11 August 2020
Blue Communities held its 3rd Annual Progress Meeting over the course of a week in July. With this year’s coronavirus challenges, the meeting that was originally scheduled to be held in the case study in Hoi An (Vietnam), was reorganised and held online.

Over 140 Blue Communities participants and advisors joined the meeting, which also saw, for the first time, sessions attended by public stakeholders and interested parties; something that has not been possible previously due to the spread of locations that the programme covers.

The meeting began with updates from each of the 12 projects that make up the GCRF Blue Communities programme, alongside dedicated sessions on ethics, data management, communication and legacy. The project updates were followed by break-out sessions to help participants delve deeper into the various areas of research and share good practice and experiences in related activities.

Map of available scientific literature on marine planning and human health in SE Asia

Although the face-to-face contact and discussions were sorely missed, the programme team have built strong, solid relationships over the last 3 years and these relationships have helped continue productive working and discussion in these difficult times.

Amongst the discussions was the topic of impact and what tangible legacy Blue Communities may leave behind. It transpired that above the envisaged impacts of capacity building and improving the livelihoods of target coastal communities, a range of unexpected impacts are being achieved, notably the setting up of research ethics procedures at the partner universities, encouraging interdisciplinary working within universities and between partners, and establishing communication channels between different stakeholder levels.

One partner explained how their future projects will be far more collaborative, whereas another mentioned they have a renewed respect for the residents of coastal communities and how trust wins over science when communicating information and seeking support for interventions.

Prof. Mel Austen, Blue Communities Programme Director and Senior Scientist at the University of Plymouth commented: “Although a lot of work went into moving from an actual to a virtual meeting, we feel it went really well and we had lots of fruitful discussions. I am looking forward to seeing the fantastic outputs already in development, towards the end of the programme.”

Looking forward, plans for inter- and cross-project activities are already in place as well as discussions for the arrangements for the next annual meeting, when we hope to see our colleagues in person.
  • Meeting participants were opinion polled throughout the meeting
  • Meeting participants were opinion polled throughout the meeting
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