So imagine yourself as a volunteer on the Zoox Experience Programme. You have just undergone two weeks of intensive, bigger-picture marine conservation workshops, travelled to your Green Fins implementation site, been introduced to dive centres and been trained to conduct the assessment process on your own. It is now week 4 and personal projects are getting off the ground. Here is how a regular Monday goes down according to Alan, Programmes Officer for Zoox and your first point of contact on location.
“Mondays always start with a team meeting as close to 9am as possible. It is our way of introducing our volunteers to project planning and delivery. It is also a way for me, as site manager, to keep track of everyone’s activities and to give the volunteers an opportunity to ask questions or discuss tactics. In an ideal world this usually takes about 30-40 mins but is usually longer as it really helps people to have the structured face time.
At this point, it is normally time for 2 team members to run off and conduct a mid-morning Green Fins assessment dive. Our work plans have to be as flexible as possible to suit the diving industry. If they are diving a day trip 8am – 5pm, then we have to join them. If they are doing a single afternoon dive, then we have to join them. Flexibility is key.
Meanwhile the rest of the team continues to set up assessments for the coming week while building up their ability to build relationships with stakeholders (See previous blog re building successful stakeholder relationships).
During the assessment set up process the volunteers are building their skills in people management to organise the assessment with dive centre managers and the coordination of the assessor team to ensure that we all have an assessment buddy and that we don’t have to do them alone.”
As you can see it has already been a rather hectic morning. But busy, means conservation is being achieved.
“I have just had time to eat lunch now while catching up on emails over my phone. Lunch is usually dictated by 2 trade-offs; where has the best Wi-Fi signal and where has the best air-con. If you can sit in air con and access a better Wi-Fi connection from a different place, then that’s even better! The afternoon is usually spent guiding the new assessors through the morning’s assessment and ensuring they fully understand the marking process. This is important to ensure reliability of the data.
By doing this the volunteers gain experience in database management and report writing. Once the report is written, I accompany them to the environmental consultation of the assessment with the manager. This is where the conservation happens; environmental risk is highlighted and solutions discussed!
30 minutes later, I have left the feedback team to write up the final report and upload the information to the website and I am speeding off to the Local Government building with another volunteer to collaborate with a local champion on a personal project. We set the projects to enhance project management skills, ensuring that they will have tangible outputs and real conservation impacts at the grassroots level. Examples can be seen here.”
Meeting with our champions are always interesting occasions. They can range from a government office, a dive centre, a stakeholder wearing not much more than speedos, Karaoke with ambassadors, listening to government officials talk about their sexual prowess or finding yourself in socially enforced drinking at a dive guide meeting! Relationship development can take many forms!
Upon return from the meeting there is usually a debrief period (and perhaps a mango shake) so that the take home messages are fully understood to develop the project.
By 5pm the day starts to quieten down and there is a need for me to return to WiFi to proofread reports, update notes on professional development and plan for the next day. There is also the opportunity to raise awareness with the Green Fins presentation as volunteers build their presentation and training delivery skills. This is one of my favourite parts of the assessment. Educating the guides to their potential impacts and providing them with solutions is something they are really grateful for, even if one occasionally falls asleep on you! Watching the volunteers start off being really nervous and then growing into the presentation delivery is also something that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Their development within marine conservation is why they are here after all!
Sounds like work you could be interested in? Check out www.zoox.org.uk