One of the great movement entrepreneurs of the past 15 years is a Dutchman little known outside his home territory of the Netherlands and in global wildlife conservation circles.

His name is Siegfried Woldhek (he's the guy on the right in the photo to the left above) and he's pioneering a new way of volunteer involvement through an internet-based organization called

More about Nabuur in a moment. First some background on Siegfried.

For years Siegfried was the CEO of the Dutch section of World Wildlife Federation. In the galaxy of WWF national organizations WWF-Netherlands is one of the wealthiest and he used that wealth to great advantage in helping pioneer key aspects of today's global environmental movement. One of the first to see the promise of the internet and the global communications revolution, Siegfried and Frits Strietman, his marketing and communications head at WWF-NL were instrumental in the critical seed money funding of WWF International's Living Planet Campaign with its unique Gifts-to-the-Earth approach to nature conservation.

This massive global effort has so far succeeded in saving eco-significant regions around the world totalling the size of France, Italy and Germany combined. It also helped change the way the global conservation movement sets its priorities. Once conservation was approached on a local, project-by-project basis. Today's strategists think in terms of eco-regions.

It was in my role as strategic consultant helping to design WWF's Living Planet Campaign that I first met Siegfried. He had an idea a minute. (WWF-Netherlands was the first large NGO to underwrite film and video news releases, first with on-the-ground cameras and story tellers for postings on the internet, and on and on.)

The trouble with Siegfried was that he saw so far over the horizon that he often spooked conventional thinkers. He could be abrasive and charming all at the same time. You know, one of your typical visionaries.

Well, as is often the case with visionaries, after about a decade he found himself in the cross hairs of a conservative, not-so-visionary board at WWF-Netherlands and moved on. But WWF's loss was the developing world's gain when Siegfried used his vision and passion to launch

“Nabuur” is, roughly translated, Dutch for “neighbor.” The important difference is in the meaning of the term. In Dutch a “nabuur” is one who just doesn't shoot the breeze over the garden fence or call the cops if there's a burglar, it's a person who really comes to your aid and coordinates meaningful help. Say, you've just had a heart attack. This is the man or woman who arrives from down the street, calls the ambulance, and stays right on the scene until you get the help you need.

Translating that concept to the online world and involving thousands of skilled “nabuurs” as volunteers leading and working on projects in the developing world is the mission of

President Clinton, the guy on the left in the photo above, has praised the idea because it offers a promising approach in mobilizing global citizens to build community in an increasingly interdependent world.

Nabuur represents a model of outreach, involvement and accountability that's worth studying.

So, to learn more about Nabuur's key features, and why Siegfried Woldek deserves a raise, read on…

Continue reading “Nabuur to Neighbor to Neighbour”

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