Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wanted - Visionaries Who Can Communicate: Apply Within

The world community faces tough challenges.

Issues like the global financial crisis, climate change and international terrorism are enormously complex. The threats in each are real and pressing. There are no easy answers and what is needed is a sustained, perhaps even a multi-generational approach to tackling these challenges which cut right across borders.

These problems impact us all , so it is good to remember the simplest way through complexity is clear vision and simple communications.

This past week two visionary communicators have been notable.

On Friday President Obama received the Noble Peace Prize. The award was probably more in recognition for his ability to inspire people and give them hope than for any one achievement this early in his Presidency. Obama is a communicator in his very own class and the power and persuasion of his words resonates beyond Americans to people around the world.

In this past week I came across leading Canadian environmentalist Harvey Locke who talks about the need to think and act on the grandest of scales to protect and strengthen the earth's fragile environment in the face of climate change.

Locke is currently in Australia talking about about his experiences in helping to establish the Yellowstone to Yukon conservation corridor in North America. At 3200km long Yellowstone to Yukon is the largest conservation undertaking of its kind in the world. It literally links landscapes in the western United States and Canada to preserve animals and vegetation. It is shifting conventional thinking beyond saving "small isolated islands" of threatened environments.

Locke speaks simply, persuasively and peppers his views with anecdotes and stories. In his efforts to encourage Canadians and Americans he underpins the conversation with basic but compelling messages:

  • Firstly the problems of climate change are so significant, no one person or organisation has the solution. Organisations should stop pretending they have a monopoly on the way ahead. They must paint the grand vision of what could be and allow the rest of us to define our own contribution on how this can be achieved.
  • Locke believes in personalising the story. Or in his case "animalising the story." He talks freely why large a North American conservation corridor is so important to the long term survival of buffalo, grizzly bears and other animals iconic to North America. He has chosen his case studies well to tug at the heartstrings of his listeners.
  • He stresses the need for simple conversations. You can't reasonably expect people to support what they don't understand so he cautions governments and scientists to stop over-complicating the information they provide to the rest of us.
Obama and Locke are people with vision and who communicate it simply and consistently. In their own ways they are powerful examples for the rest of us.

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