The Foundation for Environmental Education: a Diverse, Flexible Family Meets in London

Big Ben (Photo by Laura Hickey)

This past weekend, I was in London for the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) consultative meeting. FEE operates five programs worldwide:  Eco-Schools, Blue Flag, Green Key, Young Reporters for the Environment, and Learning About Forests (LEAF). The FEE gathering was convened as a follow up to the General Assembly in China last July to discuss the strategy for unification of the FEE program coordination under one organization, the FEE Secretariat. Up until last year, the FEE program coordination was housed in several countries, and – as agreed upon in China – four of the five programs have now been consolidated under one organization in Copenhagen, Denmark, with the last to arrive early next year.

More than 50 countries were represented at this meeting, including the new country members of Mongolia, Morocco, and Aruba.  It is always exciting to see familiar faces from around the globe, and equally exciting to meet new members of the FEE “family.”

The meeting had outside facilitation by an engaging and enthusiastic gentleman, who kept us focused and on track during the very long day.  As with large families, probably the biggest challenge is to have everyone there have an opportunity to voice opinions, made even more challenging for those with English as a second (or third or fourth) language.  The strategy for breaking us into small groups of ten allowed for easier conversation and an enhanced feeling of camaraderie, which I found very successful.  After each session, we were called to plenary for report backs of the group’s discussion.

One of the sessions focused on where the unified Secretariat should be located; others included the challenges and opportunities to FEE’s incredible growth, both in the last decade and in the future. And, still others were to focus on the vision and mission of FEE.  One of the items that rose to the top is the “family spirit” of FEE, and rightly so. There’s really no way to adequately describe this family spirit and dynamic. I think there must be few other organizations that can call together such a diverse group of individuals from countries around the world with the sole purpose of improving environmental and sustainability education for the Earth’s youth. The harmony of the group is palpable – the hearts beat as one in so many ways. Of course, just as in a family, there are a few dissenting opinions, but these are dealt with grace, respect, and equity.

FEE consultative meeting (Photo by Laura Hickey)

My favorite activity of the day was to have each of us write on separate, color-coded Post-it Notes on what we felt FEE should have “More of,” “Less of,” and what of FEE should be “Protected” at all costs.  We posted these on a wall (see picture at right), to much hilarity and discussion.  Someone said we should have “More Blonde Swedes.”  Someone else said we should “Lose the website hacking.” And someone said we should “Protect the family spirit.”  It was a great day-ending exercise, and really illustrated that family – one that contains gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity – can and do come together to make the important decisions that collectively makes the family stronger, more flexible, more resilient, and enduring.

I am incredibly and passionately glad that National Wildlife Federation represents the USA as a member of the FEE family – what wonderful brothers and sisters we have around the world!