Out of my Comfort Zone

by Julie Ranivo, Madagascar, ELP 2014
Written on July 21, 2014.

The Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) at the University of California, Berkeley is an outstanding leadership program as it is specialized in environment and designed for the mid-career scientist. The program provides interdisciplinary knowledge and insights in handling multi-stakeholder processes, which are the main issue of my work. It also gives me an opportunity to dialogue and exchange ideas with various nationalities involved in my areas of expertise.

Its focus and scope of interest are therefore in the very heart of my challenges here in Madagascar. As we know Madagascar has a unique and endemic biodiversity, but this biodiversity is under serious threats. For example, for the last five years, Madagascar faced an unprecedented illegal lodging of precious woods, mostly rosewoods. It was unprecedented because it was operated by an international network. It had never happened in such a large scale.

As a member of the national committee, comité de pilotage, in charge of this huge devastation, I saw how difficult it is to work in such complex, and sometimes frightening, areas. Workshops in the ELP gave me the knowledge, the mindsets and also the international support group I needed to face my challenges.

More than this very precise issue of rosewoods trafficking, I also had some fresh approaches in regards to my daily work as a grant officer. Indeed, I see most of the time that to get results on my work, I need to step out of my usual comfort zone, which is science. Issues on the fields are less precise, more difficult to handle and less rational. The ELP gave me some understanding and skills that will enhance my abilities to operate in a more “real world”.

The Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program enhances my expertise, knowledge and insight to achieve something sustainable in my work. And as I use those back in Madagascar, I think it will provide more efficient results in my projects in Madagascar. One of the areas where the program will really help me will be that which are related to the mobilization of local villagers. As Grant Officer of the Foundation, I see this mobilization as a key to enhancing the results of our funding.