try to solve with the sameold logic. Most of you know well this famous sentence of Albert Einstein that we can’t solve the problems with the same thinking which created them. Here again is the mission impossible for NGOs: find these new ways, new ways of doing and new ways of thinking. After two years working with many different NGOs as part of this project I have learned that NGOs have enough motivation and creativity to look for these new ways. Good luck and please keep me updated on your progress!
Christoph Stein, WWF