I used this representational picture to end my presentations this week because people kept asking about my main take-aways. It describes some of the ways my IPSP has had a significant impact on me personally. While my bags will certainly be a few pounds heavier on the return trip, most of the stuff I'll bring back to Arkansas will be intangible and essentially weightless. Here are some of my "learnings," as they like to say over here:
1)Better understanding of water issues, water policy and politics, governance, and community engagement in natural resource management-- in both practice and theory
2) Further confirmation that environment and natural resource management are where my passion lies
3) Clearer identification of the gaps in my knowledge about my own state/region/country, but also a better sense of what to look for, where to find the information, who to talk to, etc.
4) Variety of examples of both good and bad community engagement and more sophisticated understanding of how different stakeholders, levels of government, and government departments perceive different situations
5) Better sense of how academics, consultants, and other "outsiders" can fit into creating better systems and ideas on how to engage these types of people in Arkansas issues
6) Strengthened belief in applied academics
7) Confidence in talking to people in many different situations
8) Practice and confidence in public speaking:
9) Excitement about the opportunity to bring my new-found knowledge back to my community and potentially have it contribute to better, more inclusive and collaborative atmosphere for planning and regulation
10) Proof that enviros, farmers, and industry reps can work together, as well as some practical ideas to use in achieving this cooperation
11) Knowledge about a wider range of jobs that might fit my interests
12) Plenty of evidence of the importance of building genuine relationships, taking time to talk with people over tea or a beer and spend time on their turf rather than hiding behind the walls of the castle (whatever fortress that might be-- a government agency, university, corporate structure...)
13) Understanding of the gravity of the responsibility that governments have in creating systems that optimize outcomes for all residents and the environment within their jurisdiction
14) Observations of the danger of reactionary reform, which does not often allow the kind of high-level architecture that is easier under precautionary reform due to highly pressurized and political situations
What a useful 3 months! Can't wait to see you all!