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 Tuesday, June 17, 2008 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Collaboration aids environmental practices in Brazil
by Dana Silva, sophomore, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

This spring Stan Deetz, director of peace and conflict studies and professor of communication, traveled to Brazil to present a keynote address at a conference on sustainability and governance and to work with business leaders on processes of community collaboration. In his two weeks at Bello Horizonte, he worked with a number of groups to develop decision-making practices that would enhance simultaneous social, ecological and economic sustainability.

“The trip was designed to help me learn about how universities, business, NGOs and government are working together in Brazil and to bring to them recent work on communication and collaboration to enhance their efforts," Deetz said. "Ideally, together we can build models that can be helpful in Brazil and be generalized to other national contexts.”

Brazil is emerging as one of the largest economies in the world. In looking for models to adapt to its growing stature, Brazilian leaders do not believe that United States and Chinese development is sustainable. Brazil has a mixed but important history in sustainable development based on choices in mineral extraction and treatment of the rainforest. From this, the country is working to build a new model as it struggles with long term problems of poverty, crime and corruption. Widespread collaboration across communities and institutions is one possibility.

Brazil is gradually developing a type of participatory democracy, stimulated in many cases by business organizations, that looks quite different from liberal democracy in the United States and economic-only based business practices. Collaboration and other forms of participation in decision-making are highly dependent on unique communication skills. These skills are very different from those possessed by most people, both in the United States and in Brazil.

“The forms of collaboration currently used in Brazil have been good at information sharing, increasing commitment to decisions and customizing solutions for local communities but weak on creativity,” said Deetz. Creativity is essential to sustainability, especially in light of the consequences of global warming and greater natural resource demand throughout the world.

Deetz has been working with groups in New Zealand, Canada and Australia to design decision contexts and forms of interaction that produce greater creativity through an interest-based outcome focus. He plans to travel back to Brazil in August at the request of the Brazilian National Chamber of Commerce to work with them and companies such as Vale and Petrobras to further develop and implement new collaborative models.

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