Guest post by IAIA President Ana Maria Esteves.
The door is open for IAIA-iSamurais
In being passed the IAIA President’s baton at the recent conference in Japan, I’m feeling rather empowered by my term’s coinciding with the launch of an updated new strategic plan that represents the collective aspirations of the 2015 Board of Directors. This makes my job an easy one and means I can dedicate energy to the group in IAIA that I have deep faith in and believe can make a difference to the 3rd focus area: Enhancing IAIA’s knowledge sharing and capacity-building mandate.
This special group comprises sole practitioners or those working in a consulting firm with fewer than ten persons. Here (inspired somewhat by the conference setting) I find the individuals who project the values of the famous Japanese samurai, Sakamoto Ryōma. Loyal to a higher goal, visionary, bound by a code of honour, scholars, promoters of democratic principles: their toolbox is their sword in keeping the peace, and they would rather disembowel themselves than not to serve the master of sustainability. Not for them the industrial automation of EIAs, the distractions of organisational politics, the compromises to quality in a constrained budget environment. They are the IAIA-iSamurai*!
So, now that I have successfully seduced this special group through subtle use of flattery, this is the mission for you. To others who have romantic notions of self-identifying with the spirit of the samurai, yet oh so constrained by institutional forces, this will be your test…
Imagine if your toolbox weren’t only for the benefit of companies, governments and financial institutions. What if your client was a community group that wanted to verify the adequacy of an emergency response plan, or the management plan for the nearby radioactive waste storage plant? That needed help in interpreting and responding to an ESHIA, in commissioning their own water quality studies because the proponent-led assessment did not match their reality? What if you were commissioned directly by an indigenous group negotiating an impacts and benefits agreement that needed technical expertise? You would work directly for the community group, to Terms of Reference that they set. Doesn’t faze you? Keep reading…
I have developed a concept paper for “IAIA CommunityConnect,” a brokering service that would match specialists with such community groups. This is how I envision it would work:
Brokering services like this have been done before. The model is seen in legal and scientific professional associations around the world. AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), arguably the birthplace of IAIA, has one; they call it “On-call Scientists.”
We are grateful to all those who have contributed their ideas and support for the concept. Yet for IAIA to take it from concept through to operations, we need partners. The program needs funding for a coordinator with the right experience and skills to interpret what the community is asking for, and to support them in turning their problem into a clear Terms of Reference. It needs an outreach program so that affected communities and civil society organisations are aware of the service. It needs a partnering approach with NGOs, IFIs and development cooperation agencies who are looking for more proactive ways to avoid complaints, and the more progressive companies and governments who see an opportunity in building the capacity of communities to understand how they will be affected, so that communities can plan for and build their resilience for the changes ahead. The program might also need a fund to assist with travel expenses in instances where communities may not be able to afford this.
There are many places our work lacks legitimacy because of who pays, legacy issues, or simple breakdown in trust. The IAIA service would offer an arm’s length, third party means to ensure communities have access to expert advice that is truly independent, meaningful, and responsive to their concerns.
If like me, you believe in our IAIA-iSamurai* and want to be part of this start-up, the door is open. Please contact me, Jill Baker, or any member of the Board.
*Phonetic spelling: yaiyaisamurai
Dr. Ana Maria Esteves is the Director of Community Insights Group based in Groningen, The Netherlands, and currently serves as President of the IAIA Board of Directors.
Do you have thoughts after reading this post? IAIA members, login to join the discussion at IAIAConnect in the Members group.