#EFUF2016 Communications Team: A Story by Boris

It was the final session of the 19th European Forum on Urban Forestry in the Palatium hall of Ljubljana Castle, Slovenia. The participants were applauding while I was presenting the winners of the #EFUF2016 blog competition. Speaking on the big stage, my stomach felt a bit jittery – the sleep deprived nights that led up to the event finale and heavy coffee consumption were starting to leave an impact.

A few moments earlier I presented the current on-line and social media statistics of the EFUF 2016 social media coverage. During the 5 days of the Forum, over 1000 tweets were sent and delivered over 140.000 times to almost 25.000 different Twitter accounts. Over 5000 people were reached on Facebook and 600 people were informed daily through our mailing list. The live webcast of the opening and plenary session had over 700 live views. More importantly, our contributions were seen, read and recognized by the members of urban forestry communities from all over the world.

DSC_3470
#EFUF2016 Communications Team at Ljubljana Castle (top from left to right: Natalija, Magda, Špela, Anita, Ana, Janez, Boris; bottom: Saša, Urša; missing: Liza, Luka, Andrej, Boštjan, Robert).

After handing the certificate of recognition and microphone to Pieter Wieringa, author of the winning blog, I left the stage and sat down with happy and fulfilling thoughts racing through my mind. The first stop was Durban, South Africa. I remembered learning about the power and the art of social media reporting from my personal guru (although he hates to be called that), Peter Casier at the #Forests2015 Social Media Bootcamp. What an experience! Intense, draining and fulfilling at the same time. When it was over, I made a promise to myself that I will try to repeat it as soon as possible.

My thoughts then shifted to early October of the same year. I remembered presenting the concept of the #EFUF2016 communication activities to Andrej (head of the organizational committee) and getting a puzzled, yet optimistic go-ahead from him. I remembered the recruitment process – persuading co-workers, presentation at the university, mass-emails, etc.  It wasn’t easy because team members had to invest several hours of volunteer work per week in addition to their busy work and private schedules. In return, they were promised to learn how to use social media to their advantage.

In December 2015, the team was complete and the communication strategy was prepared. I remembered the tilted heads of the more experienced team members, while they were overlooking the blueprints of our ambitious strategy for the first time. To make sure that the strategy would be properly implemented, we had weekly meetings, where we learned the art of blogging and of using different tools to disseminate the blogs and other content. We planned, executed and adjusted.

When most preparations were done, we stopped meeting – the “infrastructure” was in place, the team was trained, and there were other priorities that needed addressing.

May 2016, while looking like a great month retrospectively, was at moments a personal hell. In one or another role (organizer, speaker, lecturer …), I took part in 3-4 communication and dissemination activities of our Slovenian Forestry Institute and the project I manage (LIFEGENMON) per week. Not being a total extrovert and sometimes still learning on the job, such an amount of organization, management and public speaking was very difficult to handle. The members of our team mostly come from our Institute, and while their enthusiasm and work ethic could never be questioned, the team spirit started to slowly dissipate in the second half of the month because of the (too) demanding workload.

Then came the last week of May 2016 – the week of the EFUF. We were all working on fumes then and I wasn’t sure about how the communications team would work in action. We met extensively on Monday and Tuesday, created a detailed plan with roles for each team member and did the final tweaks of the online infrastructure. Some of the points on our to-do list had to be abandoned because of lack of time. On Tuesday evening, after the preparations were complete (and all of the twitterfall screens set up :)), I was still uneasy and had my doubts, but I was confident that we did all that we could to prepare for the Forum.

On Wednesday, the opening day of the Forum, magic happened. The plan was seamlessly implemented while I stood and watched in awe. Tweets were flying, photos were uploaded nearly automatically, blogs were produced almost in real-time, and the online urban forestry community took notice. Over 1000 tweets were sent…

… and then my name was called. I wasn’t expecting to be called on stage again, but it started to light upon me just a little bit before it happened – when the words “communication” and “dissemination” were spoken. Cecil Konijnendijk van den Bosch and Clive Davies were presenting the Young European Urban Forester of the Year 2016 Award and I was selected as the runner-up. The path to the stage was blurry, and luckily I wasn’t offered to give a speech. Everybody was clapping and people were offering to shake my hand and patting me on the back but I couldn’t really respond because I was so shocked and confused.

One could argue that being a runner-up for such an award isn’t a big deal, and one could agree. But to me it really means a lot, not because of the diploma, but because of all of the sincere congratulations I’ve received and the recognition of the hard work the #EFUF2016 Communications team put in, often at the expense of their personal and family time.

Thank you!

Boris

Photos: Urban Ušeničnik (find more photos on Flickr)

Stats.jpg
#EFUF2016 final twitter statistics and a Facebook comment (sources: keyhole.co, Facebook)

 

Advertisements

Sailors and Captains – Behind the Scenes of EFUF 2016

The success of events largely depends on people working behind the scenes. The spirit of meetings is created by participants, but the stage for final performance is put together by the organizational team. When these combine into perfection, an event becomes an evergreen – one that every participant will nostalgically remember for years to come.

It was a last day of EFUF 2016. I was drinking coffee and discussing why people in the organizational team were unusually calm and non-stressed during the whole conference. Someone said: “We are growing up.” Perhaps, but it seems to me that it is something more to this phenomenon of calm and assertive organizers.

The EFUF 2016 ship was navigated by excellent captains with the help of the best crew. During the voyage even the largest glaciers were no match for the Titanic that has successfully arrived to the port.

But what is the difference between the captain who sunk the ship or brought it back half-wrecked with a crew that’s hardly breathing and the good captain who is celebrating with their crew after peaceful landing?

A good captain has vision and is again and again embarking on a mission to pursue his dreams. he has clarity and values that serve him as a compass in times of rough sea and in darkest nights. He understands that journey takes time, so he carefully plans every step of the way. He is a dreamer and also an executor of his dreams. The good captain boards the ship first and is last to leave. He is the inspiration, mentor and teacher, who inspires and trusts his crew. He steps in front when ship drifts away from the planned route, but only to steer it back on the right path and calm down the anxious sailors.

nine_roles_for_great_leadership.jpg
9 roles of great leadership.

I believe that within ourselves we are all hiding a sailor who wants to follow a good captain because he has the power to awake some of our best qualities. And that within ourselves we all have a good captain who is pursuing perfection of ever elusive horizon of life. To recognize good captains and then to trust and follow them is a priceless ability, which enables learning and gaining experience in the safety of their guidance. It is a great gift to have the chance to awaken the good captain within us and by this strengthen our confidence and desire for changes. In the EFUF 2016 team, each of us was a sailor working with the crew for the ship and a good captain in the most critical moments.

The members of the organizational crew of EFUF 2016 are sincerely grateful for all your compliments and good thoughts. And without you, the passengers, our voyage would have no meaning. Thank you all for boarding the EFUF 2016 ship.

Authors: Saša Vochl, Boris Rantaša, Slovenian Forestry Institute

Photo: Tanmay Vora, QAspire.com

How Important are Forest Genetics for Urban Forests? – A Report from the LIFEGENMON Parallel Session

The LIFE LIFEGENMON is an European project for the development of a forest genetic monitoring system. Selected monitoring sites for European beech and Silver fir are located in Germany, Greece and Slovenia. The project staff presented their relevant practical experiences and findings to participants of 19th European Forum on Urban Forestry in a parallel session at the Ljubljana Castle on June 1st 2016.

The first speaker was the project coordinator, Prof. Dr. Hojka Kraigher from the Slovenian Forestry Institute. She opened the session of EFUF 2016 with a brief theoretical explanation of forest genetics and concluded the presentation of the LIFEGENMON project. She explained that genetic diversity level is the basis for all higher levels of biodiversity (species, ecosystem) and that forest genetic resources are threatened by several factors, the most important of which is climate change. She also highlighted the work of the European Forest Genetic Resources Programme (EUFORGEN).

Prof. Dr. Hojka Kraigher: “Genetic diversity is the basic level of all biodiversity (species, ecosystem).”

The second presentation was more specific – Domen Finžgar (Slovenian Forestry Institute) gave a very interesting lecture about the use of UAV (drones) in forestry. He is a part of the multidisciplinary team that developed the prototype of LUCANUS, a remotely controlled drone for collecting samples in tree canopies and stated that: “Drone sampling is not science-fiction, but possible fiction. It is an unique, cost-effective, precise and safe tool.” This contribution will certainly aid to remote data sensing techniques.

Dr. Marjana Westergren discussed the importance of forest genetics for (peri)-urban woodlands and emphasized that if we want urban forest to thrive and be resilient, we have to use our knowledge of forest genetics. That means that we need to ensure sufficient gene flow in urban forests by collecting diverse seed for sowing and planting. Genetic monitoring might be especially important in (peri)-urban forests as an early warning system of changes that are about to happen at the ecosystem level.

EFUF 2016 2.6.2016

Dr. Marjana Westergren: “If we want urban forest to thrive and be resilient, we have to use our knowledge of forest genetics!”

To close the session, Dr. Evangelia Avramidou from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) presented how trees, growing in polluted metropolitan areas of Thessaloniki, showed different phenotypic response to urban environment stresses. She stated that forest genetic monitoring is crucial for future forest ecosystem protection and is invaluable tool for sustainable forest management.

To a casual observer, the LIFEGENMON project might not have much in common with urban forestry. But after a closer look, the existing knowledge and research in the field of forest genetics can really help us understand how trees, exposed to an array of abiotic and biotic stresses in (fragmented) forest ecosystems in urbanized areas, can adapt, be more resilient and survive in the future.

Authors: Janez Kermavnar, Boris Rantaša

EFUF 2016: Day One Recap

The exciting first day of the European Forum on urban forestry 2016 is behind us! We have gathered today’s highlights for you in our new blog post.

More than 80 researchers and experts in urban forestry and green infrastructure from all over the world gathered today in Ljubljana at the venue of Ljubljana Castle to attend EFUF 2016, organized by Slovenian Forestry Institute, Slovenia Forest Service, the City of Ljubljana and the City of Celje.

Wednesday, 1.6.2016
First day of EFUF 2016. Photos: Urban Ušeničnik

“How to build cities that support life?” was the opening question of the EFUF 2016. Today the spotlight was on building the hosting city of Ljubljana, the European Green Capital of 2016. The city’s representatives presented efforts and achievements in environmental protection that could keep the city of Ljubljana green, healthy and beautiful; now and in the future.

The introduction was followed by keynote speakers: Cecil Konijendijk van den Bosch, Clive Davies, Tara Zupancic, Simone Borelli and Natalie Gulsrud. They touched the subject of the past and future development of urban forestry. Once urban forests were mostly parts of a city with an aesthetic value for the city residents, but today their numerous ecosystem services are gaining more and more recognition. Higher levels of governance and management can play an active role in green infrastructure development, using different means to encourage city municipalities to build greener and more sustainable cities. If urban forestry was once only a Western concern it is not anymore; it has turned global and is growing strong in the developing countries. Prominent speakers also defined the term ‘resilience‘, the main theme of this year’s EFUF, and together with valuable contribution from GREEN SURGE and LIFEGENMON projects presented different aspects of resilience: from governance and management to public health and biodiversity.

As we are recognizing the many benefits of urban forests and green infrastructure, we realize they might be the solution to many of our ‘urban’ problems. In the words of one of the speakers –“The green pill is all around us” – and there has never been a better time to invest in urban forests than now.

EFUF 2016 continues tomorrow, moving to the second venue in the city of Celje. You will hear more from us soon, so stay tuned!

Author: Anita Mašek, Slovenian Forestry Institute

EFUF 2016 Live – Tune In Now!

The European Forum on Urban Forestry 2016 will be broadcasted over the internet to ensure that anyone can participate. Here’s how to tune in:

Social media:

IMPORTANT: Please don’t forget to use our official hashtag – #EFUF2016  – when creating tweets or facebook posts about the Forum.

E-mail:

Webcast:

Watch the webcast on this link (Embedded below – the webcast begins 1.6.2016 at 9:00 CET).

For more information on the programme and the conference, please visit the EFUF 2016 official website.

Ten Years After: Welcome Back to the Urban Forests of Celje

It has been eleven years, actually. In 2005 the first EFUF in Slovenia took place in Celje, the city with long tradition of urban forests and forestry. Find out more why this year EFUF will return to Celje in this blog by Robert Hostnik, urban forest manager at the Slovenia Forest Service.

Looking back – we had a great time then. As organizers we were impressed by the response of more than 100 experts from 22 countries. They still like to share nice memories with us and rarely forget to mention the anecdote about wine and vinegar. Although not our fault, it was quite embarrassing. If you come this year, you will surely hear about “the vinegar error”. Rather than go into details, I will use it as a metaphor for a short introduction into the development of the urban forests of Celje.

From the noble wine to the sour vinegar

The social functions of the forests near the city of Celje were to a large extent recognized more than a century ago. In 1885 the municipality bought first areas of private forests on the slope above the city and equipped them with new footpaths, benches and pavilions. The forests were popular for recreation and were suitably maintained for the next eight decades.

FOTO 1
One of the entry points to the urban forest of Celje at Meško spring in 1905

The rapid industrialization in 1950s caused environmental problems and forest degradation. It gradually drove forest visitors away. In 1970s, when citizens could afford cars and became more mobile, they started to prefer other natural places outside the city. Regular management of the urban forests was almost abandoned.

New vineyards for the new wine

Fresh impulse for the development of the forgotten potentials of the urban forests of Celje popped up in the 1990s from local forestry experts. The results of their studies, along with the emerging conflicts between the private and public interests emphasized the need for a long-term oriented multiple use of forest management.

The City Council accepted the initiative of the Forest Service and in 1996 confirmed the proposed strategy plan for the development of the urban forests of Celje. Strategy 1996, as it was called, emphasized (1) the protection of urban forests by law, (2) improvement of the ownership structure with the redemption of private forests, (3) adapted forest management, (4) development of recreational and educational infrastructure, (5) public relations and (6) assurance of the stable financial resources.

But not just any wine

In the next decade the strategy was quite successfully implemented. The number of urban forest visitors tripled. The urban forests of Celje became a kind of a role model for other Slovenian cities. Soon the need for upgrading the existing approaches emerged. The Strategy 2006 was more focused on (1) strengthening of governance and users’ participation, (2) branding and popularization, (3) coordination of public and private interests (4) education based on forest pedagogy principles and (5) on further development of infrastructure and equipment for recreation, education and experiencing. The following years brought stronger recognition and even wider popularity of the urban forests.

A 704936
The entry point at Meško spring nowadays. Nature education based on the principles of forest pedagogy is one of the key activities of the current urban forest management in Celje.

Dear colleagues, we would be glad to present you with the results – successes and failures – of our urban forest management and projects in the last decade on the EFUF 2016 field excursion. Your feedback will be precious as we are preparing new Strategy 2016 – 2025. We are looking forward to welcome you and I promise that this time we’ll drink only an excellent wine.

About the author: Robert Hostnik works as a forest manager at the Slovenia Forest Sevice. His main fields of interest and expertise are related to the urban forestry, ecosystem services and nature education. For the last 25 years he has been actively involved in the urban forestry development in Slovenia.

Photo courtesy of Osrednja knjižnjica Celje (Rzg 3669) and Slovenia Forest Service.

EFUF 2016 Saturday Excursion: The Škocjan Caves Park

The Saturday excursion is finally revealed! While attending EFUF 2016, we will explore the mysterious world of the Škocjan Caves Regional Park – above and below the ground.

The Škocjan Caves Regional Park is like an open-air museum, well known for its ethnological, karstological, geological and archaeological monuments, as well as for its natural and cultural heritage. The park is rich with unique natural site features (caves, collapse dolines and underground stream) and with great diversity of flora and fauna.

15
Škocjan Caves Park – above ground

The park’s cave system with its underground river Reka represents the most important natural phenomenon of the Karst region and one of the largest underground canyons in the world. Its colourful underground world is adorned with giant stalactites, water rapids and beautiful lakes. Due to its exceptional significance, Škocjan Caves Regional Park has been on UNESCO’s list of natural and cultural world heritage sites since 1986 and is also part of the Natura 2000 network.

30
Škocjan Caves Park – below ground

We will take a guided walk through the Škocjan Caves Park, enjoy the unspoiled nature and learn all about the park: how it operates, how it enables the residents to benefit from it and how it is supported by research activities. We will also get acquainted with the brand development and tourist activity of the park.

Here are some more teaser photos of the breathtaking Škocjan Caves Park.

Written by Anita Mašek, Slovenian Forestry Institute

Photos: Škocjan Caves Park Photo Archive

Green Infrastructure: A Positive Development for Urban Forestry?

Is the term Green Infrastructure a positive development for urban foresters? Find out in this blog post by Clive Davies, research fellow at the Newcastle University and the director of MD2 Consulting Ltd, where he is an international advisor & enabler supporting clients in all aspects of green infrastructure planning, urban & peri-urban forestry.

Green Infrastructure has become a really popular planning term in the last 10 years and has come to dominate the discourse on urban green. I have been reflecting on this for some time and have concluded that it is a positive development for practitioners and researchers engaged in urban forestry. Why?

7460762714_7988b9a2ac_o_d
Urban Green Infrastructure

The answer is that in urban areas where tree cover is low urban forestry has often struggled to get accepted as a term of importance. Yet some of the same urban areas where urban forest recognition is limited are now beginning to plan for green infrastructure. This creates an opportunity to promote trees and urban woodlands as functional green infrastructure (GI) and embed the concepts of urban forestry in GI plans and projects – surely this is an opportunity. Of course for this to happen urban areas need urban forest advocates to make a strong case. Could that be you?

I also see a developing role for the EFUF partnership; if EFUF can produce authoritative, persuasive and relevant information on urban forestry targeted at professionals working on green infrastructure planning then we have a powerful new tool to promote the role of urban trees and urban woodland. At the EFUF Brussels/Waterloo Forum in 2015, there was discussion about creating a digital platform called EFUF 2.0. This promotional role on urban forestry as a crucial part of green infrastructure could be one of the functions of the digital platform.

Recently attention has been focused on Nature Based Solutions and the role green infrastructure plays in this. If you haven’t read the report Towards an EU Research and Innovation policy agenda for Nature-Based Solutions & Re-Naturing Cities then I recommend it to you. Urban forestry can make a huge contribution to nature based solutions and this is recognised, take this abstract from the EU report as an example: Planting trees to reduce air pollution and improve health.

  • Objective/Theme: Air pollution is a serious problem with more people moving to towns and cities combined with increased traffic.
  • Solutions/measures: There are a range of measures including the important one of reducing the source of the pollution. It has become increasingly clear that appropriate tree planting can be effective in reducing levels of air pollution in urban areas.
  • Short description (rcommendation): Provide incentives to encourage the planning of lines of trees in areas where high densities of pollutants and people coincide.

Reports of this kind can support arguments for urban forestry investment. So even in the era of austerity gripping Europe, there are new arguments we can put forward to promote urban forestry.

Author: Clive Davies, Strategic Urban Forestry & Green Infrastructure Consultant

Featured photo by mpstudio123.