The main purpose of the Lisbon session was to strengthen the sense of direction and shared values for the Marine CoLAB. There were several opportunities to extend the community by building connections with Portugese marine NGOs. Thursday (23/09) was dedicated to a Marine CoLAB session. On Wednesday (22/09) the participants had the chance to jointly decide on the content, format and desired outcomes of this session, in line with the broader Marine CoLAB goal of communicating the value of the oceans. The participants were invited to think about what they would like to get out of the opportunity both individually and collectively, based on the following questions:

  • How will you build on the work and relationships developed up to now?
  • What would you like to achieve as the Marine CoLAB team?
  • How will you know that you have achieved it?
  • How will you organise yourselves in order to achieve it?
Marine coLAB

Photographs of the Lisbon trip can be found at

See also Louisa Hooper's writing on Lessons Learned from Marine CoLAB #5

A field trip to Portugal could seem as a luxury, but spending time together as a team in a different context can be essential for bringing the group closer together and advancing the vision and specific projects. Being with each other in formal sessions, on the bus and socialising before and after the sessions allowed the participants to get to know each other in a range of situations and hear about different aspects of their work and life.

The first session in the lighthouse of Nazare introduced the participants to the Portugese marine conservation context. It provided time to think about what the participants wanted to achieve as Marine CoLAB in general, as well as specifically discuss what the purpose of the Lab sessions on Thursday would be.

Catarina Grillo welcomed Marine CoLAB and described the context within which the Gulbenkian Oceans initiative (GOI) operates. She talked about the importance of the blue economy, in a country suffering from the economic crisis and decrease of investment, including connecting to European maritime and fisheries funds. GOI is specifically focusing on the value of marine ecosystem services, and connecting social and natural sciences. They work with a range of organisations, some of whom we had a chance to meet. The Portugese marine NGO sector is very small, primarily project-based with a maximum of 20 people employed, the rest driven by volunteers. While it is wonderful to have many volunteers involved, this creates a challenge of continuity in the mid term, without much institutional memory. The small size of the sector also has its benefits: it can be agile, as everyone knows each other (a good example is PONG Pesca).

The sector began with a need to get a seat on the table on the common fisheries policy. Now there is a bigger group of marine biologists who essentially do everything themselves. In the UK, the sector grew exponentially in the last 10-15 years. The main difference is in the growth of the support services (fundraising, communication…), where marine conservationists had to learn to work with other skillsets to make projects happen. Skills and funding in the Portugese marine NGO sector need to be diversified. Funding should not be driving the direction of the sector, there should be more of a feedback-loop between the funding and delivery, in response to real needs. Participation is another challenge the sector is dealing with. There isn’t much environmental awareness and the extent of participation tends to be limited to signing petitions. Non-participation is a cultural problem linked to Portugese dictatorship, which ended only 40 years ago. An encouraging aspect of Portugal is that the oceans is seen as a cultural value, it is embedded in cultural traditions for centuries. This means that there is a lot of media attention for fisheries and other marine services related issues.

Context and Background Information for the Lisbon Marine CoLAB

During the field trip to Peniche, the participants had a chance to meet four partner organisations of the Gulbenkian Oceans Initiative and hear the stories of their current projects:

SPEA: Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves

WWF Portugal

Research project on the economics of marine ecosystem services lead by the Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM) and NOVA School of Business and Economics (NOVA SBE)

From the visit to Lisbon's Oceanario

Marine CoLAB reflections after the field trip:

  • Good to exchange with Portugese NGOs in their 'native environment'.
  • Disconnect: realisation that even though the Portugese sector is small, it is still quite disconnected. The participants emphasized the value of exchange and connection between the NGOs, between the fishermen and the communities, as well as connecting marine conservation with other sectors. There is a perceived disconnect in values, which is unsustainable in the long run. For example fishermen don’t express the value of the place; they feel threatened by NGOs, which might distort the collected data.
  • Realisation that a more holistic values based approach might help to bring marine issues closer to people who don’t understand or don’t care.
  • Challenges in the Portugese and UK sector are similar. Marine CoLAB could offer mentoring to the Portugese sector, in order to encourage leapfrogging.

Co-creating the agenda:

(larger image can be found here)

From the brainstorming about what the participants wanted to achieve in Lisbon, we distilled the following objectives for the Lisbon LAB sessions:

1. Direction: Clarify the mission and vision of Marine CoLAB

  • Design a sketch for a mission statement: See notes here

2. Incubator for (short-term) experiments/initiatives

  • Create a project pipeline (existing experiments, projects by participants’ organisations relevant to Marine CoLAB
  • Have a detailed project planning session for the Plastics experiment

3. Melting pot: look at Marine CoLAB as a long term collaboration (platform, network, think tank…)

  • Discuss the value of Marine CoLAB beyond individual projects (opportunities, governance, networks, capacities, etc.)

The LAB sessions should include conversations about “the Big Picture” (values, common direction, “glue”, gaps, “big ideas” etc.), as well as hone down on practicalities, such as roles and commitments, next steps and how to create time and space for Marine CoLAB for the participants who are already overcommitted…

Co-creating the mission statement:

(larger image can be found here, notes collated by Giles here )


09:30 - 10:30 Check-in; reflection on field-trip, agenda design

10:30 - 11:30 Incubator project pipeline (existing and individual projects). Outcome: list of projects, decision: continue, postpone, abandon.

11:30 - 12:45 Plastics experiment: plan, roles and responsibilities, implications for lab. Outcome: Plastics plan

12:45 - 13:30 Lunch

13:30 - 14:10 Movie screening on Community Voices Method (Sue Ranger), discussion

14:10 - 15:00 Melting pot: reflections on the connections between mission and projects; Marine CoLAB MO (non-project specific); Outcome: agreement on refined vision

15:00 - 15:45 Next steps, action points and agenda for November

15:45 - 16:25 Finalising plastics plan (added after lunch)

16:25 - 16:30 Check out, final reflections and thank yous

  • Plastics experiment → most developed experiment so far
    • discussed in detail during later sessions. See notes in the next section below
  • Transparency of Marine Industries → potential as longer term project
    • possibly linking plastics & transparency
    • use transparency mapping / data collection as a tool/concept to help improve a project
    • toward keeping corporate entities responsible for behaviour (embargo, legal, consumer, etc+)
    • monitoring & exposing bad practice
    • how do we communicate about the environment?
    • from issue centric to a values based approach
    • in developing trade off analysis → lacking sufficient data, market centred, benefits often not apparent in market terms
    • exploration of shared values, what values are in common across different stakeholders, avoid focusing on conflicting values / issues
    • communication → from issue centric to values based)
    • 'community voice method' a practical values based approach.
  • Game On! → potential as a longer term project
    • would be great to develop, seems like a good time to work on it
    • needs bigger team, perhaps focus by using transparency initiative, or issues around plastics
    • could provide an opportunity to test 'values based' approach to exploring an issue
    • pilot project to bring together a group of kids/developers/communication/NGOs to explore an issue by creating simple games, game/issue hackathons in schools/ZSL/etc, regular prize (e.g. ZSL, mozilla, shuttleworth)
    • e.g. ZSL anti poaching add-on to minecraft, angry birds pangolin.
  • Marine safe (NEF)
  • Blue new deal (NEF)
  • Coastal partnership network
  • River academy (Thames estuary)
  • Community voice method (MCS)
  • Beach watch / Fishonline (MCS)
  • project ocean (ZSL)
  • Ocean optimism (ZSL)
  • Sustainable seafood coalition (client earth)
  • Stopping fishing in protected sites (client earth)
  • Emerging issues in the marine environment (F4F)
  • Scanning network - areas of high change potential ( )
  • Diverting & accessing EU funds

(larger image can be found here)

Plastics experiment

Plastic is an extremely useful material. It is light, cheap to produce and very durable, but these strengths are also its weaknesses, particularly when it ends up in the sea. Plastic pollution is recognised as one of the most significant and growing threats to ocean health. Eight to 13 million tonnes of plastic go into the ocean every year and by 2050 it is estimated humanity will have produced 33 billion tonnes of which 10-15% will be in the ocean. The problem is pervasive, with every part of the ocean now affected, negatively impacting people, the environment and the economy.

A variety of solutions are emerging, but the issues are complex and a systemic approach is needed targeting values, behaviour, design, policies and systems in/for industry, government and the general public to create significant, lasting change. Though one of the easier forms of pollution to deal with, plastic bottles remain a highly visible component of marine litter and in a country like the UK, with safe water in our taps, the one-off use of plastic for drinking water seems particularly egregious.

Our goal is develop, implement and assess the impact of an innovative London-wide campaign to make London single-use-plastic-water-bottle free, seeking change through a holistic and multi-targeted approach. Using the simple symbol of a plastic water bottle, we aim to connect people to the ocean and change their perceptions, values and behaviour, reducing the number of plastic bottles entering the ocean. Through systems-mapping and analysis, we aim to identify and tackle areas that require priority action to change. We will coordinate and catalyse existing disparate efforts to generate a ground swell of change, focused around plastic bottle pollution in the ocean.

We will tackle local mechanisms to reduce plastic pollution entering the ocean from London that can be replicated globally. Our approaches aim to catalyse transformational changes in the way oceans are perceived resulting in a more socially and environmentally sustainable society. We tackle this as a collaboration of 9 NGOs working closely with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The project team has relevant expertise and networks and is focused on a solution-based approach. This complex and big idea has an experimental element with risks involved, but we believe we can catalyse broad-scale change.

(larger image can be found here)

A campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles in London would create a strong iconic focus and clear agency for individual/organisational action, giving traction to the issue, complementing the existing initiatives and organisations working in the marine litter space, and promoting innovation. This will take a complex global issue and make it local and personal, engaging people’s imagination and thought processes on the bigger issue of single use and the marine environment.

Marine plastic pollution is a global problem needing locally appropriate solutions. Innovation is increasingly happening at a city level and is often competitive. This project enables London to lead on what could be replicated in cities worldwide and build on its global position in business, media, innovation, design, culture and sport. At the heart of London lies the iconic, tidal river Thames – an actual, historical and metaphorical connector of the city to the sea. This means we have an opportunity to connect plastic litter on London streets to an ocean issue – in one of the world’s leading cities. Current uncoordinated systems are ripe for change and maximising economies of scale e.g. 26 London Boroughs each has their own waste management and collection systems.

The concept emerged from a series of Marine CoLABoration discussions exploring the critical issues facing the ocean, levers for change, and how/where LAB members should focus their expertise and networks to deliver step-change, with outcomes beyond the reach of any one organisation. The concept was initially tested with experts at the Economist World Ocean Summit and the Plasticity Forum in June 2015, and explored with an expert panel and audience at Selfridges department store in London during its Project Ocean events, which this year focused on marine plastics. LAB members worked closely with Selfridges who removed single-use plastic water bottles for the Project Ocean launch in July 2015, attracting significant media attention.

For more information see "A sea change" document collated by Heather.

(larger image can be found here)

Action points with specific deadlines:

  • Monday, 28th September: Submit plastics funding application to Oak. Heather to co-ordinate, All to contribute: how do you want to be involved, what time and budget do you need? Heather will upload an editable document to google docs, all are welcome to comment and edit.
  • Next week: Find a new date for the November meeting. Louisa to setup a doodle poll, all to respond ASAP
  • Next week: Make Vox pops on the value of Marine CoLAB for the participants, to be used in the trustee meeting in three weeks. Mirella to send questions and instructions for recording of videos. All to record their own video, send to Sue who will put the movie together (something along the lines of the CVM video)
  • In two weeks: Marine CoLAB mission statement drafted. Giles to initiate, send first draft to, all to comment and/or edit. Has to be finished before the trustee meeting in three weeks. Giles' notes can be found here

Action points before the next meeting:

  • Map Marine CoLAB Networks. All to send to marine-colab @ a list of organisations and individuals in your network and their relevance to marine CoLAB. Louisa to co-ordinate and collate in a spreadsheet (in two columns: networks | relevance)
  • Value-based approach: Sue to prepare a session for November
  • Games: Collect views and knowledge on games. All to send what they think and know to Sandy to collate.
  • Projects: Send 1 pagers on projects by participants to Aniol to collate. Each description should include answers to the following questions:
    • What is the project (elevator pitch)?
    • Why is it relevant to Marine CoLAB (what can it offer)?
    • What does it need from Marine CoLAB?
  • Research into global collaboration platforms. Giles to share, all to test.
  • The Future of Marine CoLAB: Think about what you would like to happen (LAB sessions, working groups, projects, network, etc. , what resources might be needed, etc.
  • Decide on dinner speaker(s): Louisa to co-ordinate.

Towards an agenda for the next workshop

  • “Lenses” / Principles and how can they be applied across projects
    • Transparency (and other ways of holding companies accountable)
    • Values based approach (Sue)
  • Incubator / project pipeline:
    • Game on: how to proceed (Sandy)
    • Plastics work session (Heather)
    • Review collected project ideas (Aniol)
  • Future of Marine CoLAB (for 2016 and beyond).
    • This information is needed to allocate funds from the gulbenkian budget in 2016 - They need to know what will happen with marine CoLAB, how it will develop, what LAB sessions might happen, what resources are needed etc. Louisa to structure the session.
  • Dinner speaker(s) (e.g. SIX?)

Reflection on the Lisbon trip

  • The participants are grateful for the whole experience, which they feel has brought them further quicker than in one-day workshops and has forged stronger bonds between the participants.
  • Informal socialising and time to have in-depth conversations is much appreciated. The time on the bus allowed the participants to talk to each other at length outside of the formal sessions. Breakfasts, dinners, taxi rides, walks between places had a similar effect of social exchange and bonding.
  • Being outside by the ocean that everyone cares about has provided a boost of energy and an emotional connection to what marine CoLAB is really about.
  • Having LAB sessions in different environments (e.g. the lighthouse fortress) helps with reframing and distilling what’s important
  • The value of different types of shared experience (e.g. Oceanario, the underwater forest exhibition) allows the participants to reflect on their own practice and Marine CoLAB as a whole. It reminded the participants how important it can be to be patient.
  • Vali Lalioti's reflection on The Perfect Storm


  • marine_colab/workshop_20150923.txt
  • Last modified: 2016-12-13 18:05
  • by nik