Sustainable Oceans Lab
Fostering multi-stakeholder initiatives on ocean governance
Oceans cover 71% of our planet’s surface. They are critical for global food security, for sustaining economic prosperity, and for the well-being of humankind. Oceans are our natural life-support system; and our development opportunities and those of future generations depend on the sustained wealth of the world’s natural ocean capital. The present degradation of the marine environment and loss of ocean biodiversity is however jeopardizing the services and products that oceans provide.
Our current technical and policy approaches have reached their limits, and we have failed to institutionalize effective and sustainable governance mechanisms for our oceans. One of the biggest challenges in this regard is the diverse and often opposing interests of the various stakeholders from government, the private sector, local communities, and the civil society.
Dates and Locations
“The Lab has opened my eyes to take a different approach, doing things differently, and I will be thinking about all the diversity that we brought to the table with the Sustainable Oceans Lab. Without that I would not have my eyes open as much as they are. Right now I feel like I‘m a born-again in a way, I have new ideas, new thoughts.”
Billy Causey, Southeast Regional Director of NOAA’s National Office for Marine Sanctuaries, USA
Participants came from government, business and civil society (43 % women, 57 % men). They were representatives of individual organizations (e.g. World Ocean Council, Shell, UNEP, Future of Fish) as well as teams from initiatives who have successfully catalyzed cross sectoral strategies in their own geographies like the Benguela Current Commission, the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Protected Area Network (F-LMMA), The Kanan Kay Alliance, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) and the Sargasso Sea Commission.
Bermuda, Côte d'Ivoire, Fiji, Kenya, Kiribati, Madagascar, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States
The Sustainable Oceans Lab gathered 31 leaders and change agents from government, business, and civil society from five continents and 15 countries (43 % women, 57 % men). The Lab Team consisted of representatives from individual organizations (e.g. World Ocean Council, Shell, UNEP, Future of Fish) as well as teams from initiatives who have successfully catalyzed cross sectoral strategies in their own geographies like the Benguela Current Commission, the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Protected Area Network (F-LMMA), the Kanan Kay Alliance, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), and the Sargasso Sea Commission.
The Sustainable Oceans Lab represents a new approach to the challenge of ensuring our marine ecosystems are sustainable. The Lab is built on the idea that just as scientific and technical labs address our scientific and technical challenges; social labs are needed to address our socioeconomic and political challenges. This year-long leadership and innovation lab provided a space for exploring new perspectives and co-creating new approaches to multistakeholder engagement in the governance of ocean spaces. To learn from local contexts, the lab conducted meetings on marine biodiversity on Vilm Island (Germany), fishing cooperatives in Punta Allen (Mexico), and marine protected areas on Robben Island (South Africa).
The Lab offered an approach of disciplined experimentation to innovate across stakeholder groups. Working in teams, participants steadily shaped change interventions that they committed to pursue during the Lab. Each participant and initiative decided what the most pressing issues are for them, and worked towards a respective outcome. Coaching between the Lab meetings supported the transfer of new insights into the home context of participants, and the implementation of change interventions.
Through this process the Lab delivered on three objectives: Firstly, to develop capacity to effectively lead complex change initiatives and bring diverse interests of the oceans system into dialogue; secondly, to critically examine existing strategies and initiatives, seeking to build on and improve them; and thirdly, to develop new solutions to collaboratively address oceans management.
Many insights from the Lab culminated in a public event on Integrated Oceans Management (IOM) in Cape Town, bringing together around 100 people from Southern Africa.
The Global Leadership Academy's objective is to enable change on a personal, organisational, and systemic level. The Sustainable Oceans Lab takes an emergent approach to change – it doesn't formulate the objectives for change initiatives, instead, the Lab provides an enabling space where new ideas can be sparked, networks created and paths to change tried and tested.
The Founding Partners of the Sustainable Oceans Lab were the Global Leadership Academy, Reos Partners, and Blue Solutions. The Lab continues up to date and is now hosted by Reos Partners who work in partnership with others to design and deliver collaborative, systemic, and experimental approaches in order to advance sustainable oceans. For more information on the recent activities see Covid 19 and the Future of Ocean Sustainability and check here.
Prototypes developed in the Sustainable Oceans Lab
The Kadavu prototype
The group prototyped approaches to community resilience in island communities. In this regard, the prototyping team has focused on Kadavu in Fiji which includes about 70 villages, and narrowed the focus down to two priorities: Sustainable livelihoods and renewable energy.
The Sargasso Sea and Fiji Prototype
The prototype of this group was to develop a process to involve industries in the assessment of industry impacts in ecologically sensitive marine areas and in respective mitigation measures to limit the negative impact.
The Kanan Kay Alliance and Future of Fish Prototype
Kanan Kay Alliance and Future of Fish are working together to address the challenge of how to strengthen and model multi-stakeholder initiatives around complex small-scale fisheries management. The prototype is looking at whether the Kanan Kay Alliance could be a model for other multistakeholder alliances looking at community based oceans management and how lessons learnt might apply to other initiatives.
The Integrated Oceans Management (IOM) practitioners group
The focus of this prototype was to set up an IOM Practitioner group with the aim to support development and implementation of national IOM in international and regional contexts. A first output of this practitioners group was a discussion paper on the challenges of multi-stakeholder engagement in IOM.
“I’m personally really grateful to be part of this initiative. I think the Sustainable Oceans Lab convenes an amazing, extremely diverse group of people from all over the world and it is been an opportunity to really sit back and reflect on your voice and your purpose, the purpose that brings us here, brings me here, but also to learn to listen to others perspectives and take that home as a practice that is the basis for multistakeholder engagement.”
Mariana Vélez – Alliances Coordinator Yucatan Peninsula, The Nature Conservancy, Mexico
We implement all our programmes in cooperation with our internationally renowned partners with whom we share our passion for dialogue and change and our commitment to high quality standards.