GDPR demystified for sole traders and small businesses: Part 2

GDPR demystified for sole traders and small businesses: Part 2

Bake Your Cookies Well

 

One of the major aspects of GDPR compliance is the use and management of cookies. Visitors to your website must be notified of your use of cookies, why you use them and what they are for. Information on the term of duration of cookies is also strongly advised.

Furthermore you are required to have visitor’s explicit consent to deploy cookies to their devices, and provide clear options and mechanisms to edit and revoke cookie preferences.

Trickiest of all however, is the actual timing of the deployment of cookies and whether visitor preferences are actually honoured by your website and/or Apps. This will require technical input from IT personnel.

To comply with the principles of GDPR, NO cookie deployment should occur before getting explicit consent for any level of cookie use if possible, whether necessary, functional or more.

All About Cookies

Explicit Consent

 

Another major requirement is obtaining visitor explicit consent for collection of personal data. Simply providing an option to opt out is insufficient, an obvious and clear opt in is required to be explicit.

Opt in boxes and fields that are checked by default are definitely not compliant, as these are not explicit opt ins. Similarly, providing neither an opt in or an opt out is certainly in breach of the regulations.

In addition, visitors must be provided with appropriate mechanisms to view, collect, rectify and delete their data, and exercise their right to be forgotten at any time.

While consent is required in most cases for processing personal data, it is not required in cases where there is a lawful basis for data collection, storage and processing. Such information should be clearly noted within the privacy policy.

GDPR defines persons below the age of 16 years to be children and can not give their explicit consent for their personal data to be collected, stored or processed.

Finally, to ensure you are able to demonstrate compliance in obtaining explicit consent, it is strongly recommended to have in place a system to record and store identifiable consents indefinitely. This again will require input from IT personnel.

 

Enhanced Awareness and Training

 

Awareness training of key personnel and decision makers (or just yourself) regarding the principles, individuals’ rights and primary mechanisms of GDPR is essential, to identify potential impacts and to design compliant data management systems.

Similarly, as GDPR is likely to result in changes to your business and perhaps the way you do business, procedural training may be required also.

Resultant changes to business may impact operating costs, though are more likely to scale up with the size of the business or organisation.

Highly recommended is the implementation of employee and sub-contractor data confidentiality agreements to further protect personal data.

If you use third party services and sub-contractors then you need to communicate with them and reach agreements on handling data according to GDPR, which may affect their business processes also.

It is your responsibility under GDPR to know how the data you collect and share is being treated by third parties you employ.

Know Where Your Data Goes

 

Vital to informing of your potential risks and exposures under GDPR is to understand how and where data moves within your company or organisation. Assessing and documenting how information flows through your systems will help to comply with GDPR.

Essential to this process is creating a Data Flow Map that illustrates how and from where data is collected, how it moves through the organisation, how and where it is processed, and what third parties may be involved.

This will make potential GDPR compliance issues clearer and also highlight actual and potential data security risk areas and processes.

Furthermore it may be pertinent to instigate GDPR related conditions and clauses in contracts with third party data processors, sub-contractors and suppliers to ensure “downstream” protection of your customers’ personal data.

Contact Us for help mapping your data flows.

Demonstrate Your Integrity

 

Explain clearly how you guarantee to protect your visitors and customers private data in your Privacy Policy. Required by GDPR is the communication of this information in easy to understand language, clear and concise.

Specifically you must explain the legal basis for data processing, how long you retain the data, that users have the right to complain if dissatisfied with your data processes, if their data is subject to automated decision making, how their data is being shared, and their various rights under GDPR.

In addition you should explain and provide mechanisms for registering complaints with your organisation and preferably regulators also.

Remember that transparency is the key ethos here, and if you are complying with the principles and regulations of GDPR you have nothing to hide and should be very open about your data management.

 

Privacy Will Generate More Business In Time

 

In fact, you should make a point of your commitment to privacy and sing it from the roof tops so that customers current and future will know you value their data security very highly.

Key movers and shakers like Google regularly comment that in the coming years online brand will be a massive determining factor in search rankings and indexing.

Why? Because there is such a proliferation of websites, blogs and Apps with massive amounts of content being generated every day that it is increasingly difficult to determine what is good, valuable content and what is not.

More and more the big players like Google look to factors that indicate the strength of your brand as a marker of your products, services and content being worthy of attention.

In the future, data privacy is going to be a major aspect of how consumers view your business. Clearly, if you have a reputation for less than secure data privacy and management, you’re going to lose customers fast!

Remember, those who complain the most loudly about data privacy compliance are usually the ones who have the most to hide about what they do with personal data!

I know I want my data kept private and secure and it’s the primary commitment I make to my customers.

 

Privacy As An Ethos

 

Compliance with GDPR is best achieved if you make data privacy a key ethos in your organisation. In fact you owe it to your business to do so, because the security of your data processes is directly proportional to the overall security of your business.

Data security is a hugely important aspect of the online marketplace and continually increasing in importance. If you fail to comply with GDPR you have a business model that most likely has potentially critical data breach risk areas.

Hacking of digital assets and identifiable personal data breaches can be massively costly to any business, with potential to cripple a business depending on the severity of the breach.

GDPR recommends “data protection by design and by default” and I recommend it as a key step in addressing all potential security risks, even if not involving personal data. If you haven’t taken personal data security seriously, then for sure you are not taking your overall digital security seriously enough either.

Protect yourself from liability and secure your business by designing privacy safeguards and measures into your data processes from the very beginning. This is called data protection by design.

Collect only the minimum amount of data necessary to perform service and functionality to your customers and visitors, with a short storage period and with limited and secure accessibility.

So that by default, personal data isn’t accessible to unauthorised data processors or any other third parties, without explicit consent of the individual. This is data protection by default.

It’s Not Just Online Data

 

A common misconception is that GDPR applies only to personal data collected from websites. It applies to all forms of personally identifiable data collected from social media, email, correspondence, accounts, online and offline forms and applications.

Therefore, no matter what means of collection were used, all personal data of EU subjects is protected by GDPR, as the core principle is protection of data in any format.

As a result this has potentially far reaching implications for any business as there are technical and legal considerations in the fields of human resources, marketing, general IT and security.

 

An Appointed Controller

 

First of all GDPR stipulates the appointment of a Data Protection Officer (DPO) in specific circumstances, typically related to large volumes and specific types of more sensitive data. In such cases it may be required of either a Data Controller or Processor to appoint a DPO.

For the reason that your data collection, storage and processing parameters are not likely to fall into these categories, you would not likely be required to appoint a DPO.

However, as it is a requirement to provide mechanisms for users to register complaints and make other requests pertaining to their data, it is a wise step to appoint an officer responsible for conducting procedures as required by GDPR.

Therefore it is a good idea to have a responsible and suitably trained person to act as Data Controller, if you are a solopreneur then yourself is the obvious choice here!

Finally the Data Controller should be named in the Privacy Policy and the means to contact them, such as email and phone number.

The controller must be easily contactable in the event of registering a complaint, making data protection enquiries and communication in the event of a data breach incident.

Noteworthy however, typically IT and marketing personnel are not the most appropriate choice as Data Controller or indeed a DPO. It is reasonable to assume that the nature of their work would pose a potential conflict of interest regarding personal data.

 

Providing For Individuals Rights

 

There are a number of rights of the individual provided for under GDPR, the full list we explained in Part 1 of these articles.

Rights are covered by various mechanisms required by GDPR, some of which are addressed by the Privacy Policy, Cookie notification and editing function.

Others such as right of access, right to rectification, right to erasure and the right to data portability need to have a user friendly mechanism for the user to execute these rights.

Mechanisms must provide for communication with the data controller, functionality for the user to edit and download and export data.

Furthermore it should record all user requests and subsequent proof of processing of data requests, to provide evidence of meeting duty of care in personal data matters.

This will require alterations to websites, requiring IT personnel input, and other data streams including email, marketing (especially email marketing), social media and purchasing processes.

 

The Dreaded Data Breach Incident

 

Firstly let me explain that a data breach incident is any event whereby personal data has, or is suspected of being accessed by unauthorised parties.

If no personally identifiable information (PII) has been breached then the reporting requirements to both regulators and individuals are more relaxed, however irrefutable evidence that no PII has been breached will need to be provided in this case.

Therefore it is essential to develop Data Breach Policies and Procedures that cover monitoring for internal and external breaches, and detail appropriate responses including reporting to regulators and individuals.

Furthermore, all available digital security methods and mechanisms should be implemented to ensure data security, these measures then audited frequently to ensure continued security against evolving threats.

Finally, Article 33 of EU GDPR defines the data breach notification to the supervisory authority procedure as;

In the case of a personal data breach, the controller shall without undue delay and, where feasible, not later than 72 hours after having become aware of it, notify the personal data breach to the supervisory authority competent in accordance with Article 55, unless the personal data breach is unlikely to result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons. Where the notification to the supervisory authority is not made within 72 hours, it shall be accompanied by reasons for the delay.

And notification of a data breach to an individual, or data subject as;

When the personal data breach is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons, the controller shall communicate the personal data breach to the data subject without undue delay.

Advisable is to make this notification as quickly as possible and certainly not more than 48 hours after detecting a possible breach. Time is required to determine the nature, content and severity of a breach. (Note: this is not legal advice!)

Data Sharing Outside of EU

 

In principle you can not transfer personal data outside of the European Union to a third party or country.

However, it is permissible if consent is obtained and the process is assessed and approved by the supervisory authority.

Essentially you could say that providing the sharing and processing of the data was clearly explained, the legal basis for it clearly defined, and all individuals rights provided for, then sharing and exporting of data may be permissible.

The supervisory authority would need to approve standards, measures, procedures, clauses and other mechanisms put in place by a third party country, company or organisation that would ensure all such data transfer and processing met the provisions of the GDPR. Legal advice should be sought in this case.

Making Sure It All Works

 

GDPR compliance and data protection in general is not a one time fix, it is a moving goal post, most certainly because cyber security threats are evolving daily.

It certainly is a relief to arrive at a point of compliance no matter the scale, but the process does not end there.

As your business or organisation evolves new aspects and processes will arise. All of these must also comply with GDPR, so new aspects and processes must incorporate data security by design.

It may be necessary to conduct Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA) for new technology or where processes have potentially significant data protection implications.

Existing processes and procedures should be regularly audited for efficacy and against new cyber threats.

Furthermore, legislation is never static so your processes, policies and procedures need to be re-evaluated against changes in regulations as they evolve.

If you want to get GDPR Compliant fast and simple, contact us, we service SME’s and solopreneurs in the fields of Ecotourism, Wellness Retreats, Nature Conservation and Wellness Professionals.

 

Why smart leaders of change embrace technology for future success

Why smart leaders of change embrace technology for future success

Word Count: 1,072    Reading Time: 5.5 minutes

 

Successful leaders empower people and conservation through the smart use of technology

 

You need to use technology appropriate to your niche and size to be heard and be a successful leader of positive change, whatever your message.

Skilful choices and ways of living, symbiotic with nature and humans, are often drowned out by online noise.

Entertainment, news, frivolity, sensationalism and distraction win the most traffic and revenue.

Therefore, to connect to a wider audience and increase engagement, leaders of change must use technology in smart ways for future success.

 

A Startup 30 years in the making, supports leaders of change

 

We at Eco Freelance Support launched April 2019 to service genres like ecotourism, wellness, conservation, nature based education and evolving human consciousness.

Boosting their success and cementing their position, so as to make more positive change possible. Employing the best tactics and tools of big business to get good causes off the runway.

Founded on decades of experience in the fields we service, we provide IT, business and project management services to these genres.

Word Count: 1,072    Reading Time: 5.5 minutes


 

 

Empowering people and conservation through the smart use of technology

 

You need to use technology appropriate to your niche and size to be heard and be a successful leader of positive change, whatever your message.

Skilful choices and ways of living, symbiotic with nature and humans, are often drowned out by online noise.

Entertainment, news, frivolity, sensationalism and distraction win the most traffic and revenue.

Therefore, to connect to a wider audience and increase engagement, leaders of change must use technology in smart ways for future success.

 

A Startup 30 years in the making, supports leaders of change

 

We at Eco Freelance Support launched April 2019 to service genres like ecotourism, wellness, conservation, nature based education and evolving human consciousness.

Boosting their success and cementing their position, so as to make more positive change possible. Employing the best tactics and tools of big business to get good causes off the runway.

Founded on decades of experience in the fields we service, we provide IT, business and project management services to these genres.

Why did we startup?

 

Firstly, we found many of the folks in these genres struggled to succeed, despite working for the common good and being good at what they do.

Secondly, they often lacked the tools, technical skills and business experience to keep up with rapidly evolving technology and changes in business.

Thirdly, engaging the services that create a bigger audience is often too expensive, or overly complicated and time consuming for them to do it well.

Finally, they were losing too much time to these aspects because their expertise lies in different fields. Thus reducing their effectiveness and diluting their message.

 

Click to unlock the Complete Branding Checklist here.

So we started with a simple goal…

 

Provide an affordable service for those people to get off the runway and flying quickly.

Combining the best technology for their needs with sound business structure and workflows to boost their online and business performance.

Scalable to where they’re at, no matter their size, experience or vision.

Working with them to chart and support their success.

Making them more effective over the long term.

 

Click to unlock the Complete Branding Checklist here.

Real leaders of change

 

You don’t have to change the whole world, just yourself. You know the outer reflects the inner. Therefore, we need only change the inner landscape to change the outer world.

People who understand this are the real leaders of change. But they are not leaders of change because they actively try to change others.

Positive change leaders are such by way of example. They share with others ways of living that are more skilful.

More skilful is to be in balance with nature, with interpersonal relationships and the work-life balance.

Disconnection from nature and each other spreads separatism, dis-ease and stress.

 

Disconnection from each other

 

Despite being more connected than ever in the digital sense, the rise of depression, discontent and malaise demonstrate that our lives are not better for it.

Moreover our interpersonal relationships are more transactional than ever, often more about social proofs than anything else.

Specifically we mean common modern day proofs such as social media likes, shares and comments

 

 

Work-Life Balance

 

Are we using technology to make our lives better yet? Better meaning more skilful, as opposed to more convenient.

Being more connected online can mean less time connected in an organic interpersonal way.

Strangely, being online (or connected) means disconnecting from real people and nature in the here and now.

 

A laptop in the woods, smart leaders of change leverage technology for their success.

It’s a paradox

 

In modern society you must use technology to forward or promote any message.

If you are sharing more skilful ways to live, relate, build community, most likely you used technology to get the word out. I mean, what choice have you got?

Unless of course you are working at absolute grass roots level only, within your local community.

Leveraging technology correctly, drives more traffic to the source of your content, and it’s quality content that stands the test of time.

If it is not properly optimised for search engines, well you might as well go home! Non-optimised content goes nowhere, unless you get lucky and manage to go viral on something. That is statistically rare.

Consider the numbers

Seotribunal.com report these revealing statistics:

Google’s 90.46% share of the global search market equates to 63,000 searches per second.

That equates to 3.8 million searches per minute, 228 million searches per hour, and 5.6 billion searches per day.

For people to find you it is essential to rank well in search query results. Nailing your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the only way to achieve this beyond the short term.

NeilPatel explains The 10 Most Important SEO Tips You Need to Know. Neil is a world renowned luminary on the subject.

 

A laptop in the woods, smart leaders of change leverage technology for their success.

How to swim in a big pond full of hungry fish

 

Those statistics above attest the online world is staggeringly massive and growing rapidly. It’s very easy to drown in all the noise, such as entertainment, news, frivolity, sensationalism and distraction.

Many important messages about positive change don’t get heard, or heard enough.

Typically it takes resources to compete with all the noisy online traffic.

A poor indictment of consumerist society, that entertainment, sensationalism and distraction get most of the traffic and make most of the money.

Consumerist bohemiths have the resources to drown out or out compete more skilful messages and choices in the market place and the social feed.

Therefore, a good degree of understanding and skill in using the technology to promote more skilful choices is required in the modern landscape.

The web has become very complex with massive user volumes.

It is now a very big pond with huge numbers of hungry fish in it, thus you need the most appropriate tools and familiarity with those tools to swim successfully in the big pond.

Or know somebody who does, like us.

 

Be a smart fish

 

In conclusion, the right tools used the right way are essential for you to continue to communicate your message and bring about positive change.

Furthermore, engaging pro support specifically geared to boosting leaders of positive change, no matter what scale or the stage of their mission they’re at.

Maintaining your work-life balance, interpersonal relationships and symbiotic relationship with nature.

Lest you start to drown in the online world, your example and message is lost and you fail to realise your vision.

The web is a tool, let’s keep it as such, and get back to reality…nature!

 

Resources

Robbie Richards.com: SEO Copywriting: 15 Killer Techniques (With Examples and A/B Test Results!) 

Creating Interpretive Experience In A Conservation Area

Creating Interpretive Experience In A Conservation Area

Word Count: 2,085    Reading Time: 11 minutes

Creating Interpretive Experiences in Ecotourism

 

In this post we look at How To Create An Interpretive Experience associated with an ecotourism experience within a Special Area of Conservation in Ireland.

Ecotourism, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, typically incorporates a feature of conservation that may be ecological, cultural, historical, archaeological and/or spiritual. The experience should seek to simultaneously immerse visitors in this feature and it’s characteristics whilst preserving it, thus creating a ‘sustainable experience‘.

Careful consideration need be taken to ensure the integrity of the site and features are not impacted by proposed use, nor the access to the features by local peoples affected. In essence, the conservation features should not be altered by the proposed activities, yet means for providing opportunities to immerse within the experience need to bring visitors into close contact with it for it to have any ‘interpretive value‘.

Clearly then, ensuring the sustainability of the conservation features requires considerable research, consultation and planning. It is essential that this process include and be informed by the Interpretive Theme of the experience.

 

Interpretive Themes vs Topics

 

An experience with an essence of conservation at it’s core typically can be found to have a main theme or indeed multiple themes that give meaning to, and reasons for the attitude of preservation of the feature(s).

Themes go far beyond simple topics, and it has been shown by research and experience that learning and understanding are enhanced by the thematic approach (Ham, 1992), as opposed to the instructive, topic based approach.

An example of a topic may be: Nature and Health.

An example of a theme may be: After experiencing nature first hand, interacting with plants and animals personally, people begin to sense the importance of being in nature for their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Thus to create an Interpretive experience the core themes of it must be identified and consensus reached on how best to communicate this to the visitor, while preserving the resource(s).

The concept of thematic interpretation was first proposed by Freeman Tilden in Interpreting Our Heritage (1957) and later by Dr. Grant W. Sharpe in his work, Interpreting the Environment (1976). Thematic Interpretation was later popularised by Dr. Sam H. Ham in Environmental Interpretation (1992).

The common perspective in these works is that thematic interpretation is a process that provokes the visitor or audience to think for themselves, thus developing a subjective understanding of the experience, as opposed to being instructed to accept a particular view point or set of ‘facts’.

In later years thematic interpretation has been more often referred to as ‘thematic communication‘ and adopted in programs aimed at altering environmental behaviours, occupational health and safety, risk assessment and communication and sustainable development.

Word Count: 2,085    Reading Time: 11 minutes

 


 

 

Creating Interpretive Experiences in Ecotourism

 

In this post we look at How To Create An Interpretive Experience associated with an ecotourism experience within a Special Area of Conservation in Ireland.

Ecotourism, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, typically incorporates a feature of conservation that may be ecological, cultural, historical, archaeological and/or spiritual. The experience should seek to simultaneously immerse visitors in this feature and it’s characteristics whilst preserving it, thus creating a ‘sustainable experience‘.

Careful consideration need be taken to ensure the integrity of the site and features are not impacted by proposed use, nor the access to the features by local peoples affected. In essence, the conservation features should not be altered by the proposed activities, yet means for providing opportunities to immerse within the experience need to bring visitors into close contact with it for it to have any ‘interpretive value‘.

Clearly then, ensuring the sustainability of the conservation features requires considerable research, consultation and planning. It is essential that this process include and be informed by the Interpretive Theme of the experience.

 

Interpretive Themes vs Topics

 

An experience with an essence of conservation at it’s core typically can be found to have a main theme or indeed multiple themes that give meaning to, and reasons for the attitude of preservation of the feature(s).

Themes go far beyond simple topics, and it has been shown by research and experience that learning and understanding are enhanced by the thematic approach (Ham, 1992), as opposed to the instructive, topic based approach.

An example of a topic may be: Nature and Health.

An example of a theme may be: After experiencing nature first hand, interacting with plants and animals personally, people begin to sense the importance of being in nature for their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Thus to create an Interpretive experience the core themes of it must be identified and consensus reached on how best to communicate this to the visitor, while preserving the resource(s).

The concept of thematic interpretation was first proposed by Freeman Tilden in Interpreting Our Heritage (1957) and later by Dr. Grant W. Sharpe in his work, Interpreting the Environment (1976). Thematic Interpretation was later popularised by Dr. Sam H. Ham in Environmental Interpretation (1992).

The common perspective in these works is that thematic interpretation is a process that provokes the visitor or audience to think for themselves, thus developing a subjective understanding of the experience, as opposed to being instructed to accept a particular view point or set of ‘facts’.

In later years thematic interpretation has been more often referred to as ‘thematic communication‘ and adopted in programs aimed at altering environmental behaviours, occupational health and safety, risk assessment and communication and sustainable development.

How To Engage Visitors By Interpretation?

 

As discussed interpretation is not direct dissemination of facts and viewpoints, but a process of communication that assists visitors to understand the story or theme within the landscape, culture or special site they are visiting. Think immersion in the experience as opposed to just talking about it.

The theme or story may be site and regionally specific, but may have further reaching implications to the region of origin of the visitor, and to the global community too! It’s easy to see then how an engaging interpretive experience may create considerable impact within the awareness of the visitor, the potential flow-on effects of which are incalculable.

When such an approach is used to share conservation and preservation themes, and other similar themes, the resulting impact is more personally engaging and thus more likely to remain within the awareness of the individual and groups.

As Sir David Attenborough puts it;

No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no-one cares about what they’ve never experienced.

 

Typical ways visitors can be engaged in thematic interpretation is by way of walks, talks, tours, media, signage and art, all containing the messages of the theme(s).

Furthermore, interactive experiences, particularly first hand of nature and animals, are very powerful experiences that create a strong personal link with the theme. In general, the more informal and fun the experience, the greater the impact of the theme.

Developing An Interpretive Experience

 

Paul King in Drummin Wood scouting an Interpretive Trail
Paul King in Drummin Wood scouting an Interpretive Trail

Some steps to take…

 

In this particular case we are talking about an Interpretive Trail we gained approval for from the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Ireland. The trail is located within a section of a Special Area of Conservation, Drummin Wood SAC 002181, registered under the EU Habitats Directive. The trail is part of the ecotourism experience we managed, Crann Og Eco Farm, Certified Gold Ecotourism Operator 2015 – 2019.

The approved trail, to be used as part of the ecotourism experience, forest school classes and guided nature therapy walks, is regarded as a blueprint project for ecotourism operators in Ireland. The trail essentially meanders through the conservation area on pre-existing ancient pathways and tracks, taking in numerous points of interest within the oak woodland. The experience is prefaced by, and used to promote the Leave No Trace Codes for Outdoor Conduct.

 

Determining the Themes

 

The starting point for the development of an interpretive experience is arriving at conscensus on the core theme(s) of the experience, and the perceived target audience of the interpretation. In this case the themes arose from years of experience engaging visitors in different activities on different scales.

Enhanced knowledge and training helped for the themes to become clear;

Re-connecting with nature and becoming aware of nature’s cycles and our inter-dependency with nature.

Disconnecting or ‘unplugging’ from information technology to slow down into the moment in nature to release stress, relax, and for benefits of emotional and physical health.

Finding ways to explore and have fun for children and parents together, naturally.

Conservation of nature and the rarity of bio-diverse habitats in Ireland. Discussions, exploration and tours of special area of conservation.

Ecotourism and it’s potential benefits to nature conservation.

Exploring edges and expanding limits of personal and familial experience and levels of comfort in a natural world setting.

Enhancing mental health through interacting with the natural world, stimulating the senses through multisensory experiences.

Conservation of resources and energy and the endless possibilities of the concepts of reduce, re-use and recycle.

Once the thematic content and aims of the interpretive experience have been determined, the means of communication and interaction, that is the content and structure, must be designed.

Along with this, the techniques for facilitating the experience that best suit the themes, engaging facilitation for the target audience, and the overlying aims project, should be determined before moving into the application phase.

 

Attaining Regulatory Approval

 

In any interpretive experience there are likely to be organisations from which regulatory approval is necessary to conduct the proposed activity. Depending on the activity, its situation, the region and its laws and customs, this process may be lengthy and complex.

More than likely written submissions will be required to substantiate the claims of the proponents of the experience in terms of value of the interpretation to the site, visitors, the local community, the region and the overriding theme, of ecotourism and nature conservation in this particular case.

Written submissions should include, as a rule of thumb, details of potential impacts and how they will be managed, benefits to the community of the interpretive experience, levels of engagement and use of the site and technical monitoring of potential impacts.

Periodic reporting is most likely to be a condition to approval of any such activity and thus it is a good idea to include commitment to such reporting in the original submission or application.

It is a strong common sensical approach to propose higher than minimum standard levels of monitoring, management and reporting when seeking regulatory approval, as this demonstrates a very strong commitment to conservation of the resource.

It also sets a ‘tone’ of a high standard which enhances a stronger ethos within those facilitating the interpretation, which in turn reinforces the overlying aims of the theme(s).

 

Stakeholder Liaison

 

To make any submission for regulatory approval, and to conduct a thorough assessment to meet the requirements of ecotourism for example, liaison and possibly negotiation with local and regional stakeholders is essential.

It is impossible to create an ecotourism and indeed and interpretive experience involving sensitive resources without some degree of stakeholder involvement.

Particularly in developing regions, especially where foreign investment is involved in the experience, considerable scope exists for abuse of rights of local peoples and the inequitable consumption of resources as related to tourism activities.

In our view for any ecotourism venture and interpretive experience to be truly sustainable they must go beyond standards that talk more to ‘sustainable tourism development’ than they do to total sustainability. For example we suggest;

 

  • Complete conservation of the natural, cultural, historical, archaeological and ethnographic resources. Anything less than complete preservation is not sustainable and is simply ‘lip service’.
  • Equitable business models that protect and enhance the lives of the regional and local stakeholders at all levels and without exception.
  • Business and operational models of which the main aim is complete sustainability of the natural interpretive resources in perpetuity, as opposed to ‘sustainable tourism business development’. This must be inclusive of continued assessment demonstrating that the activity should be discontinued where applicable.
  • Restrictions on foreign ownership of any region’s ‘interpretive assets’ combined with capping of foreign investment share in operational profits.
  • Monetary fund with standard conditions for access by all peoples of all regions for the development of truly sustainable experiences incorporating interpretive resources, such that the need for foreign investment is negated.
  • Complete resource consumption versus waste and pollution neutrality or better, without exception.

 

Trained interpretive experience staff showing animal skull found in the wild.

Identifying Key Experience and Training Needs

 

Once themes are determined it is the essential to determine what experience and potential training will be required by those facilitating the interpretive experience, to ensure the aims of the experience are attained.

Accumulating the identified experience and training can be a long process and require input from many sources and considerable financial resources. In addition, pilot programs are a recommended next phase to assess the efficacy of the training and the interpretive experience, as well as the capabilities of those facilitating the interpretation.

Depending on legislation and insurance requirements, certification of facilitators may be required, usually where the experience involves children or some or more physical risk. This can add to the lead time to start-up of an interpretive experience and require additional financial resources.

 

Trained interpretive experience staff showing animal skull found in the wild.

Communication of The Experience Pre & Post Visit

 

Potential visitors must be able to understand what the interpretive experience offers in terms of connection with nature, education, conservation, recreation and how the experience benefits the environment and local community.

The description and promotion the experience should be accurate, complete and reflect the nature and feel of the experience.

Access to be made to additional information and interpretive resources that compliment and support the theme(s) and overlying aims.

Wherever possible proponents should endeavour to connect with other organisations, venues and networks of similar and complimentary content.

Networking helps to further the aims of all members of that network and avail the potential visitors to create a multi faceted experience in the region.

In time it is likely the interpretive experience will be modified, taking on enhancements or potentially changes required as a result of observation of impacts of the interpretive activities.

Communication of the evolution of the experience may be communicated to previous visitors through websites, email and social media to continue the process of education.

 

 

Development of Interpretive Materials

 

The process of determining the theme(s) of the interpretation will involve the identification of materials and techniques for the facilitation of the experience.

Additional resources are likely required for the creation of a range of different materials that may include multimedia (online & in case of a centre), maps, trails, viewing structures, protective enclosures/exclosures, trail markers, interactive equipment/props and educational material.

Furthermore, depending on the type of experience, relevant infrastructure and ‘setting’ may be required involving additional planning, time, resources and approval.

Determining the interactive materials required feeds back into the Key Experience & Training stage, informing potential additional needs in this area.

 

 

Evaluation & Management

 

The efficacy of the interpretive experience and the effectiveness of impact management associated with the activities must be assessed over time and against frequency of engagement.

Achieving the aims of the interpretation and the quantitative goals of the impact management require monitoring and experience feedback collation and assessment.

Without such information feedback loops it is impossible to determine if an experience is of the proposed value and if it should be continued.

 

Resources

Interpreting Our Heritage, Freeman Tilden, 1957.

Interpreting the Environment, Dr. Grant W. Sharpe, 1976.

Environmental Interpretation, Dr. Sam H. Ham, 1992.