Looking for the good

I’ve been a little overwhelmed over the year, as I’m sure many have, with the sheer amount of news (mostly negative) that is avalanching over us all the time. I think we are constantly in fight or flight mode and it’s exhausting!

In the latest edition of the very good Galah magazine, editor Annabelle Hickson talks about her husband listening to positive podcasts while planting on his tractor, and the feeling of being buoyed by hope. She’s planting flowers that aren’t drought tolerant, but doesn’t care, because it’s enough to enjoy them now. Even though times change, and we don’t all experience good things at the same time, it’s not bad to look for things in the world to be hopeful about.

This inspired me (thanks Annabelle) and at the end of the year I’m tired of the dire news and have been actively looking for more positive stories and things to be hopeful about – and there is some good inspiration out there.

I’ve made a short list of what I’ve found today and I hope they provide some bright spots for you.

Can I finish with this quote which was shared by @extraordinary_routines on Instagram. It is most excellent.

Who doesn’t love a good cartoon?

Cartoon from: https://freshspectrum.com/

Every week I receive an email newsletter from Chris Lysy who authors a blog called freshspectrum. He’s focused on evaluation and demystifying the data analysis and presentation process. A key way he communicates ideas is through cartoons and sometimes the insights he shares are very close to the mark of what I’ve experienced and I have to laugh!

Chris also shares some good basic ‘how to’ resources on the blog such as:

So I thought I would share a couple of my favourites as we all need more reasons to have a chuckle these days. And check out the blog if you have a few spare minutes.

Are we missing the gendered perspective in evaluation?

Image source – https://invisiblefarmer.net.au/blog/2017/4/28/sallie-jones-of-gippsland-jersey-west-gippsland

I’ve just passed an important milestone in my PhD journey. Last week I was confirmed as a UQ PhD candidate at the School of Communication and Arts. An excellent reason to crack open a bottle of wine and grab some quality Thai takeaway with the family. I was actually quite surprised at the level of relief I felt once this milestone was officially achieved, even though I was sure I would be fine.

My PhD is focusing on how Australian farming women are using social media to communicate about climate change and examining broader impacts of this online engagement (such as the development of social capital). I’ve called it, The untold story of Australian farming women, social media and climate change. There is not a lot out there (almost nothing) looking at these three things together, hence the merit of my PhD!

As part of my confirmation presentation, I included my evaluation experiences and how the vast majority of producers we talk to about their project/program involvement are men. This is not to cast judgment one way or the other, it’s just how it is. And it really started me thinking about what we are potentially missing by not overtly including the perspectives of farming women in our evaluations.

Many of the projects we have been/are involved in are focused on farming practices, strategies and tools to help improve environmental outcomes and or cope with a changing climate. Research1 shows men and women are impacted in different ways and have different adaptation strategies to deal with climate change. So why aren’t we looking more closely at how these projects/programs are impacting farming women? And why don’t more project/program designs take the perspectives of farming women into account? I believe this is an important aspect that is being lost, particularly given how much climate change issues impact men and women differently.

This should be an important issue for funders of projects/programs working in the climate change and climate resilience space and other areas – from the design stage to the delivery and evaluation process. We can’t keep ignoring the very essential contribution of women to the farm, particularly as climate related extremes and issues will only continue to escalate across Australia. I also don’t think this issue is limited to climate change related programs either. I think it’s across the spectrum of rural industries.

The invisible farmer’ project was ‘the largest ever study of Australian women on the land’, involved a wide range of partners and supporters and ran from 2017 to 2020. It aimed to make visible the significance of the active contributions of women to Australia’s primary production industries through research and story telling. It’s well worth taking look at this website as I think it provides a very good picture of Australian farming women and an understanding of where I’m coming from.  

It’s an area I’m very interested in and I’ll share further thoughts as I progress my thinking. If you have any ideas or thoughts about this subject or you can direct me to projects/evaluations that are including a gendered approach, I would love to hear from you (amy@couttsjr.com.au).

References

1 Anderson, D 2012, ‘Climate Lived and Contested: Narratives of Mallee Women, Drought and Climate Change’, Hecate, vol. 38, no. 1, pp 24-41.

Alston, M 2014, ‘Gender mainstreaming and climate change’, Women’s Studies International Forum,  vol. 47, Part B, pp.287–294.

Alston, M & Whittenbury, K 2012, ‘Does climatic crisis in Australia’s food bowl create a basis for change in agricultural gender relations?’, Agriculture and Human Values, vol.30, no.1, p. 115-128.

Are you proving the value of your comms program?

Many rural, NRM and agricultural organisations invest sometimes significant amounts on communication programs which we all agree can play a vital role in growing next and end user knowledge, awareness and understanding. Why then are these clearly important activities not always measured as rigorously as the research and adoption and extension programs, with communication outcomes clearly linked to and measured against higher level organisational objectives?

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