I sometimes feel like a disembodied soul in Jimmy Buffet’s classic song “Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude,” for he writes:
Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I’ve been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a bitches
I’ve seen more than I can recall
Returning from four weeks in Indonesia and the Philippines, I immediately turned around and flew to the Finnish-Russian border to spend the weekend with my daughter trying to see European Bears in their habitat. I was tired, especially since we had to stay up all night in a hide, but thrilled when we got to see a total of nine of these magnificent beasts.
The Finnish Large Carnivore Research Project website writes about the brown bear in Europe:
“The brown bear [Ursus arctos] is the biggest terrestrial mammal in Europe. Once it was spread all over Europe and today only a few populations of brown bears are left. In Finland there are currently about 800 to 900 brown bears and they distributed all over the country. Despite this, population density varies and is still rather low in western and southern Finland. Core area of the Finnish population is in the southeast of the country.”
Less than 24 hours after returning from that brief trip and with “barely” enough time to re-pack, I was on the road again. This time flying to Beijing, China to meet up with Rare’s COO Dale Galvin. We would also be joining one of China’s most famous citizens to help him as he thinks through developing a foundation to promote China’s youth, its sports and environment.
Dale and I spent a full day with Yao Ming and some of his friends and board members helping to think through a strategic plan for the foundation. Dale described the strategic planning process that Rare used to develop its 5-year plan and a series of sessions were then held to begin work to help Yao and his team put their vision into action.
Dale and I used a range of tools to help flesh out these elements including focused discussions, concept modeling, sticky walls and consensus work-shopping — all techniques that we teach our own campaign managers as they develop strategies and project plans for their campaigns.
Since joining Rare, I have had the opportunity to meet a number of stars in the sports and entertainment world, but I can say that Yao stands out as one of the most genuine, down-to-earth individuals that I have met. He was really engaged in the discussions and participated fully. I greatly enjoyed our day together and believe that it was mutually beneficial. I very much hope that Rare and Yao Ming can work together in the future.
From Shanghai, I flew on the Kunming to spend 48 hours with our current China cohort who are working on over-fishing in some of China’s most important wetlands. The cohort is approaching the final week of their second university phase. They are learning about material design and how to develop collateral that can be used to reach their campaign’s target audience efficiently and effectively. The China team has brought in local experts to teach the seven campaign managers how to develop posters, printed materials and songs.
I joined them on how to use puppets to motivate children and adults alike. The cohort broke into two groups, one re-produced a show that we include in Rare’s handbook of Pride activities, while the second group created their own puppet script that focused on over-fishing. Participants built their own stage and sewed their own puppets.
Despite having already spent four weeks immersed in lectures and practicum’s (on the back of a very intensive five weeks of project planning), the entire cohort was full of enthusiasm. It was great watching Rare’s China team teach and mentor the students and to be a member of the audience watching the show.
The week in China flew by and soon it was back to the airport departure hall for my trip home. I would not be there long. In a week I leave again, this time to Latin America, to visit several of our Watershed and Reciprocal Agreement campaigns in Ecuador and Peru.