Between November, 2002 and March 2003 Planeta.com
participated in a private online dialogue with a group of professionals
supporting ecotourism in Ecuador.
INTERNET EN FAVOR DE ECOTURISMO ECUATORIANO manifests what
is best about the Internet. It allows people with similar interests
to share their thoughts with others ... regardless of distance.
GIFEE members -- Susana Andrade, Ximena Gabriela Andrade,
and Betti Sachs, Mary
Kirby and Andrew Hammerman, Ron
Mader and Antonis
B. Petropoulos -- have experience in community and grassroots
work, and we took this approach online.
The word does not exist, but GIFEE could be defined as a "cyberroots"
initiative. We have never been in the same physical room. We
work in Ecuador, Greece, Mexico and the United States. GIFEE
identified seven, interdependent sectors for action: the Internet,
Education, Conservation, Waste Management, Financing, Promotion,
and Cooperation in a documented titled Strengthening
Ecotourism In Ecuador: Seven Recommendations (Siete Recomendacions
para el Fortalecimiento del ecoturismo en Ecuador).
It's not just the document that's important -- the process was
an integral means to the end.
GIFEE formed as the result of online chats and discussions
well-publicized on the Planeta.com
websites. A transcript of the initial chat was published almost
immediately. We also solicited feedback from colleagues who
are not wired to the Web.
We recognized that though we might "compete" with one another,
we actually stand to gain more by sharing information and helping
each other. These are conflictive times, and the GIFEE work
shines an example of peacemaking. I am not saying it was easy!
Creating any collective document requires a great deal of
time and patience. Many of the participants live in rural areas
which do not have reliable access to the Web. There was also
an advantage to going slow.
I was motivated by a quote from author and lecturer Harrison
Owen who created the "Open Space Technology" event methodology
and whose article on Peacemaking
was published on Planeta.com at the top of the year.
"Peace itself is not the far off, someday to be realized
phenomenon which we desperately seek when there seems to be
no other alternative. Rather, Peace is what life is all about.
Just as chaos, confusion and conflict are the constant, integral,
and necessary elements of this thing we call living, so also
is the Practice of Peace -- that task of enabling the conditions
under which they may weave themselves together, creating the
fabric of life."
RECIPES FOR SUCCESS
For those who took part in GIFEE, the experience was remarkable.
We acknowledged that 'If you don't like the way things are, you
have to change the way you are doing things.' Siete
is a recipe book for ecotourism. It acknowledges
the diversity of stakeholders and presents a number of options
(with instructions!) about what is needed and doable NOW.
And now that the document has been prepared, edited and delivered
to Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism, we are confident that the
dialogue will be richer and more satisfying, and that this process
will have expanded our options and opportunities for success.