Experiments in CoLABoration

Experiments in CoLABorationA marine lab workshop

The first Marine CoLABoration workshop focused on the big picture: overall vision and drivers for change. The aim of the second has been to ground this in the specifics of participants’ skills, expertise and working priorities. Armed with our personality shields, developed through playing personality poker, a light-hearted but revealing way of identifying the strengths and preferences of the people in the room, we were invited to design some immediate, small-scale ‘experiments in collaboration’ around issues of particular resonance for the group. Full details of the day are captured here: http://lib.fo.am/marine_colab/workshop_201503.

By mid-afternoon, we had five experiments taking shape, each framed as a hypothesis, challenge or quest. These ranged from system change – Can we find a common issue to bring our respective resources to? How do we identify a tipping point? – to charm offensive – changing the negative perception of marine conservation NGOs with other key groups.

The idea is that the experiments should be pragmatic and time-limited, with initial results in by July, though it’s quite likely they may inform or expand into other initiatives. The challenge has been to be clear, practical and reflective. What inputs will we need? What resources (time, knowledge, contacts) can – and more importantly will – we commit to providing over the next four months to deliver them. How will we measure progress and evaluate the results?

Collaboration is easier if you spend a day together in a room. It’s less easy when everyone returns to their own desks and the relentless demands of their inbox in distant corners of the country. One measure of progress will be what happens between workshops, but, if the Game On experiment which I’m committed to collaborating on is any indication, conversations are already pushing things forward.


The Marine CoLABoration is a key initiative in the UK Branch’s Valuing the Ocean strand, part of the Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative, launched by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon in 2013. The LAB will explore how we communicate the role of the ocean in human wellbeing and increase the environmental sector’s capacity to influence the management and protection of the ocean in the best interests of society for the long term.

Nine organisations are involved in the LAB at this stage, each selected for their distinctive experience, interests and networks: Client Earth, Fauna and Flora International, Forum for the Future, Institute for European Environmental Policy, IPSO, Marine Conservation Society, New Economics Foundation, Thames Estuary Partnership, Zoological Society of London.