- Project manager
For thousands of years, the west coast of North America - known as Illahee Chuk, or 'where land meets water' in local Indigenous languages - has been home to native communities living in regions of high biodiversity and environmental wealth, for many generations. However, due to industrial development many of these systems are now heavily degraded in ecological integrity - reducing the supply of 'natures benefits to people,' that economists now describe as 'natural capital' and 'ecosystem services'.
As environmental changes affect such communities, there is a need for information systems to support collaboration and responses to new developments. Technological advances in digital mobile computers and internet-based social media platforms have supported these needs in the past. Many projects - citizens, businesses and natural area project managers - already collaborate with each other using such platforms.
However, these platforms often have poor alignment (or incentive to align) with the needs of community-led environmental projects. In some cases, they even contribute to polarization and controversy. Such challenges raise barriers to progress, and positive outcomes.
From local to regional, national and global scales, there is awareness of the potential of innovation. Local environmental projects understand the need for more resilient and productive systems that are supported by landscape-wide cooperation and long-term development. In order to enable such opportunities, there is need for information systems to inform constructive dialogue, and which ensure a 'safe space' for participatory engagement in decision-making.
By combining information across various environmental, social and economic factors on landscapes using a modular approach, the OLN will give members of this project easier access to tools and services to cooperate and realize ambitions. The infrastructure is expected to be a much-needed 'hub' for community decision-makers and stakeholders to engage in productive and informed discussion.
Even in a pilot stage, a new level of involvement and cooperation has been observed, with increased community ambition and confidence in shared goals. Examples of needs communicated by project stakeholders include cooperative flood control, reduction of landslide risk, and air quality/fire management. Community members gain access to relevant, timely information, with a system specifically designed to support impact and scaling-up of their efforts, with further investments to allow a larger operating area + number of participants.