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Improving on Previous Best - Prompts for Self Review

Number 21 - December 2000

B. Graham






Policies and practices in any one garden are likely to be a mixture of all levels and the process should ensure some lively debate. By providing statements at clearly defined levels it is easy to identify starting points as benchmarks, enabling gardens to set challenging but realistic targets. The democratic process of using the prompt sheets with staff can contribute towards improving communication and motivation and hopefully the process will provide a shared understanding of common values, an expectation of progress and a commitment to 'improve on previous best'.

Most people attempt to live up to a set of principles or values, although often conscious that their daily actions sometimes fail to match that intention. This is also true of organisations such as botanic gardens. It is generally accepted that we could perform better and are therefore seeking to develop and progress by improving against previous best.

However we need more than words of advice and support to truly engage in self-improvement. When thinking about what we do, what is the difference between carrying out our tasks at a competent level and carrying them out at a higher and transformational level? In order to meet this challenge, the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glasshouses have developed a series of prompt sheets, summarised below.

The sheets are based on the ‘Success For Everyone’ initiative developed by Birmingham Education Authority (UK) to encourage schools to improve standards through a process of self review. For various aspects of the curriculum such as art, science and health education, working groups were set up to develop statements under headings such as management, organisation, staff development and collective review. These statements were then ordered under the headings of emergent, established and advanced and their meaning was to define a level of achievement. The intention is that schools look at their current practise and place themselves on this continuum so that they can assess what they have achieved and consider what more they could do.

In order to help botanic gardens reflect on their environmental policies and practices, a similar process of producing statements could be carried out. Examples of these have been prepared addressing the areas of management, community links, education for sustainability and action that promotes a greener lifestyle.

The intention is that botanic garden members of staff gather together in a participatory workshop to discuss the statements and agree on those that describe their current level of achievement. Choosing should ensure some lively debate amongst staff! The statements will give a clearly defined starting point from which a route can be plotted to reach the more challenging levels of achievement in botanic gardens. These levels of achievement will allow staff to help with the establishment and implementation of a development strategy.

However, the strategic framework needs to be supported and reinforced by patterns of day to day actions. The democratic process of using the prompt sheets with staff can contribute towards improving communication and motivation. Hopefully, the process will provide a shared understanding of common values, an expectation of progress and a commitment to “improve on previous best”.

This is an evolutionary process and is a method of evaluating products, processes and services both within and outside an organisation. It is often referred to as benchmarking, the purpose of which is to promote best practice within botanic gardens.

How do you think your botanic garden performs? Which level does your environmental education programme correspond to? Talk to the other botanic garden staff, what do they think?

ResumeResumé: Pratiques Reflechies pour une Education a la Gestion Durable des Ressources

Les premières check-lists dans l'article ci-dessus ont été dressé pour aider les personnels de jardins botaniques à réfléchir sur leur politique environnementale et leur pratique basée sur l'initiative " succès pour chacun " produite par le Birmingham Education Authority (UK), qui encourage les écoles à améliorer les méthodes par un processus d'autocontrôle, l'établissement de techniques de gestion, de liens communautaires, d'éducation pour la gestion durable des ressources, et d'actions visant à promouvoir un type de vie plus naturel. Les rapports décrivent les caractéristiques à des niveaux émergents moyens ou avancés. Politiques et pratiques dans n'importe quel jardin sont probablement un mélange de tous les niveaux et le procédé peut être sujet à débat. Par la production de rapports à des niveaux définis il est aisé d'identifier les bases comme point de repère, pour des jardins habilités à accomplir des objectifs ambitieux mais réalistes. Le processus démocratique du vote avec le personnel peut contribuer à faciliter la communication et la motivation et optimiser le processus qui permettra une meilleure compréhension des valeurs communes et une espérance de progrès ainsi qu'un engagement pour " tendre à améliorer ".

ResumenResumen: Prácticas Reflexivas Sobre la Educación para el Mantenimiento

Las listas de control preliminares del artículo anterior han sido creadas para ayudar a que el personal del jardín se centre en sus prácticas y políticas medioambientales. La iniciativa desarrollada por Birmingham Education Authority (Autoridad Educativa de Birmingham) se basa en el "éxito para todos". Esta iniciativa anima a los colegios a mejorar la calidad mediante un proceso de revisión propio, informes que cubren las áreas de dirección, unión entre comunidades, educación para el mantenimiento y un acto que estimule un estilo de vida más verde. Los informes describen características a niveles establecidos y avanzados.