IMFN Global Forum 2005: Key findings

From November 7-11, 2005 the International Model Forest Network met for the first time in 6 years under the banner of the IMFN Global Forum on Networks and Networking: Current Practice and Future Directions in the IMFN. Using the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the IMFN Secretariat, more than 130 Model Forest representatives and partners from around the world met at CATIE in Turrialba, Costa Rica to take stock of the Network as it has evolved over the last decade, and to consider where the IMFN should go from here.

In particular, the Global Forum sought Network members insights and opinions on how to strengthen the networking function of the IMFN by:

  1. Bringing together country and site-level representatives of the IMFN to review, assess and discuss issues related to networking at the site, national, regional and international levels
  2. Considering future directions and opportunities for networking at all levels, including strategic and niche opportunities within and among Model Forests, regions, and globally
  3. To identify the specific roles, advantages, limits, mechanisms, and opportunities for effective networking at all levels

Key findings

Much had changed since that last meeting in Halifax: then, the Network counted 18 sites, 10 of which were in Canada. There was no Latin American Centre, no activity in Africa, India, Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica or Indonesia, and no development in Europe. Today, 38 sites are active or under development across 18 countries on five continents. With an aggregate land base of nearly 50-million hectares and 1 000 partner organizations, the Model Forest approach can easily be considered the largest sustainable forest management initiative in the world.

With many good news stories under our belts, the Global Forum also confirmed that much work remains to be done. Some key findings that emerged from the Global Forum include:

  • The IMFN networking assumption is valid: A common approach provides a sufficient base for networking to take place across regions, cultures, and forest types
  • An important global community of practice on sustainable forest management is emerging through the IMFN
  • The Network is substantially different from what it was 3-4 years ago: structures and modes of operation need to be rethought. Support for new sites is key
  • There is a high level of motivation and interest in the Network to work collaboratively on cross-cutting issues
  • More and stronger strategic partnerships need to be pursued
  • Networking should be encouraged on more than a geo-political basis
  • Impact monitoring and evaluation must become consistent and reliable
  • Multiple new opportunities for networking exist: mentoring, joint projects, the circumboreal initiative, bio-fuels, payments for environmental services, university links, long-term research, and engagement of youth

Strategic observations

The Global Forum demonstrated that there is considerable talent and energy across the Network and that members want to be more involved in building the Network and its functions as they evolve. In addition, increased interaction between Model Forests is wanted and needed — strategies must be changed to accommodate this demand. Finally, communications is a substantial and cross-cutting issue that needs to be re-appraised in light of growth and future strategic directions.

The IMFN will develop a strategic plan over the coming months that takes into account:

  • Critical alliances / strategic partnerships
  • Planned and strategic expansion, including at the regional level
  • Financial and human resources (core and support)
  • Visibility and credibility

In moving forward, as in the past, the key point of reference will be the Model Forest sites and their needs.