That day when the classroom was turned into Timbur, a (fictional) island in the Indian Ocean

The good thing about my Masters Environment, Culture and Society is that you also get to choose environment related courses at the School of Social and Political Science. I made use of this opportunity and followed the course Global Environment and Society. I will devote this blog entry not necessarily to all the interesting topics we discussed in class (primary accumulation and mining, rationalization in (organic) agriculture, the concept of community in the domain of forestry), but rather to give you a taste of the group work we had to do.

We were divided into groups of three or four students and each group got one of the aforementioned topics assigned. My group had to focus on communities and forestry in Indonesia and we were given the task of preparing a seminar of 90 minutes about the literature. Instead of only giving presentations and a discussion afterwards, we decided we were going to do something more interactive, namely a role-play in the form of a stakeholder meeting. Let me show you a small excerpt of the document we prepared for our class one week in advance:

 ‘The stakeholders meeting concerns the sale of 35 000 hectares of tropical lowland forest, which is partly situated in the Lisoko National Park on the island of Timbur. The land is attractive for timber extraction and conversion to large-scale plantations with fast growing tree species for the pulp and paper industry. The acreage will be sold to TREEInc, a European based multinational that has extensive worldwide business operations in the timber industry. TREEInc has requested this meeting, since it wants to ensure that possible future complications are reduced to a minimum.

Therefore the Strong Timbur Democrats (STD) has arranged all the relevant stakeholders to come together in order to discuss a solution for the current problems that are present in the timber industry. The goal of the meeting is twofold. First, the meeting aims to ensure that all stakeholders will present their view on the current problems regarding the timber industry. Second, the meeting intends to find a solution that will prevent a continuation of the current problems. Since all views have to be taken into account, each stakeholder has to present a solution. It is hoped that after this meeting TREEInc can carry out its business in such a way that it satisfies all parties involved.’

The fictional stakeholder meeting proved to be a success; all participants prepared very well and got a sense of the quandaries that are characteristic of a real life stakeholder meeting. After organising this seminar I can really only encourage other students – and evidently also lecturers – to let flow their creativity and combine it with academia. Because, after all, who said that university is solely about writing and presenting?

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