Normas Técnicas de Certificación de Playas Turísticas

Normas Técnicas de Certificación de Playas Turísticas, Coastal Ecuador This project is complementary to POP and is the second part of an overall program that aims to certify Ecuador´s tourist beaches. In 2006, a project was undertaken to research and develop Ecuador´s own norms, policies and certification process for beaches with the aim of improving quality, increasing tourism and working towards sustainable use of natural resources. The second step, and this project in particular, was to promote the norms and certification process, develop an incentive program and initiate the certification process with four pilot beaches.My team was involved in promoting the regulations and then later in the pilot process. At first we were asked to develop and implement 10 workshops that would inform audiences about the program and present the Technical Norms and Certification Process.With only a 2 hour time frame available for each workshop, we had a difficult task ahead of us. I think that one of our downfalls was that we all looked so young (and we were!) and our audiences were quite mature. I think that you can get beyond this but it can be quite intimidating and i’m pretty sure that many participants thought: who are these students? I think that public speaking training should have been a must for all of us.Something that worked really well was the activities that we designed using the Norms Manual. We asked groups to spend time reading individually and then discussing and answering questions. We also got them to simulate some of the activities that they would have to undertake for certification, which gave the activity a real hands on feel. For the most part this worked well. I think that we just needed to learn from the details…for instance, i think that allowing the groups to work on their own, following instructions was actually quite productive (The question for me is how to avoid having groups read ahead and not give the amount of time necessary to the activity and eventually we put the sub-activities on different pieces of paper, which seemed to be best). I think our challenges came from room structure, space and tables (this happens when the person reserving the room has nothing to do with the development of workshop activities) as well as getting the groups right (should they all be from the same area or should they be mixed).One of the unfortunate mishaps was due to not identifying potential conflicts during the workshops. We had quite a heated discussion with one group about why they were not chosen for the pilot project. They were the only province not included and we had no idea how the decision was made.Subsequently we were asked to develop the capacity building program and initiate the certification process with the 4 pilot beaches. It was really unfortunate that we found this out after doing the promotional workshops. Having kept these activities separate (and not seeing the big picture from the beginning) resulted in lost time. In particular, we found that audiences that went to the promotional workshop were totally different from the first pilot workshops. This meant that we lost time repeating basically the same information all over again.It would have really helped to have seen the big picture from the beginning. Also, there seemed to have been a problem with resources. We were given Manuals to hand out during the promotional workshops but only a limited amount, so by the time we got to the pilot beaches, with totally new audiences, we ran out. I think that we were asked to make photocopies. It is so necessary to know what resources are available before hand.So one of my greatest questions is how can we get groups to be regulars. The pilot process was going to be really difficult if they can’t keep a constant group going. After all the content of the regulations is high level. They were written in legal jargon, totally inadequate for groups with little formal education.The other risks to the workshop were the fact that the they were short. I tried so hard to get support for longer workshops, however, the problem also comes from the community members themselves. With little formal schooling, they aren’t used to sitting and processing information during long periods of time. The longer workshops were necessary only because the client had unreasonable expectations of being able to certify a few of the pilot groups after the 6 workshops. We realized relatively early on that this would be impossible. Beaches were so far from reaching even the first level of certification (there are 3) which requires them form a transdiciplinary committee, create a waste management system along with some minimal investments in infrastructure.Getting groups to work together productively and organize themselves was a project in itself. So we were stuck trying to figure to what point we could actually get to with 6 workshops. We decided to be flexible and develop the details after meeting with each pilot beach for the first time. After all, with 4 different contexts, how could we expect all of them to reach the same goals.One of the outcomes of the project was a manual to help other beaches certify themselves. We wanted to put as much of the pilot process as we could into the manual. Although we were all anxious to create the committee within the first few workshops, we realized that it was better to finalize this at the end of the 6 meetings, when we saw who was serious and who wasn’t. All too often, group directors are voted in but they have little interest or time to make it work. Getting people hooked, motivated, serious and working was really the most difficult task.There seems to be one true obstacle when it comes to working with communities and different groups in Ecuador and that is getting them to work. They spend most of their time complaining about the fact that certain key representatives are missing and never get beyond this. And when they are there, there is a lot of disrespect (…hmmm, i wonder why they don’t come). So i think we need to work with smaller groups and then grow them. Be less ambitious. One of the rules of the certification process is that the commitee must be transdisciplinary, and i agree for the most part…but this is so difficult in practice that it could result in the certification never happening.Beach Zoning RegulationsThis was another complementary project that asked for some advice when they came to the workshop part of their project. There goal was to suggest zoning regulations for 17 tourist beaches along the entire ecuadorian coast. Zoning was very controversial due to the conflicting interests of different stakeholder groups. I was asked whether or not i would hold a workshop with all groups or separately to determine participatively how the zoning should take place. So i asked myself what is the ideal situation….2-3 workshops in every beach with all stakeholder groups. Since this was not possible, we had to find some alternatives and then we had to worry about how we were going to get the majority to agree.I think that it is important to realize that someone is going to walk away upset. Someone has to lose in this situation. So the best thing that can be done is to offer this person or group support and viable alternatives. Another trick i learned at university was to get people thinking about the future and not the past. Perhaps we could have worked like this: get each group to identify where they are now, why they are there and not somewhere else, and what they need to achieve their goals (characteristics of the area). Then what impacts they have on different groups and alternative areas to undertake their work. The question how do we present this so that we start to see complements and conflicts. The complementary zoning could be considered as part of the final zoning plan and the conflicts will have to be heard and voted on.Another option would be get groups to draw their ideal zoning situation including themselves and all other groups. I wonder if they are going to be taking into account environmental fragility when they do the final zoning: cause for more conflict.Another option would be to work with stakeholders on making their own zoning decisions. Deciding what is important to the area and creating their own decision making framework.  

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