Vibrant discussions when members and partners celebrated the Focali 10-year anniversary

Participants at the Focali 10-year Anniversary and Annual Meeting. Photo: Anna Edlund

Vibrant discussions when members and partners celebrated the Focali 10-year anniversary

The 5th of November the Focali network, hosted by GMV, celebrated it´s 10-year anniversary at the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg. Members and partners from a broad range of disciplines and institutions in Sweden and internationally participated in vibrant discussions on the thematic areas of Focali - forest, landscapes, climate and livelihood issues – as well as what role science and networks such as Focali can play in these times of populism and climate crisis.

In two parallel speed-talk sessions, members and partners shared their ongoing work, which gave a broad overview of the rich knowledge and enthusiasm that exist in the network. Eric Mirindi Dusenge, a new Focali member from Rwanda who recently started a Postdoctoral Fellowship GU, said: “It was impressive to see the diversity of people who contributed and the focus on countries that really need this knowledge”.

Mingle time. Photo: Anna Edlund

The Focali timeline painted by members

The day started with a session where a timeline “the river of Focali” was built up by members and partners showing the network’s source, current flow and downstream goals. Some of the founders of Focali, Gunnar Köhlin, Madelene Ostwald and Anders Ekbom, explained why and how Focali was created in 2009 as a part of the Sida-funded program “The Forest Initiative” in collaboration with The Swedish Forest Agency among other partners with focus on international forest issues and development. A core aim with Focali was to provide Sida, other Swedish agencies and climate negotiators with knowledge on climate, forest and livelihood/poverty interactions.

The first years focused mainly on how REDD - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation - could play out in different developing countries, and Focali raised concerns both regarding impacts on livelihoods and limitations for reduced deforestation and global climate benefits. Between 2009-2011, three thematic areas were in focus with several Focali-experts working with each theme by conducting real-time case studies and synthesis work on REDD policy, practice, and Sustainable Forest Management. Already at that time, Focali facilitated dialogues between researchers, policymakers and practitioners on international forest, climate and livelihood issues.

In 2011 “The Forest Intiative” ended, and since then the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development, GMV, has hosted the Focali secretariat and it´s partnerships.

Photo: Anna Edlund

Susanne von Walter, Sida helpdesk on Environment and Climate Change, talk about the importance of the Focali network when she was a part of the Swedish UNFCCC delegation and focused on REDD safeguards.

A network of networks

The Focali timeline river displayed how partners have joined into "the Focali stream" during the last 10 years. Partners such as Sida, the Swedish Forest Agency, Swedbio, SIWI, The Agroforestry Network, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, LARRI, SLU-Global and ICRAF presented themselves shortly and explained how and why they have collaborated with Focali. Madeleine Fodge, Director of Focali’s  sister network SIANI, focusing on food-security and sustainable agriculture, explained how SIANI and Focali in 2013 entered a close collaboration on synergies and trade-offs between forest and agricultural issues in the landscape, particularly the role of forests and trees for food-security.

Photo: Anna Edlund

Madeleine Fogde, Director SIANI, and other partners and members talked about when they joined the Focali river. Photo: Anna Edlund

The timeline showed how Focali has expanded from mainly a Gothenburg based initiative to a national network with rich international branches via members and partners, a network of networks that work on some of the most urgent and interlinked challenges of our time. “We need to address several global challenges at the same time as; climate change, increasing food-insecurity and biodiversity loss and to do this we need broad collaborations across disciplines and sectors to understand the linkages and possible ways forward”, said Maria Schultz, International Director at VI-Agroforestry and Chair of Agroforestry Network.

Photo: Anna Edlund

Panel participants. Photo: Anna Edlund

Panel on frank concerns in our current times

A more serious tone followed the timeline session with a panel on the role of science and networks in the current times of populism and climate crisis. The discussions brought up issues ranging from climate denialism to how to improve research – policy – practice dialogues. Esse Nilsson, Senior Policy Specialist for Agriculture and Food Security at Sida said; “Sida is dependent on networks like Focali that are working on informing policy like ourselves. We must continue to listen to what is going on in our partner countries and listen to people on the ground.” Focalimember Prof. Andrea Nightingale, at University of Oslo, stressed that researchers can help to lift experiences from the local level to global arenas. She also flagged her concerns that the “urgency discourse” might lead to global top-down initiatives that might roll back decades of progress made on local participation.

Stephen Woroniecki, Focali member at LUCSUS, stressed that the coming decade is a potential tipping point, both in terms of climate impacts and socially; “There are windows of opportunity for transformation but also great risks with focus on actions that move the responsibility to other (future or distant) actors, such as the high hopes in negative emissions.”

Questions raised in the panel and speed-talks was followed up in World Café tables jointly hosted by members and partners as well as during the second internal day for Focali members.

World Café discussions. Photo: Maria Ölund

World Café discussions. Photo: Maria Ölund

Celebrations into the next decade

After the different sessions in this “mini-conference” there was mingle time, dinner and celebrations at the Museum of World Culture, as appropriate for a birthday party there was singing, speeches, birthday cake and dancing to tones from the band Caramatu with vibes from North-Eastern Brazil.

Many members and partners expressed the importance of meeting in person in different ways. As Rosa Goodman, Focali member at SLU in Umeå expressed it: "The Focali network is full of wonderful people from a variety of sectors and experience levels. It’s inspiring to hear about everyone’s work, get new perspectives, discuss future collaborations, and just feel like you have friends in this field. It’s so easy to narrow in on our own work and feel isolated—but Focali has a special energy that gets you out of your shell and even onto the dance floor!" This was the very aim with the day - to facilitate a participatory, fun and interactive networking opportunity, out of the total 60 participants two thirds was involved as speakers, panelists or discussion hosts.

After the anniversary event there is no doubt that Focali together with partners in Sweden and the global south, have much more to contribute with to understand and make use of knowledge on interlinked forest, landscape, climate and livelihood issues. The anniversary furhter clearly showed that there is a strong will among members to engage more to make this possible and that knowledge on our thematic area is as needed as ever in policy and practice.

Photo: Anders Ekbom

Photo: Anders Ekbom


Videos from speed talks:

Watch the speed talk sessions through Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Developments YouTube channel, see links below. (The sound uptake unfortunately failed on three speed talks from the session on Tropical forest, climate and livelihood, and were cut out. In addition pre-recorded videos by members participating via link from Kenya, Stockholm and Östersund was showed at the event.) If you want to know more about any of the projects presented or want to get in contact with the presenter, please contact them directly or via:

In the event program you can see the names of all speakers, titles and order of their speed talks.

Speedtalk session: Landscapes, climate and livelihood

Speedtalk session: Tropical forests, climate and livelihood

Photo: Maria Ölund

Photo: Maria Ölund


Related news in Swedish:

Read interview about the event with Maria Ölund, Project Leader of the Focali network, made by Rainforest Alliance who participated in the anniversary event.


Photo: Anna Edlund

One of the founders of Focali, Gunnar Köhlin and the current Focali Project Leader Maria Ölund. Photo: Anna Edlund

More photos from the event: 

A photo album from the anniversary is available on the Focali Facebookpage.


Photo: Anna Edlund

The day started with an optional morning walk in the indoor-rainforest at the science centre Universeum. Photo: Anna Edlund

Focali annual meeting 2022 – separate event webpage

It is once again time for Focali members, partners, and friends in our wider community to meet around current interlinked forest, climate and livelihood challenges. The Focali annual meeting, to be he ...

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