Weaving a Stronger Fabric: designing educational and extension activities for regional NRM organisations that can lead to demonstrable practice change
Contributor(s)University of New England
Continuing and Community Education
Sustainable Agricultural Development
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AbstractThe Catchment Action Plan (CAP) of the Border Rivers-Gwydir Catchment Management Authority (BR-G CMA), like many other regional organisations around Australia, sets community capacity building targets through its Training and Education program (TEP). This program intends to increase the engagement of the community in "translating ideas into actions on-the-ground". We use an analogy to explain how training and education events (TEEs) can be designed to increase the likelihood of achieving behavioural objectives, as well as enable the assessment of both immediate and long-term impacts on landholder behaviour. This analogy is that the organisation, or BR-G CMA, is a 'fabric' composed of warp and weft threads. The warp threads are the programs (e.g. on-ground works, training and education and community engagement) which run vertically, and the weft threads, which run horizontally, are holding the warp threads together and keeping the organisation (fabric) strong. Without weft threads, the organisation (fabric) would unravel or become directionless. Based on our research, involving in-depth analysis of four TEEs with 326 attendees over 28 days, interviews with trainers (n=7), analysis of Training and Events Database (TED) surveys (n=220), and 61 in-depth interviews with attendees of TEEs a year to 18 months after the TEE, we would suggest that there are four strong weft threads. The four weft threads are: contract specifications (obligations of trainer and CMA staff), TED, the trainer, and the Community Support Officer (CSO). These four weft threads must have clearly defined roles, responsibilities and functions to avoid an ad hoc, output-orientated Training and Education Program (TEP) that lacks integration with other CMA programs. Although TEEs were well-received by attendees, there was little documented evidence of change in landholders' behaviour with regard to natural resource management, as a consequence of their TEE participation. A pervasive theme emerging from the research was the need for greater follow-up extension support with landholders after the TEE had concluded. The CMA should influence and invest in the contract, TED, trainer and CSO, and thereby improve their functionality and ability to contribute to improved community capacity-building outcomes. Thus by improving the weft threads it will produce a stronger fabric.