Forest Service International Programs hosts 12 annual international seminars on topics like protected area management, forest landscape restoration, and sustainable tourism. These seminars bring together practitioners from around the world who are tackling shared natural resource management challenges, and they provide a forum for these experts to exchange ideas and learn from one another. Seminars incorporate site visits and panel discussions that are grounded in core themes such as strengthening partnerships among diverse stakeholders and empowering women. All seminars conclude with participants developing action plans that incorporate what they have learned into their work at home.
IP's seminars have pioneered innovative ways to foster connections and create global learning communities in a virtual environment. They are adapting to a changing landscape during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and are looking to a future that will blend in-person and virtual communities of practice.
Hundreds of natural resource practitioners from more than 120 countries have participated in one of 12 annual seminars hosted by International Programs and its partners. In August 2021, International Programs launched the Interactive Seminars Alumni Map, a tool that connects this expansive alumni community. Through the interactive map, alumni may find and connect with colleagues who work in the same country or region, or professionals who live elsewhere and face similar resource management challenges. To be included on the map, alumni voluntarily share information about their professional affiliations, challenges, and interests. Currently, 180 natural resource professionals are listed. Top interests include climate change, community engagement, protected areas and ecotourism, livelihoods, and watershed management, among others.
For more than 20 years, International Programs has partnered with the University of Montana to host the annual International Seminar on Protected Area Management. The seminar examines strategies and policies to conserve the world's most special places. The team developed "Letting Nature Lead," a self directed learning module that pairs with four live virtual sessions where participants learn about and share their experiences using social-ecological systems approaches to build more adaptive conservation methods. The team also recently partnered with the Missoula Ranger District on the Lolo National Forest on a "virtual site visit" to the Blue Mountain Recreation Area. A "choose your own adventure" style session draws connections between complex protected area decision-making and the outcomes that could arise as a result.
When the Disaster Management Seminar team realized that it would be some time before practitioners would convene again in person, they put their heads together to find new ways of engaging seminar alumni. They came up with ICS in Action, a training module that allows participants to collaborate with others in the field and share their experience -- all virtually from their home country. The ten-module course blends videos from real world incidents and interviews with incident management teams with interactive virtual discussion boards. ICS in Action would not have been possible without the generous support of incident managers on the ground who gave their time to improve the effectiveness of disaster response around the globe.
In February of 2020, International Programs launched the first International Seminar on Community Resilience with the support from partners at the University of Georgia. Held over two weeks in Atlanta, Athens, and Savannah, the seminar brought together disaster management experts from Ethiopia, Jamaica, Nepal, and several other countries around the world. Sessions focused on the role of local level response, and examined social and economic dynamics of disasters along with urban, rural, and coastal settings. Since the seminar, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of community resilience; the lessons learned from the pandemic will shape the seminar well into the future.