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WON at the IUFRO Small-Scale Forestry conference

Good news!  I learned yesterday that the abstract submitted on behalf of our project has been accepted as an oral presentation at the 2009 IUFRO 3.08 Small-Scale Forestry conference in Morgantown, WV.  The full conference title is Forest Beyond the Trees: New possibilities and expectations for products and services from small-scale forestry.  Our abstract is below.

Woodland owner networks and peer-to-peer learning

Authors: Eli S. Sagor, Maureen H. McDonough, and Shorna B. Allred

Abstract: Small private forest owners consistently list peers as preferred sources of forest management advice. Since January 2008, the Woodland Owner Networks project has been investigating program models designed to foster peer-to-peer interaction and learning to support private forest management decisions.  In April 2009, the project will bring together 45 researchers, agency administrators, funders, and leaders and members of woodland owner organizations large and small, representing a wide diversity of program objectives and models.  The symposium is designed to bring together formal academic research with other perspectives and ways of knowing about peer-to-peer learning about natural resources.  The symposium will have three primary outputs:

  1. a list of practical tools and best practices based on both research and informal first hand learning by program organizers;
  2. a statement of the current state of knowledge, knowledge gaps, and skill development needs; and
  3. a statement of emerging opportunities and barriers to peer-to-peer learning in the future.

This presentation will review the rationale (and risks) behind peer-to-peer learning to support sound small-scale forest management and report on the outcomes of the April 2009 symposium.  It will also include a review of recent research results from ongoing qualitative and quantitative analyses of the outcomes and impacts of peer-to-peer learning in a small-scale private forestry context.


Webinar recording now online

A recorded version of my January 8 webinar called “Woodland Owner Networks and Peer-to-Peer Learning: A research review” is now available online, courtesy of the National Network of Forest Practitioners. 

Watch a complete recording at http://nnfp.acrobat.com/p73834210/. It’s long but you can skip ahead.  Presentation begins at the 5-minute mark, and discussion at around 55:00.

Webinar: Woodland owner networks and peer-to-peer learning: a research review

The National Network of Forest Practitioners has announced a webinar that may be of interest to some of this site’s readers.  It’s free and open for anybody to attend.

Update: The webinar is now over.  Watch a complete recording at http://nnfp.acrobat.com/p73834210/. Presentation begins at the 5-minute mark, and discussion at around 55:00.

Woodland owner networks and peer-to-peer learning:
A research review

Thursday, January 8, 2009 @ Noon Eastern

Presented by Eli Sagor of the University of Minnesota Extension
and Woodland Owner Networks project lead

Active sustainable management of private forest (PF) land provides public value through rural economic activity, forest ecosystem management, and water quality protection. PF conservation program administrators and funders recognize a need to engage many more private forest owners than they have in the past. Woodland owners consistently select peers as a preferred source of information to support forest management decisions. However, beyond Extension master volunteer programs, peer-to-peer learning has received little attention as a forestry outreach tool. Can peer-to-peer learning through woodland owner social networks influence landowner behavior? If so, how can Extension and allied outreach professionals mobilize and support landowners to provide accurate decision support to their peers? And what kinds of outcomes can be expected?

workshop groupIn this hour-long presentation and discussion led by Eli Sagor, we’ll explore research from sociology, social psychology, and related fields that may help answer these questions. We’ll also briefly discuss case studies from New York, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Ample time will be available for audience questions and input.

This webinar is the first in a series focusing on innovations in landowner outreach. Subsequent webinars will address regional variations on woodland owner networks projects.

The webinar is now over.  Watch a complete recording at http://nnfp.acrobat.com/p73834210/. Presentation begins at the 5-minute mark, and discussion at around 55:00.

Woodland owner interviews in Oregon

MWM image (a href=Amanda and I are just back from a great trip to interview woodland owners in Oregon.  We ventured out there to learn more about Oregon State’s Master Woodland Manager program.  (All of a sudden I can’t believe that we didn’t take any photos.)

We spent four days in west-central Oregon talking to program participants.  We wanted to know more about how they got involved in the program, what they’d learned from other woodland owners, and how they’d been able to help other woodland owners since their training.

It’ll take us a while to transcribe and analyze what we heard, but interviewees were consistently upbeat and positive about the program.  They told us compelling stories about their experiences and the sense of pride that they feel when they’re able not only to improve their woods, but also help others improve theirs.

We also heard some concerns:  Some MWMs felt unsure how to handle some awkward outreach situations.  We also heard concerns about the quality of information being passed through the network.

This trip is part of our case study investigation of the role of peer-to-peer woodland owner outreach in the broader network of private forest owner education, cost-share, and assistance programs.  We plan to visit participants in a few different kinds of programs over the next several months.

ISSRM roundtable debrief

Shorna Broussard, Maureen McDonough, and I hosted a roundtable discussion at the 2008 International Symposium on Society and Resource Management (ISSRM). We had a diverse group, and it was an enlightening discussion.

Shorna began with a review of peer learning. A few notes from her discussion are as follows. She described peer learning as:

  • Interactive, mediated by non-professional teachers.
  • Supplementing, not supplanting, the important role of natural resources (and teaching) professionals.
  • Open to all, non-hierarchical, and everybody’s both a teacher and a learner: Everyone gains from participating.
  • Purposive, deliberative process with clear outcomes: Not just talking.
  • Includes an emotional connection, beyond just information gathering.

Shorna then discussed some social network theories. At this point, we opened the floor up for a discussion of the group’s experiences, questions, and learnings about peer learning and social networks in the private woodlands arena.

A few high points:

  • The Army Corps of Engineers’ GETS (Good Enough to Share) site is a space where good ideas can be shared, and drawn upon, to solve problems that might have arisen elsewhere. Forums like this allow users / learners to both share their knowledge and learn from others using targeted searches and a simple interface.
  • One common challenge is to get natural resource professionals to share what they know. In some cases, professionals can feel less important than other participants (because the learners are supposed to drive the process), and fail to share their technical knowledge. This is quite a reversal from the traditional setting in which the professional is, in effect, the only source of information.
  • We heard about several Extension programs in which the participants literally build the agenda onsite, then work through it. One example of a program like this are the Massachusetts Woods Forums.

Much of the discussion was about exciting ideas that will take some time to flesh out and act on. Check back for more posts following up on this discussion

Roundtable June 14 at ISSRM 2008

ISSRM logo

Shorna Broussard, Maureen McDonough, and I (Eli) will be leading a roundtable discussion of peer-to-peer learning and woodland owner social networks at ISSRM 2008.

ISSRM is a major conference, and we’re looking forward to the discussion. As a roundtable, this will be an exchange of ideas and experiences from people involved different peer-to-peer and social network models.

You can read an abstract describing our session here. If you’re attending the conference, we hope you’ll consider joining us. If not, feel free to add your thoughts below and we’ll bring them to the roundtable.