Requesting Recipes for Success

How are you influencing the conservation sector? We can all learn from others' experiences, so we are creating a recipe book about making a positive impact based on lessons you've learned and would love to hear from you!

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We are gathering recipes for success for the harvest season, and we’d love to hear from you. How are you positively impacting the people and world around you? Topics to explore include:  

  • Lessons you have learned through your work in conservation
  • Tips and tricks on making an impact
  • Case studies from particular projects
  • How mindset rubs off on behavior 

You can also think about:

  • Lessons that benefit the wider conservation community and people working on specific projects 
  • Information you wish you knew when you first started that could be useful to current professionals
  • Gaps in knowledge or action within the conservation sector 

At the end of this year’s WildHub festival, we will share a link to a recipe book made from all the responses we gather. Please comment below, or send a direct message with any stories or advice you’d like to contribute. Thank you!

Lara Reden

WildHub Community Advocate, Self-employed

I want to have a positive impact on the environment and communities around the world. How I do this is pretty open; I have wide-ranging interests and am willing to adapt to changing circumstances.

Right now, I'm volunteering for the WildHub community and am happy to answer questions about the platform and do what I can to help connect people.

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Comments

Go to the profile of Alan J. Hesse
22 days ago

Hi Lara, some ideas for a recipe or two, however you want to combine / use:

1. Conservation is ultimately about people. People create the need for conservation, therefore to be effective at conservation we need to work with people. This usually means local people, stakeholders in the use of the natural resources we are worried about (ecosystem services, wildlife etc). This seems obvious to most of us today, but I remember when I started out in conservation 30 yrs ago it wasn't at all obvious. I always thought, at that time, that conservation was some kind of applied ecology or zoology. Through years of practice and many errors along the way, I discovered that when it comes to conservation practice (as opposed to research) I would have been better served with a degree in sociology or anthropology with a minor in finance or business than I was with my degree in Zoology!

Bottom line though: you don't actually need a degree in these subjects to be effective at conservation. You do need to practice the soft skills of common sense, cultural sensitivity, self-awareness, conflict resolution and compassion. Local stakeholders in biodiversity-rich places by and large tend to be living within or on the edge of poverty. Their economy is day to day, informal, hand to mouth. Their prerogative is to make it through each day with food on the table. Therefore, we as conservationists must use our creativity to find tangible solutions that address this need while also addressing the depletion of natural resources. That is where the conversation must start.

2. Another thing to avoid is bringing prescribed 'solutions' to a conservation problem. Again, I learned the hard way that this will get you nowhere and will only waste valuable resources - and lose the trust of the communities you are working with. 'Community based' projects are all the rage these days in conservation, but very few really mean sitting down with community leaders with a blank slate, a blank agenda. A good conservationist is like a good doctor: they know how to listen. Conservation solutions to be effective need to co-designed with the communities involved. This requires patience, a lot of it. But as with cooking, it's worth it. A well designed conservation approach that issues from the bottom up is akin to a solid foundation for a house. This brings me to a third point: donors. 

3. Depending on donors is in my opinion one of the biggest problems in conservation. Donors are not created equal, and many are huge organizations that are on their own agenda. Dancing to the tune of big donors means you don't have time to be patient with the local stakeholders, and as discussed above, this usually means the project will fail. Project timelines must be defined according to what makes sense locally - not what makes sense in New York or London. For most donors, this is simply unacceptable, hence the problem. As a practitioner in the field, I have felt this frustration very often. Short term projects rarely achieve anything except a burst of enthusiasm at the beginning that rapidly fizzles out once the project is 'over'. For lasting impact, we need to marry the land, the local customs, we need to be anthropologists who stay in communities for many years and become part of the local scene. For most of us, this is very hard to do, especially when we are forced to deliver reports showing impact in unrealistic time frames. I once had USAID as a donor, for a project in Southern Bolivia in the Chaco dry forest. USAID insisted that we purchase only Ford field vehicles of a certain model. No negotiation. The project duly complied, and the Fords all caught fire on their first run because they were too low for the high-grass terrain. Toyota or Nissan would have been a better buy, but USAID insisted otherwise. As a result, thousands of dollars were wasted. Bottom line: of course conservation needs to be funded by someone, but we need to be careful what strings are attached. Often a collection of smaller donors, such as private individuals with a passion for the conservation object they are supporting, are much more effective than large organizations. The other advantage of this is that individual philanthropists usually are keen to personally come out and visit the project, meet the people etc. This is important to stoke their passion and thus continued support, and also to be truly accountable. Too much money is thrown at projects that are not accountable, supported by donors that don't care (as long as they get their tax break). It's also important that we be transparent about the challenges of the conservation project with our donors. Conservation is hard, and donors need to know and appreciate this. Ideally, a donor is a partner who will help us provide solutions to the problems that may arise - and not just with money. 

That's what I have off the top of my head; I could go on but I think that's probably enough for now! Let me know what you think.

Alan

Go to the profile of Lara Reden
20 days ago

Thanks so much for your response, Alan! Your contribution helps a lot.

Go to the profile of Jon Fisher
14 days ago

A few colleagues and I compiled our lessons learned and recommendations for improving the impact of research and put it in an easy to read journal article at http://impact.sciencejon.com/

We also have a few shorter pieces to accompany the article, including videos, a science brief, and some interviews at http://sciencejon.blogspot.com/2020/09/how-scientists-can-improve-their-impact.html

Go to the profile of Lara Reden
14 days ago

Thanks, Jon! Please let me know if you prefer to be named or not in the recipe collection.

Go to the profile of Jon Fisher
11 days ago

Whatever you prefer is fine.