of Palau starts Community Visioning Initiative
with impending changes brought by a new road, the small Pacific
Island nation of Palau is gearing up with a new Community Visioning
Initiative. Palau, a nation of only 20,000 people, is steeped
in tradition. Communities play an integral role in the use of
land and resources, and both elected and traditional leaders have
governance. The National Government is also very strong, leading
to conflicts between National level and local-level community
an effort to bridge the gaps created by National level and Community
level discrepancies, while at the same time laying the foundation
for sustainable land use planning, a local non-governmental organization
entitled the Palau Conservation Society (PCS) has instituted a
program called "Community Visioning."
Visioning, put simply, is the identification of a communities'
needs, the creation of a Vision Statement that is agreed upon
by all stakeholders, and the subsequent creation and implementation
of a Strategic Plan that meets the needs while maintaining the
goals of the Vision Statement. Having been used successfully in
places such as Molokai, Hawaii, PCS and the local communities
are hoping that it will work in Palau. The lessons from Molokai
are very transferable, given the similar environments and cultures
of the two places. In addition, Palau is the ideal location for
Community Visioning. Ms. Stacey Crivello, the facilitator for
Palau's National Workshop on Community Visioning with experience
in Molokai noted, "You folks have so much to be thankful for.
You still have your beautiful environment, your culture, and your
is not the first time that Visioning has been implemented in Palau.
In 2001 there was an effort to start visioning, but it was a government-centered
try. There were few community individuals involved, and the efforts
lost momentum. A new loop road on Palau's big island of Palau
connecting previously inaccessible parts of the island has raised
the need for visioning once again. The 2004 effort, however, is
targeted at communities, who will take ownership of the project.
National level recognition of community desires and plans is also
of the major activities of the new initiative was a Training Workshop
held in August 2004. During the workshop, 19 state representatives
from 12 of Palau's 16 states were trained in Community Visioning.
They learned how to engage a community and to bring stakeholders
together to discuss both the good and the bad things in their
community. They were schooled in the methods of creating a Vision
Statement, doing a community assessment, and in the basics of
strategic planning. It is these Community Visioning State Representatives
(CVSRs) who will carry the Community Visioning momentum forward.
As one state representative commented: "I think we all agree that
this is very important for the future of Palau." After the training,
CVSRs returned to his or her states and began discussions on shared
two states, CVSRs and PCS are working together to create photo
murals that will be used to graphically illustrate the values
and challenges of each state. Disposable cameras were distributed
to 70% of the households in each state, and participants were
asked to take pictures of those things in their community that
they value or like, and those things that need to be changed.
The photos from each household were then assembled, and common
themes were included on the photo mural, which is built upon a
large standing wooden board. For instance, photographs from the
state of Ngaremlengui show a common value for local taro patches,
and a common desire to remove trash along the shoreline. Once
completed, the photo murals will be presented to each community,
as a quick way of identifying common likes and dislikes. Using
this as a basis, the CVSRs can then work towards the creation
of a Vision Statement.
far attitudes towards Community Visioning have been extremely
positive. Although one of the ultimate goals of the process is
to result in sustainable land use planning, the project is not
viewed with the skepticism often afforded traditional land use
planning efforts. The current initiative is viewed as community-led
and community-oriented, and thus success is a definite potential.
Palau Conservation Society, September 2004