Fish seem to be everywhere in Livingston, Guatemala, thanks to the efforts of local organizations like the Foundation for Eco-Development and Conservation (FUNDAECO), who are helping fishing communities sustainably manage their natural resources and livelihoods.
At the FUNDAECO office, bags of fish specimen were being collected for research. The FUNDAECO environmental education staff and I were planning to meet with local fishing groups and visit a fishing project on the Sarstun River, and of course, we had fish for lunch.
My counterparts, Guillermo Galves and Christopher Avalos, and I reviewed the agenda for our meeting with the fishermen’s committee. They wanted to assess the committee’s leadership capacity and overall motivation to inform what type of support they might need. I recommended the Systems Game exercise, and we rehearsed how we would introduce it to the group.
The Systems Game is a dynamic process in which every movement made by individuals triggers movement throughout the whole system. It exemplifies how easily and quickly a system can break down as well as self-organize and adapt to changing circumstances.
When Guillermo presented the exercise, the participants were shy at first and some did not understand what they had been asked to do. We encouraged them, and soon smiles began to emerge and laughter was heard as they walked in a circle or “system.” Guillermo clarified the instructions about the movement signals, and they carried on.
What followed was a rich reflection among the committee members on communication and participation. One participant was very vocal about how to follow the instructions and the importance of taking the activity seriously. The treasurer felt the need to organize but was unclear about how to make this happen. Others needed to talk to each other in order to understand the experience. As a group, they articulated their need for leadership at the moment and within their committee.
Although this first implementation of the activity may not have been perfect, it achieved its dual purpose—creating a supportive learning environment for the facilitator to put new methods into practice and facilitating meaningful dialogue about the committee’s organizational needs.
We look forward to working with FUNDAECO to strengthen local leaders and organizations like the fisherman’s committee so they can effectively manage their fish population and water resources and sustain their livelihoods.
Adriana Guzman, ArtCorps’ Creative Facilitator, is based in Punta Gorda, Belize.
This project is made possible thanks to generous support from the New England Biolabs Foundation.