Web-based tools allow people from distant locations to meet in real time, sharing sound and vision, without the cost, time, carbon and preparation involved in physical travel. These web-based environments are improving all the time, becoming more reliable, more sophisticated and more life-like. There are clear incentives and real potential for applying these tools to the delivery of CBSG conservation planning workshops.
To explore this potential, a CBSG workshop was carried out in 2009 in which participants from three countries and four time zones met and collaborated using only virtual tools. Based on a series of anonymous surveys the experience of workshop participants was overridingly positive. Respondents felt part of a collaborative effort, found the environment better than expected and judged the planning outcomes to be as good, or better, than those expected from a face-to-face workshop. It is hoped that this feedback, along with the following guidelines and suggestions, will encourage greater and more ambitious use of virtual tools in CBSG workshops.
The following content reflects the experience gained from the workshop pilot described above, which addressed conservation planning questions for mala (Lagorchestes hirsutus), an Australian desert-living marsupial. The report also includes some guidelines and ideas for facilitators and workshop organizers of a virtual conservation planning process.