Jim O'Neill, Michelle Kovacevic, Ashwin Ravikumar, Regga Rantai


Centre for International Forestry Research, Indonesia


When infographic designer Jim O’Neill and writer Michelle Kovacevic met with CIFOR scientist Ashwin Ravikumar to talk about visualising the findings of a legal report on decentralisation in Peru, they discovered something interesting. 

Buried inside the findings of the dry legal document they found a much richer story about the very complexity that makes multilevel governance such a daunting topic for non-experts.
The team decided to link a stylized biophysical representation of the landscape with a Sankey-like line diagram of the related governance space. The graphic’s dense first glance rewards further investigation by the user, with the interactive functionality providing a simplifying lens through which to filter the variables. This highlights the intense complexity faced by actors when overlapping geographical land-use definitions combine with a multilevel web of governmental responsibilities, but allows genuine understanding of who-does-what.

By collaborating directly with CIFOR scientists working in situ, the team was able to combine data from a legal study on decentralization in Peru with interviews conducted for CIFOR’s Global Comparative Study on REDD+. These data were used to visualise the role of various government agencies in land-use planning and governance for a single region of Peru.

Communication strategy:

The strategic goal for the Forests Climate Change (FCC) information hub - run by the Centre for International Forestry Research - is to foster linkages between researchers and policy makers, private sector actors and local people to guide and inform climate change decision-making and policy. To achieve this end, FCC empowers its audience with understandable, timely and scientifically accurate information.

The development of this infographic, its Spanish language version and accompanying feature article are a perfect case-study for FCC’s approach.

The Echecopar legal study of decentralization in Peru contains some dense and powerful information about land-use governance in Peru, a hot topic at the then upcoming COP20 in Lima, Peru. But the document is understandably difficult for a lay-person to follow.

In the midst of preparing a feature article about the findings of the report, the FCC found that the density of information would best be served by producing a complementary infographic to serve as both a visual explanation, and a web- and share-friendly tool to drive traffic. Creating an interactive infographic had an added bonus of being able to present potentially politically sensitive findings in a way that allows readers to draw their own conclusions, avoiding having to explicitly state them.

A timely release date one month prior to the COP20 in Peru gives it even greater significance with regards to FCC’s strategy. While the package is Peru focused, much of the positive feedback received has focused on the similarity with other contexts, highlighting its broader relevance.

Impact and uptake:

In the month since it was published, the infographic has had over 1000 page views and has just been translated into Spanish. In addition to it's primary purpose, the infographic is also proving to be a powerful learning and teaching tool for scientists and policy negotiators wishing to illustrate the complex nature of landscapes and landscapes approaches.