Get all standpoints out in the open

A lively conversation about living with wild animals

Conflicts, fears, wishes, interests; they all come along when we talk about the (im)possibility of living with (certain) wild animals. And when we think it is possible, the question is what is the most desirable way according to the specific circumstances? Everyone has a say in their own interest and based on their own particular vision. And the wild animals? They do not care. They just walk the way they do and pass through. So, what next?

How to live together with wild animals and how to deal with current conflicts between humans and wild animals aren’t dull debates, but lively conversations. Each person has his/her own vision, based on particular experiences, specific expertise, or made up through stories of others. Also the animals themselves tell their own stories in one way or another. Do we take them into account in our vision and decision making? That is another story.

All these different visions and stories are a decent beginning to start a conversation: ‘What is the current situation and what do we know?’, ‘How do we – want to – proceed?’, ‘How do we tackle this complex social ‘problem’?’, ‘What is actually ‘the’ problem?’ These are all open questions that can give rise to start a genuine conversation with each other. And, these questions can also guide such a conversation.

I facilitate this type of conversation or debate.

When all standpoints are out in the open, including each other’s wishes, expectations, bottlenecks, uncertainties and question marks, it often turns out that there are more similarities than could have been imagined beforehand.

During such a joint conversation I challenge you to think outside your comfort zone. In other words, you will be challenged to broaden your mind: Having a look at the stated problems through the eyes of another. Equally, you will be challenged to actively examine common interests for humans and wild animals in your region. I facilitate this process by providing examples from existing (inter)national practices as an inspiration. By contributing to such a mutual process you will be able to obtain another set of strategies which you could not have identified by yourself.

Would this type of conversation or debate contribute to your exploration for solutions how to learn to live with (certain) wild animals? If so, please contact me to see which set-up fits best.

What do others say about this workshop?

“Susan facilitated the session “Dealing with human-animal conflicts” in an interactive way. Participants were allowed to write their opinions on post-its and these were discussed together in the group under her guidance. There was an open atmosphere and the participants listened well to each other. The goal of the symposium was achieved, partly thanks to her!”

Elze Polman
Organiser Muskrats Symposium of the Union of Water Boards – Mammalian Society

“Susan provided a refreshing view at living with wild animals during the muskrat symposium. Susan managed to steer the conversation in such a way that people look at the issue with a different perspective. What would the muskrat want? By taking note of the muskrat’s wishes, can we organize the country in such a way that we can live with each other? Approaching the problem in this way results in a surprising follow-up question: can the solution be found in adjusting our own behaviour by living in houseboats in the cases of flooding due to the digging by muskrats? Perhaps a somewhat drastic solution, but one that forces you to include the muskrat’s perspective in the considerations that are made by controlling them.

Nice and informative to work with Susan!”

Femmie Smit
Participant – Program Manager in wildlife Animal Protection

“Susan has made a significant contribution to the research process of the documentary ALFA by sharing her knowledge of human-animal conflicts with us and reflecting extensively about them. We approached the relationship between humans and wild animals from different angles. We talked about interests and policies, but also about ethical issues and feelings. This ensured that we, as creators, continued to look at the subject of our documentary with an open and critical eye.”

Iris Wijngaarde and Imke Renee Slump
Documentary makers of ALFA

“Susan is critical, a good listener and knows how to ask effectively. She has an eye for details and at the same time keeps an overview. She also thinks along strategically in the process and when things stand out in one way or another, she provides feedback. Above all I experience Susan as friendly, passionate, and very competent on the topic.” 

Severine van Bommel
Associate Professor of Interpretive Environmental Communication – University of Queensland, Australia

Below is a selection of the conversations and debates that I facilitated:

  • Facilitating several sessions on the topic of “Dealing with human-animal conflicts” during the Muskrats Symposium on February 15, 2019, organized by the Union of Water Boards and the Mammalian Society.
  • In conversation with the documentary makers Imke Renee Slump and Iris Wijngaarde during the process of ‘the making of’ ALFA, a documentary about the young hunter Koen, to map the different perceptions around hunting, wildlife, the landscape and other backgrounds. The final documentary became the winner of the CampusDoc international film festival from 15-16 June 2019.
  • Chairing the session “Zoos” on the Environmental Philosophy Day on 22 April 2017 (World Earth Day), organized by the Association for Environmental Philosophy and the Artis Academy (Natura Artis Magistra).
  • Facilitating an evening debate: ‘The wolf back in the Netherlands: Asset or Problem?’, on November 28, 2011, organized together with Stichting RUW and WSBV Sylvatica.

Follow-up offer

Human-Wildlife Masterminds

Do you want to continue the discussion, complement it with an in-depth discussion in the period afterwards. Or, if you want to discuss the broad theme ‘What to do next’ more informally in the period after a conversation or debate or even independent from a discussion: All of this can be done through a series of Mastermind meetings. This is an online trajectory of 5 meetings in which a subject can be chosen in order to get to the core of it. For example, a subject that results from the discussion. The main goal is to exchange ideas, share problems, learn from each other and to gain new ideas in an easily accessible informal way. Inspiration and curiosity about the other person’s experiences and knowledge are therefore the main guiding principles. Within the setting of the Mastermind you are not a spokesperson for an entire organization, and you do not have the professional obligation to solve major problems. At the start of each Mastermind, the shared goal is agreed upon and made specific. Within this process I think along with all participants in the complex world of people and wildlife. I will initiate and facilitate this short process online.