Members of the biodiversity economy steering group and selected key stakeholders designed ideas, which could become innovative solutions for further development and implementation in Namibia’s biodiversity-based sectors. They actively participated in a three-day planning training-workshop at River Crossing Lodge, close to Windhoek, from 30 May to 1st June 2018.

The extension of the ResMob Project, with the help of a new component, will directly aim to kick-start the development and implementation of a biodiversity economy in selected landscapes. A biodiversity economy is a landscape-centred green economy approach. It focuses on biodiversity-based sectors, value chains and targets the communities, conservancies and businesses living and active in these landscapes. Therefore, the new component aims at facilitating the prioritisation process (selection of landscapes, sectors and value chains), activating, and involving relevant stakeholder through workshops and baseline studies.

The overall objective of a biodiversity economy is to transform conservation areas into effectively coordinated and well financed landscapes and develop the economy based on the sustainable use of the biodiversity in these landscapes. The planning workshops serves to discuss and plan this new initiative.

The planning training-workshop dealt with the following objectives:

  • Identified and involved stakeholders in the planning process,
  • Planned of target group-oriented activities (interactive and target group oriented),
  • Refined the concept note, steering structure and results model, and
  • Identified interlinkages with existing initiative and projects.

Mrs. Susanne Willner, a senior facilitation expert from Germany moderated the workshop, said the practical part required the participants (from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, line Ministries, NUST and the private sector) to jointly develop totally new ideas for Namibia’s biodiversity economy through a process called Design Thinking.

She pointed out that this required participants to be creative, innovative and forward-thinking. Design thinking should be user-centred. Instead for designers to come up with solutions that they like, they should step into the user’s shoes, understand them, their desires, and their needs and know how to solve their problems. “Whatever you do in the Design Thinking and (subsequent) planning approach, you always need to think user-centred. And then this entire approach also supports the design thinking group to really become creative. Think out of the box before you go for the obvious ideas you had already in mind. Go wild, use the group dynamics and invite experts.”

The ideas or prototypes the participants came up with had to be tangible, which would be tested, discussed with the users to ensure understanding and buy-in, and after which further development could happen before the eventual implementation.

The participants in three groups, designed three prototypes or projects aimed at different target groups and according to their respective situations and challenges. Each group then narrowed their approach to three individual users – one being an unemployed youth, one a national park manager, and the third being an entrepreneur in small/medium enterprise.

Mrs. Willner emphasised effective dynamic thinking requires group members to participate enthusiastically, be flexible, don’t impose their ideas on others, love to learn and get inspired by others. One would need people from different sectors, backgrounds, ages, experts as well as new comers, she said. The more diverse a group is, the more you can get out of them and the better the result.

She was impressed with how the participants (as adults) ‘played’ with or applied the props (toys, puppets, and other useful objects) to literally build ideas instead of just talking. Another requirement was that participants had to work within time limits. “When you bring people together to solve a complex issue, the tendency is that they endlessly discuss too much detail and not come to a decision”. Thus, time pressure is essential for this process.

Mrs. Willner expressed the hope that these prototypes could go beyond the workshop, be introduced to the users – who would develop the ideas or parts thereof, test and ready them for eventual implementation. She concluded by noting that the workshop, which only focussed on three possible users, was the starting point of the Design Thinking process only. It should be rolled out to the whole of Namibia’s biodiversity economy, taking into consideration its complexity, different stakeholders and user groups at different levels.