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The future of philanthropy for biodiversity

For societal and biodiversity resilience and regeneration, the Luc Hoffmann Institute is exploring the possible futures of philanthropy. What paradigm shifts are occurring that will shape ways of giving in the future? What are the new paradigms and models of funding/giving and beyond that that could increase net-positive outcomes for nature and people?

For this exploration, the institute is conducting background research and interviews, and plans to use the emerging themes and questions to form a state of knowledge report and spark a conversation with a diverse range of stakeholders, including philanthropists, grantees, people at the forefront of community-led conservation, and NGOs from the Global South and North.

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Now more than ever, a paradigm shift is needed in philanthropy if it hopes to contribute to more durable solutions to the world’s most complex challenges. Power dynamics – between grantors and grantees, donors and communities – have always been an inherent part of philanthropy. In the past decade, growing awareness of economic inequality and racial disparities has begun to make these often unspoken undercurrents much more visible. There are also issues that need exploring, such as human rights or siloed funding that create trade-offs and impede systemic impact.

Related SDGs

Explore the impacts

Ideation

peopleimages.com-AdobeStock
2020

The Future of Philanthropy begins as the seed of an idea from conversations at the Luc Hoffmann Institute in 2020.

Fokussiert / Adobe Stock
December 2021

The Future of Conservation NGOs project beginning to hone in on themes including operational and funding models; communication and narratives; interdependency and inclusivity; and legacy, power, and principles.

The Future of Conservation NGOs

Simon Rawles / WWF
January 2022

The themes from the Future of Conservation NGOs are tied back to the Future of Philanthropy seedling and the idea enters the institute innovation pipeline with an initial small ideation budget.

Chairman of the MAVA Foundation and Luc Hoffmann Institute Advisory Council member André Hoffmann calls for innovative sources of funding that better balance the needs of nature, social, and human capital.

André Hoffmann on strategic philanthropy for nature regeneration

Steve Taylor / WWF-UK
February 2022

Students (Marija Jurcevic, Nebat Kasozi, Gal Zanir, and Christina Meister) from the University of Cambridge’s Masters in Conservation Leadership programme focus their innovation challenge project on the Future of Philanthropy, and put together an initial internal report on ‘The future of philanthropy in nature conservation’, drawing from desktop research, a survey within the nature conservation sector, and interviews with a handful of people in the philanthropy sector. The report explores potential paradigm shifts that could help conservationists obtain the necessary funding to support biodiversity projects across the world.

naturepl.com-Gerrit Vyn / WWF
March-April 2022

A project team is set up, consisting of Jessica Villat as Project Lead, Christy Carter as Project Management Consultant, and Nayantara Kilachand as Project Communication Consultant. Paul West from Project Drawdown also joins as Project Advisor. The institute begins conducting background research and interviews with a diverse array of leaders in the philanthropic and environmental space including donors, grantees, and conservation organisations from the Global South and North.

Ola Jennersten / WWF-Sweden
May 2022

A state of knowledge report, due for external release in Autumn 2022, is commissioned from lead author Benjamin Soskis, Senior Research Associate at the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute.

jayzynism / AdobeStock
June 2022

Jessica Villat, Head of Communication at the Luc Hoffmann Institute, writes a thought piece on why any reimagining of philanthropic models must emerge from a wider systemic overhaul that addresses issues of equity, power, and diversity.

What is the future of philanthropy?

James Suter, Black Bean Productions / WWF-US
August 2022

Kathy Reich, director of BUILD at the Ford Foundation shares her thoughts with the Luc Hoffmann Institute on why philanthropy needs to become more humble and the mindset shift that gets us there.

“Philanthropy needs to become more humble”

Prostock-studio_AdobeStock
September 2022

Sufina Ahmad MBE, Director at the John Ellerman Foundation asks the hard questions funders will need to answer in order to effect systems change for people and planet.

To create systems change, philanthropy first needs to change itself

November 2022

Serial entrepreneur Ndidi Nwuneli on why philanthropic resources in Africa must empower local models and partners.

Ndidi Nwuneli on pushing for a more local approach and ownership of philanthropy

Aspiration

Drew Beamer / Unsplash

A diverse set of stakeholders from the philanthropic and environmental sectors collectively take forward a vision for how new and radical ways of giving and thinking could lead to systems change for people and nature to flourish as one.

Timeline ends here

Related resources

André Hoffmann on strategic philanthropy for nature regeneration
In January 2022, the chairman of the MAVA Foundation makes an impassioned plea for innovative business and funding models that can address root causes of threats to both biodiversity and humanity.

Exploring possible futures for conservation NGOs
A March 2022 analysis report by Luc Hoffmann Institute authored by Barney Tallack, Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken, Martin Kalungu-Banda, and Marcelo Furtado that examines
several aspects of how nature conservation could be better organised, approached, and funded.

System change in philanthropy for development: a research framework for global growth markets
A May 2022 report prepared by Dr. Shonali Banerjee of the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy highlights often neglected perspectives from Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

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project timeline What we are working on now

Digital disruption and the future of conservation

How can conservation NGOs improve practices and stay relevant in an increasingly disruptive digital landscape? 

We are living in a time of increasingly rapid digital transformation, with the adoption of digital alternatives recently accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the mainstreaming of blockchain technology. Blockchain based applications are opening up new opportunities for fundraising and engagement, while at the same time contributing to the democratisation and transparency of existing conservation practices. 

Younger generations are consuming this digital information with ease, with growing online communities possessing the expertise and drive to bridge the divide between conservation and digital spheres. These digital communities are not only adept at using innovative technologies, but display new motivations and strong philanthropic tendencies which are yet to be well understood or optimised by the conservation sector. The appetite of conservationists to engage with this space was revealed during the Gamifying nature conservation initiative, sparking investigations into the knowledge gap and acting as the catalyst for this project.

The ‘Digital disruption and the future of conservation’ initiative is exploring the transformative potential of blockchain technology and online communities whilst paving the way for ongoing intersectional collaboration. By investigating and testing the ability of digital disruption to catalyse new fundraising and business models, this initiative aspires to empower innovators to make effective choices, ensure the ongoing relevance of conservation NGOs, and ultimately increase the impact of global conservation efforts.

If you would like to get in touch with the project team, please email digital.impact@wwfint.org.

Related SDGs

Explore the impacts

Ideation

pickup / Adobe Stock
November 2021

The Gamifying nature conservation initiative unearths the appetite of the conservation sector to further understand the transformative potential of blockchain technology.

Gamifying nature conservation

weerapat1003 / AdobeStock
15th December 2021

After recognising the lack of resources currently available to help conservationists make effective decisions in the digital sphere, the Luc Hoffmann Institute begins its investigations into digital communities, blockchain, and how they can contribute to the democratisation of the conservation movement.

Impact NFT dashboard
February 2022

The Luc Hoffmann Institute compiles a database of projects using blockchain for conservation impact. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) prove to be in a state of rapid growth and, taking a step to bridge the knowledge gap and encourage further discussions, the database is turned into an online interactive repository of ‘Impact NFTs’.
Despite blockchain’s ability to provide transactional transparency, there is difficulty in measuring the overall contribution of impact projects to conservation efforts. Two software developers are brought on-board to tackle these issues of traceability.

Impact NFT dashboard

sydney / AdobeStock
9th May 2022

Sasha Sebright, MPhil in Conservation Leadership graduate and project lead for ‘Digital disruption and the future of conservation’, shares her thoughts on how conservation can learn from digital communities.

How conservation can learn from digital communities

willyam / AdobeStock
10th June 2022

The Digital disruption project team joins the Future of conservation NGO initiative for a dynamic session revealing the areas of greatest existing alignment and future collaborative impact between the two initiatives.

The future of conservation NGOs

Luc Hoffmann Institute
27th June 2022

A virtual workshop brings together 18 experts in the web3.0 sector to map how NFTs, Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs), and new tools for digital engagement such as virtual worlds can be used to enhance current and future conservation impact.

Aspiration

Lagunov / Adobe Stock

To unearth and utilise cutting edge digital innovation for positive conservation impact, and empower innovators to create more equitable and effective conservation approaches.

Timeline ends here

Related resources

Exploring possible futures for conservation NGOs
A March 2022 analysis report by the Luc Hoffmann Institute authored by Barney Tallack and Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken. The report acknowledges two lenses involving digital innovation (‘Embracing digital technology and data-driven approaches’ and ‘A bridge between the blockchain and local community conservation’) by which future conservation NGOs could position themselves.

Exploring the potential of gamification to finance nature conservation: a new report
A September 2021 report by the Luc Hoffmann Institute exploring how storytelling and gamification can derive value from, and for, wildlife.

Gamifying conservation: What could go wrong?
A September 2021 thought piece by Sasha Sebright, MPhil in Conservation Leadership candidate at the University of Cambridge, exploring the unintended adverse consequences of gamifying nature conservation.

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Cyriaque Sendashonga steps in as Ad-interim Director of the Luc Hoffmann Institute

The Luc Hoffmann Institute is pleased to announce that Ms. Cyriaque “Cyrie” Sendashonga has been appointed as Ad-interim Director of the Luc Hoffmann Institute, effective 1 June 2022. She is stepping in for Melanie Ryan, Director of the Luc Hoffmann Institute, who is currently on maternity leave until the end of December 2022.

Cyrie will be based in Montreal, Canada, working 50%. A seasoned conservation leader, Cyrie was formerly the Global Director of IUCN’s Policy and Programme Group. She is a biologist by training, with a master’s (M.Sc.) degree and a PhD in Zoology from the Free University of Brussels (Belgium). Her career has focused on natural resources management, encompassing both research and development perspectives. She previously worked at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, and headed the Biosafety Programme at the CBD Secretariat. She also spent time at CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research) as Regional Coordinator for the Central Africa Regional Office, based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, before IUCN for eleven years.

Cyrie was born and grew up in Rwanda, is the author and co-author of many publications on environmental issues and is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science.

Since 2018, Cyrie has been a member of the Luc Hoffmann Institute Advisory Council, from which she will be stepping down while filling the role of Ad-interim Director. The Luc Hoffmann Institute is very grateful to Cyrie for her dedication and contribution to the Luc Hoffmann Institute as part of our Advisory Council these past years.

For any questions to the Director or Ad-interim Director, please contact the Director’s office at director.luchoffmanninstitute@wwfint.org. General inquiries for the Luc Hoffmann Institute can also be sent to luchoffmanninstitute@wwfint.org.

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How conservation can learn from digital communities

A thought piece by Sasha Sebright, an external innovator collaborating with the Luc Hoffmann Institute to investigate the role digital innovation can play in shaping conservation efforts. This research feeds into The future of conservation NGOs initiative.

New global communities are rapidly emerging around a decentralised, digital planet. These digital communities present a desire to embed philanthropy, transparency, empowerment, and democratisation within their interactions both on-and-offline. If the conservation sector wishes to remain effective and relevant in an increasingly digital world, it is critical to better understand these communities and unleash their skills for environmental good.

The philanthropic nature of digital communities

Conservation organisations recognise the importance of social media for their engagement and fundraising strategies, but only two of the fifteen biggest conservation NGOs are interacting with two of the most dynamic global communities. These communities can be found on Discord, the fastest growing website in 2020;¹ and Twitch, the 20th most visited website in 2021 which raised US$83 million for charity in 2020 alone.²

Twitch launched in 2011 with a focus on live-streaming gaming content. Each year its users unite in ‘Games Done Quick’, a series of video game marathons completed to raise money for a selected charity. This year they achieved a personal best, raising US$3.4 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation in just 8 days.³ All from the ground-up, led by the community, and without being orchestrated by a traditional NGO.

In 2018, Twitch branched out from the gaming sector and dedicated a space to ‘Animals, Aquariums, and Zoos’, which allows users to celebrate the world of non-humans and learn about the conservation of species and habitats. Even with Twitch featuring tools such as Tiltify (a digital fundraising platform) and their ‘joystick philanthropists’ ² showing an appetite to engage with environmental efforts, the conservation sector remains notably absent.

Engagement within these communities involves an inbuilt system of cooperation, co-creation and information exchange. From this, the conservation sector has much to learn. Strikingly relevant for considerations around the future conservation NGO is how these communities display a clear drive towards a decentralised and democratic future, and are forging the way with a continuum of purpose-built digital innovations. 

Shaking up the status quo

The Gamifying Nature Conservation project revealed that modern digital communities require a level of transparency in their transactions that the current conservation business model struggles to accommodate. There has been a barrier between the desire to help environmental causes, and action. Until now. These communities are taking matters into their own hands and creating new ways of engaging with the conservation sector by designing and mobilising digital technologies such as blockchain, which is inherently suited for this decentralised vision of impact.

In the search for transparency, blockchain provides a way for financial transactions to be clearly and immutably traced from start to finish. It also opens the door to novel methods of fundraising and engagement including the trading of digital assets called non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Wielding NFTs for environmental fundraising is not free from controversy, with concerns about the energy requirements needed to fuel the blockchain process. Despite criticism, projects utilising these technologies for good, such as impact NFTs, continue to thrive.  

These endeavours tend to be built from the ground up by the community itself, with countless examples of digital communities uniting to promote social good. One such venture is Fishy Fam, which raises funds for ocean conservation and galvanises a community of over 70,000 followers to clean beaches and waterways around the world. Another is Belugies, a collection of 8,000 NFTs created by a 14-year-old female artist. With the support of the Belugies community, Abigail has fundraised over US$242,000 and, more recently, created a not-for-profit NFT campaign, ‘One Planet For Ukraine’, that donates 100% of funds towards humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.⁴⁻⁵

Online interactions, offline impacts

While offering an insight into a future of decentralised decision making, these online interactions may have offline impacts which do not reflect such equality. If the communities disproportionately comprise technology and time-rich individuals from certain demographics, then the physical and intellectual benefits gained will exacerbate global imbalances in power and digital literacy. When engaging with these new communities, the conservation sector must identify and mitigate against inequality by incorporating opinions across a range of diverse digital spaces.

During these interactions, it would be detrimental for the sector to under-value these progressive audiences when reconsidering the current model of one-way charitable giving. Integrating digital communities’ motivations and skills within the sector could accelerate environmental innovation and ignite the transformation of funding streams focused not on donations, but on the considered purchase of conservation services. In co-creatively exploring the ever-developing potential of blockchain technology, conservationists can play a role in ensuring future applications are designed with environmental and social good at their core.

Instead of focusing on these new communities as conventional engagement tools, the sector should aim to learn from the transformative changes that these communities actively pursue. If successful, conservationists could not only benefit from the skills and digital innovations of these communities, but secure the ongoing relevance of conservation organisations in an increasingly digital future.

The content of this thought piece represents the author’s own views and does not necessarily represent the views of the Luc Hoffmann Institute, The future of Conservation NGOs initiative, nor of any of their collaborating institutions.

References

1. Grothaus, M. (2021) These were the top 10 fastest growing websites in 2020. Fast Company.

2. Strub, C. (2020) $83M+ Raised And Counting In 2020: Are Twitch Streamers The New Philanthropists? Forbes.

3. Michael, C. (2022) Awesome Games Done Quick 2022 raises record $3.4 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Dot Esports.

4. Belugies Market.

5. Poux, S. (2021) 14-year-old artist uses NFTs to raise $50K for Alaska beluga conservation. KTOO.

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The future of conservation NGOs – applications for the innovation challenge are open!

Do you have an innovative idea that could transform conservation work?

The Luc Hoffmann Institute, along with our partners the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy  (IUCN CEESP) and Impact Hub are excited to announce that applications for The future of conservation NGOs innovation challenge are now open.

The conservation NGOs are in the midst of rapid change, facing a complex, and progressively demanding environment in which they operate. The pace of change is driven both by external and internal pressures. Structural and systemic issues are at play within the sector, which are impacting conservation effectiveness. To remain relevant, legitimate and effectively deal with the present global ecological crisis, conservation NGOs need to change radically and faster.

The institute is inviting ideas to explore possible futures of conservation NGOs and their new roles in effectively approaching and managing  nature conservation. 

The challenge is seeking solutions that proactively address the deep-rooted issues facing conservation NGOs. This might be by addressing legacies of discrimination, equalising voices and resources, dismantling existing power structures, reframing narratives or challenging the approaches that perpetuate existing social and economic inequalities.

Anyone, from any sector, experience or background, with a vision for the future of conservation can apply. These ideas might include new business model innovations, partnerships, networks, structures and/or tools and tactics. 

Concepts at all stages of development, from ideation through to prototyping or beginning to scale, are welcome.

Participants will have the chance to win €5,000, a place in a tailored incubation and co-learning programme and access to a community of conservation practitioners, fellow change-makers and potential investors.

For further details visit the Innovation Challenge Portal

Thank you for your interest in The future of conservation NGOs Innovation Challenge. Applications are no longer being accepted, and the challenge is now closed. The application period ran from 21st April – 22nd May 2022.

The review panel is currently evaluating all the applications. We will be in touch with all applicants by the end of June 2022 to let them know whether or not their ideas were successful. Successful applicants will win €5,000, a place in a tailored incubation and co-learning programme with either the Luc Hoffmann Institute, IUCN CEESP or Impact Hub, and access to a community of conservation practitioners, fellow change-makers, and potential investors.

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Taking innovation deeper: new book offers tips on the Luc Hoffmann Institute’s approach to catalysing change

In 2019, a group of conservation practitioners published The Art of Systems Change, laying out a vision for a new way of working in our increasingly turbulent world. The book kickstarted a critical discussion about how to create transformational change.

We are pleased to announce the release of The Craft of Systems Change, which builds on the original concepts and introduces a guiding framework called the ‘Systems Journey’. Co-authored by Director of the Luc Hoffmann Institute, Melanie Ryan, and edited by Senior Editorial and Content Manager, Megan Eaves, the book presents practical tools for engaging in change within the systems in which we live and work. 

Here, Melanie and Megan share a little about the process of publishing The Craft of Systems Change and offer insights into how the Systems Journey underpins the Luc Hoffmann Institute’s approach to innovation.

Melanie Ryan

Co-author of The Craft of Systems Change
Director at the Luc Hoffmann Institute

I have been using systems thinking for many years. It gave me a language for how I already saw and understood the world and a lens through which to think about it in a structured way. I no longer had to apologise for the complexities I saw and experienced. Instead, systems thinking gave me a way to view this complexity as an asset. 

The ideas found in systems thinking form one of the underpinning pillars of our entire approach to innovation at the Luc Hoffmann Institute, alongside co-creation and futures thinking. One of the fundamental practices of systems thinking is self-reflection – recognising that we are a part of the change and that we need to be humble enough to realise that we ourselves must constantly change, as well.

We are currently undertaking our biggest exercise in self-reflection yet with our latest initiative, The future of conservation NGOs. With this, we are asking ourselves and the entire conservation community to examine systemic patterns and their impacts on conservation effectiveness. We’re essentially questioning and rethinking the entire presence, role and structure of existing NGOs – the ultimate in self-reflection!

The Craft of Systems Change channels the eight guiding principles found in our first book, The Art of Systems Change, into specific phases. It introduces a set of practical tools and exercises. One of these is the ‘Three Horizons Approach’, which we use extensively at the institute. It supports the assertion that there is a future horizon for nature and people that can only be reached through innovative ideas and approaches. We integrate ideas from systems thinking and the other pillars into the more commonly understood innovation life cycle of ideation, incubation and acceleration, and constantly widen our networks and viewpoints through co-creative convenings. We view innovation as one mechanism of change within a wider ecosystem of networks, initiatives and contributions to moving forward. 

With The Craft of Systems Change, my co-authors and I wanted to offer very practical ways to move people deeper into a transformative-change process; to move from just tinkering at the edges or sustaining urgent innovation into deep, foundational spaces for world rebalancing.

We also unpacked the ingrained idea of a theory of change and introduced the concept of a theory of action. Distinguishing between the two helps us understand where we have the capacity to create change and then adapt the actions we take in a conscious and reflective way.

It’s tricky to bring the concept of innovation into the conservation sector.  We’re often challenged to explain how to couple action or innovation with long-term transformation. Innovation, sometimes rightly so, can be criticised for being a bit shallow and not contributing to deep change. It is often associated with technology and with moving fast and breaking things. Instead, we are pursuing a kind of ‘slow innovation’. Using systems thinking, the Luc Hoffmann Institute is playing the long game with innovation. We want to dig into fundamental issues. 

With this book, we encourage people just to begin – you don’t have to be an expert. It may feel unfamiliar and you may encounter resistance or fear, but once you’ve done it a few times, you will trust the process. We don’t think ourselves into a new way of being, we act ourselves into one.

Megan Eaves

Editor of The Craft of Systems Change
Senior Editorial and Content Manager at the Luc Hoffmann Institute

When I started working in the Luc Hoffmann Insitute’s communication team two years ago, I was new to systems thinking. At first, attending convenings and trying to communicate the institute’s approach to innovation felt unfamiliar and even a little scary. After I had been through the process a few times, I could see how the unfamiliarity was important in pushing both ourselves and our innovators and partners into new ways of thinking. And isn’t that the crux of innovation? 

Editing The Craft of Systems Change, and reading its predecessor, The Art of Systems Change, gave me a lot of clarity about how change can happen, and how to embrace uncertainty, which is a fundamental part of change. We often cannot tell if a plant is healthy unless we dig it up and examine the roots, but the act of digging – that is, self-reflection – can be difficult and even painful. This book offers helpful tools, tips and a structure for dealing with that process. It is full of real-life stories about how the co-authors have used the framework in the conservation sector and beyond. Even someone like me, with a minimal understanding of systems thinking, can use it as a handbook to reassess their way of thinking and working and to start questioning and changing the systems around us.

The Craft of Systems Change is available from 21 April 2022 at worldwildlife.org/systems

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FAQ – Future of Conservation NGOs innovation challenge

ABOUT THE CHALLENGE

What is the innovation challenge all about?

The future of conservation NGOs innovation challenge is part of ‘The future of conservation NGOs‘ initiative launched by the Luc Hoffmann Institute in December 2020. It aims to identify innovative solutions that proactively address deep-rooted issues and improve the impact of conservation work. 

As the climate crisis intensifies and biodiversity loss accelerates, the work of nature conservation organisations is becoming increasingly urgent. The scope of conservation too is widening. The conservation agenda, traditionally determined by environmental drivers, is now rightly confronted by the human and social rights agenda and drivers such as inclusion, race, and equity. 

Structural and systemic issues are at play within the sector, which are impacting conservation effectiveness. There is an urgent need for root-reform – dismantling existing power structures, addressing legacies of discrimination, equalising voices and resources, reframing narratives and challenging the approaches and structures that perpetuate existing social and economic inequalities.

In this challenge the Luc Hoffmann Institute, alongside Impact Hub and IUCN CEESP, are inviting submissions from anyone, from any sector, experience or background, with a vision for the future of conservation work. Any idea that can challenge the status-quo and redesign the existing approaches, structures and narratives are welcome.

Is this challenge about improving conservation NGOs or about better conservation? What if my idea is not about NGOs?

Many of the greatest achievements in conservation come from groups and communities that are organised in structures other than NGOs. This challenge is really about improving conservation efforts at large, for better conservation outcomes. We wish to identify innovative solutions or to surface successful models that already exist, which proactively address deep-rooted issues and improve the impact and effectiveness of conservation work. With this challenge, we are seeking ideas that rethink the presence, role, and structure of conservation NGOs. We are seeking ideas that challenge the status quo and aim to create equitable and future-relevant pathways that can meaningfully benefit people and nature in a rapidly changing world, where, perhaps, conservation NGOs might not be the most efficient model.

Who are the partner organisations?

The Luc Hoffmann Institute aims to be the world’s leading catalyst for innovation and transformative change to maintain biodiversity, the foundation of all life on Earth. We create the conditions for new approaches to emerge, identify and mobilise the most promising innovators and ideas, and provide a flow of impactful, de-risked and exciting initiatives for investors. Our passionate and open-minded team is dedicated to driving societal change for nature and people to thrive together. Learn more at www.luchoffmanninstitute.org, connect with us on LinkedIn, or follow us on Twitter @LucHoffmannInst.

Impact Hub is a global network of entrepreneurial communities, capacity building programs and collaborative spaces that support impact-driven entrepreneurs and innovators on their journey from intention to scale.

The Commission on Environment, Economics and Social Policy (CEESP) is part of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). CEESP is a unique network of more than 1,200 volunteers representing disciplines from biology and anthropology, economics and law, to culture and indigenous peoples – among many others. Its work represents the crossroads of conservation and development. CEESP contributes to the IUCN Mission by providing insights and expertise and promoting policies and action to harmonize the conservation of nature with the crucial socio-economic and cultural concerns of human communities—such as livelihoods, human rights and responsibilities, human development, security, equity, and the fair and effective governance of natural resources.

CEESP’s natural and social scientists, environmental and economic policy experts, and practitioners in community-based conservation provide IUCN with critical resources to meet the challenges of 21st century nature and natural resource conservation and the goal of shaping a sustainable future.

IUCN CEESP has initiated Reimagine Conservation, a global partnership that promotes a culture for conservation and care for the planet. It is a movement, people-centered and built from the bottom-up. It starts by challenging the status quo, listening to diverse audiences, and together, reimagining a new way of caring and protecting the planet and each other.

Does the challenge focus on large international NGOs, small NGOs or NGOs of all sizes?

The ultimate goal is about improving conservation efforts globally. NGOs of all sizes are part of an interconnected ecosystem. Different sized NGOs have both advantages and limitations, as well as an overlapping set of challenges. The Luc Hoffmann Institute’s initiative ‘The future of conservation NGOs’ has sought to look holistically at these issues and the NGO ecosystem in its entirety. This challenge welcomes ideas from an equally broad range of starting points.

How did you come up with the four themes that guide the challenge? What are they referring to and where do they come from?

The future of conservation NGOs initiative began in December 2020. Since inception, the initiative has gathered a diverse set of voices to reimagine the role and structure of existing conservation organisations and identify opportunities for change. During this period, the Institute has opened the dialogue, facilitated conversations, and brought together voices from across different geographies, disciplines, and sectors. Through individual consultations and a 3 horizons framework workshop, we collectively identified four thematic areas which are ripe for change and which guide this challenge:

What is the report “Exploring possible futures for conservation NGOs” about? How do I use the 15 propositions? 

In March 2022 the Institute published a report that identifies the enablers and barriers to change and considers the role and function of conservation NGOs through a series of lenses, based on external trends and influences.

After describing the external and internal trends that are affecting conservation work, the report  presents 15 potential future roles for nature conservation NGOs, each one based on a possible future state of the world. In each case, potential pathways towards the role are described, along with the mindset and culture required and the organisational forms best adapted to that role. Examples of organisations that already embody aspects of each role are also given.

The proposed future roles are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. They are meant to be the springboard for a journey of reimagining, designing and testing (new) models for conservation NGOs that are better equipped for the 21st century.

I don’t have much/any experience in the environment sector. Can I still apply?

Yes, please do! We encourage people from all sectors to apply. Ideally, you have a team of people with backgrounds in different sectors. If you apply as an individual, before submitting your idea, you should aim to consult with people who can give you advice on aspects of the application that may be outside of your own expertise.

Does this challenge focus on a specific region?

No, this innovation challenge is global. We aim to find ideas from all over the world, from every sector, that have the potential to be replicated in other parts of the world. 

Why are you holding the challenge now?

We live in times of unprecedented speed of change: from the extraordinary opportunities offered by digital transformation, shifting societal norms and perceptions of justice, to the challenges of political polarisation and a shrinking civil society space. Conservation NGOs have come under increasing criticism and pressure, raising questions about organisational culture and racism, colonial legacy, power distribution between Global South and Global North and outdated funding models. The gap between the rapid pace at which the world is changing and the pace of change within the conservation NGOs is getting wider. At the same time the natural world is disappearing at an unprecedented rate. The population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 1970 (Living Planet Index, 2020). 

The Luc Hoffmann Institute’s ‘Future of conservation NGOs’ initiative acts on these issues and aims to put forward a vision and concrete steps to bring about the radical changes needed from conservation NGOs and for conservation efforts more broadly to address long-standing societal problems and achieve better outcomes for the planet.

Can I apply alone, as a team or both? 

Any individual or team from around the world may apply. If applying as a team, we ask that you name three key team members in the application form and nominate a lead representative, who will be the first point of contact and the primary participant in the incubation programme for winning ideas. Participation by up to two other team members in incubation activities is also possible, but the team lead should be consistently present throughout. If your team is larger than three people we ask that you take responsibility for sharing learnings and ideas developed through the co-learning and incubation process back to the wider team.

Can my organisation apply?

Yes. Individuals and teams of up to three people can apply, representing their organisation. Applications from individuals or teams without an organisational affiliation are also welcome. Winners will receive a tailored incubation programme suitable for an individual or team of up to three people, with a lead participant nominated by that team. If the individual or team is part of an organisation, it will be the responsibility of that individual or team to take the collaborative learnings from the incubation programme back to their organisations. We will always encourage you and/or your team to take the learning back into your organisations.

What languages does the challenge support?

We are currently accepting applications in English only, but we strongly encourage both native and non-native English speakers to apply. No judgements will be made on language proficiency. 

The incubation and colearning programmes offered to winners will be conducted in English. 

We acknowledge that there is a need to embrace linguistic diversity, however, at this stage of the initiative we are unable to do so in a way that is truly inclusive and honest. If you need support to complete the forms in English, please do reach out to us at futurengo@wwfint.org and we’ll find a way to support you as best as we can.

Who are the judges?

All eligible applications will be evaluated by a panel of experts representing diversity of perspectives, geographies and backgrounds and including a representative from each of the partner organisations, the Luc Hoffmann Institute, IUCN CEESP and Impact Hub. 

What are the judging criteria?

Ideas will be judged based on the selection criteria outlined in the Application Details section of the challenge homepage. These criteria are reflected through a set of detailed questions on the application form. Diversity, intersectionality and social equity should be guiding principles for all successful ideas.

What happens to my idea if it is not chosen? Do you keep the rights to my idea?

The intellectual property rights to your idea remain with you. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further details. 

Does the idea need to be new or could tested ideas be submitted?

We acknowledge that much of conservation happens outside NGOs structures, so we welcome any ideas that can lead to reimagining new, more effective conservation models. These ideas might not be innovative or new per se, since they have been implemented for decades, yet the innovation can lie in the process of mainstreaming them and changing the system.

This challenge seeks ideas at any stage of development, from early stage ideation, through to more developed projects or prototypes, intrapreneurship happening within NGOs or other established organisations or later stage startups that are starting to scale.

The challenge welcomes and accommodates a wide range of ideas and stages of development by offering winning entries a tailored incubation programme to support collaborative co-learning.

How many ideas will be chosen/awarded?

Up to nine. 

What will the winners receive?

€5,000 in prize money and a place in a tailored co-learning and incubation programme with either the Luc Hoffmann Institute, Impact Hub or IUCN CEESP. 

The co-learning and incubation programmes will start in the second half of 2022 and the length and duration will be agreed between the winner and the host institution. The programme is expected to last for at least 6 months.

Why do you refer to co-learning? 

The host institutions seek to avoid a ‘top-down’ process of incubation that maintains the status quo. Instead the Luc Hoffmann Institute, IUCN CEESP and Impact Hub aim to learn from the winning ideas, collaborate together and, where relevant, challenge their own approaches and practices.

How can I access funding through this challenge? 

Winning ideas will receive €5,000 in prize money. Aside from that prize money, the purpose of this challenge is not direct funding. Rather, the challenge seeks to find and incubate new ideas. The selected applicants will receive a place on a tailored incubation programme through one of the partner organisations – the Luc Hoffmann Institute, IUCN CEESP or Impact Hub, as well as the opportunity to work with other organisations that may be interested to incubate your idea. If you have an idea that fits the criteria of the challenge, and are interested in taking your idea to the next stage, please apply. 

Is there a maximum of entries?

No. But your entry must be received by the closing date of 22 May 2022, 23:59 CEST.

Will there be any second/third/runner-up awards?

Up to 9 successful ideas will be chosen, and all of these will receive the same awards: a place in one of the 3 incubation programmes  (Luc Hoffmann Institute, Impact Hub or IUCN Reimagine Conservation) and EUR 5,000 prize money. There are no further awards beyond this.  However, when applying you will have the option to agree to appear in a “library of ideas” for further consideration from other organisations from our network. 

ABOUT THE INCUBATION AND CO-LEARNING PROGRAMMES

When will the incubation and co-learning programmes start, how long will they last, and what do they entail?

The collaborative programmes of co-learning and incubation will start in the second half of 2022 and the length and duration will be agreed between the winner and the host institution. The programmes are expected to last at least 6 months.

The host institution will work alongside winners to take their ideas to the next level of implementation or testing. Winners and the host will collectively design the co-learning process, with elements that may include: 

Coaching or Networking
– 1:1 conversations with fellow entrepreneurs and change-makers
– Curated introductions to potential partners, clients and/or funders
– Participation in a Community of Practice that enables peer to peer learning
– Monthly knowledge sharing conversations
– Access to the incubating organisation’s networks and contacts

Financial & Funding Support
– Potential access to funding and/or support to fundraise for the idea
– Opportunities to pitch to international investors
– Access to bootcamps and coaching to get investment-ready

The opportunity to form a project team within the host institution and lead the project with sustained support throughout the different stages of the project development (for those ideas incubated through the Luc Hoffmann Institute only).

A six-month membership with Impact Hub (for those ideas incubated through Impact Hub only).

How will you match the winners to the host institution?

During the review and selection process, the jury will select up to 9 winning entries and will match those entries to the most suitable incubation partner. Factors under consideration during this matching process will include area of focus of the idea, stage of development and global location of the winning innovator or team. 

What is the time commitment of the programme?

The expected time commitment is between 8 and 12 hours per week from the innovator or team. Around half of those hours will be in direct contact with the host institution, while the other half will involve independent work to progress the idea. 

Do I need to attend the programme in person?

No, the programmes are virtual. Where possible, some flexibility to travel (in order to meet the team, join conferences, potentially meet donors and so on) would be beneficial. 

What happens after the programme finishes?

The ambition is for you and other applicants to be part of a community of change that will take ideas forward, keep exchanging on the topic of improving conservation, and hopefully span exciting new ideas and projects. We are working on creating the enabling conditions for that community to keep growing and stay engaged.

QUESTIONS FROM THE WEBINAR

Are there any restrictions on where or what or how the winning team can spend the prize of €5,000? Should the idea also include a budget proposal indicating how the €5,000 is spent?

The prize money is just that – a prize. There are no restrictions on how it is spent and the application process does not require you to detail how it will be spent. We encourage you to use the money to further the idea and advance its progress, but that is not a requirement of either the application or the incubation and co-learning process for the winners.

Can ideas that form part of a PhD study be submitted?

Yes

Would a project between conservation and ecotourism also be considered? Especially pertaining to the recovery of ecotourism that directly supports conservation? 

We welcome ideas that challenge the structural and systemic issues within the sector, which are impacting conservation effectiveness. This could include ideas that dismantle the existing power structures, address legacies of discrimination, equalise voices and resources, reframe narratives and challenge the approaches and structures that perpetuate existing social and economic inequalities. If your project is helping address these root causes with a different approach, structure, model, then yes, please apply and let us know what makes your proposal unique, disruptive and scale-able, in a crowded (but growing) sector?

Are ideas that would not only benefit the NGO sector, but also social and regenerative enterprises/start-ups, also eligible?

Yes. Many of the greatest achievements in conservation come from groups and communities that are organised in structures other than NGOs, including social or regenerative enterprises/start-ups. This challenge is really about improving conservation efforts at large, for better conservation outcomes. We wish to identify innovative solutions or to surface successful models that already exist, which proactively address deep-rooted issues and improve the impact and effectiveness of conservation work.

Could you share an example of a project or programme that looks at narratives? 

Please refer to the examples listed on the application page. We have spotlighted an example under each of the four themes that the initiative has identified as areas where change is most needed.

Would it be possible in future to create a networking platform between participants and the greater conservation community?

Yes. We are hoping to form a Hub/Community of Practice that will act as a space for sharing ideas, knowledge, learnings and failures amongst individuals passionate about reimagining the future of conservation work.

More questions?

For specific questions about the challenge, contact futurengo@wwfint.org.

Go back to The future of conservations NGOs innovation challenge homepage.

Categories
Innovation Challenge

THE FUTURE OF CONSERVATION NGOs
Seeking innovative ideas for transformative change

Thank you for your interest in The future of conservation NGOs Innovation Challenge. Applications are no longer being accepted, and the challenge is now closed. The application period ran from 21st April – 22nd May 2022.

We are pleased to announce the winners of the global innovation challenge. Nine innovative ideas have been selected that are challenging dominant conservation narratives, redesigning conservation approaches and reimagining the conservation space to create a more just, equitable and regenerative future. The winning ideas represent a wide array of conservation efforts – international, local, rural, and urban – from the coastal communities in Maldives to the urban population in Greece.

Click here to see the list of winning ideas.

The Luc Hoffmann Institute, the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) and Impact Hub are launching a global challenge to drive innovation and support solutions that proactively address the deep-rooted issues facing conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and help build a just, inclusive and regenerative future.  

Participants have the chance to win:

  • €5,000 per winning entry
  • A place in a tailored incubation and co-learning programme
  • Access to a community of conservation practitioners, fellow change-makers and potential investors.

What is the challenge?

As the climate crisis intensifies and biodiversity loss accelerates, the work of nature conservation organisations is becoming increasingly urgent.

The scope of conservation too is widening. The conservation agenda, traditionally determined by environmental drivers, is now confronted by the human and social rights agenda and drivers such as inclusion, race, and equity.

Structural and systemic issues are at play within the sector, which are impacting conservation effectiveness. There is an urgent need for root-reform – dismantling existing power structures, addressing legacies of discrimination, equalising voices and resources, reframing narratives and challenging the approaches and structures that perpetuate existing social and economic inequalities.

Where is change needed?

Four broad themes, identified collectively through the Luc Hoffmann Institute’s initiative “The future of conservation NGOs“, provide a guide to where change is most needed. 

Redesign the operational, financial, and governance models.
Challenge dominant Global North narratives, embrace different and plural voices & knowledge.
Dismantle racist and discriminatory structures, decolonise conservation practices.
Embrace a more inclusive approach, collaborate & engage with a diverse range of actors.

In this challenge, we are looking for ideas that will help address these themes, but also welcome ideas that may not fit directly under them. 

The Luc Hoffmann Institute’s recently published report, “Exploring possible futures for conservation NGOs”,  proposes ideas on how conservation NGOs can shift towards possible new roles, each idea filtered through a lens that captures our fast-changing world. 

Get inspired by the 15 innovative propositions of possible conservation futures in the report.

What are we looking for?

We are seeking problem-solvers using innovative methodologies to address deep-rooted issues and bring together solutions for a just, inclusive and regenerative future.

Innovative and actionable ideas or prototypes: 

We are inviting submissions from anyone, from any sector, experience or background, with a vision for the future of conservation practices and an idea that can challenge the existing approaches, structures and narratives that are adversely impacting conservation effectiveness. These might include new business model innovations, partnerships, networks, structures and/or tools and tactics. 

Solutions-driven concepts:

The ideas must proactively address the deep-rooted issues, challenges and questions facing conservation NGOs and impacting conservation effectiveness.

From idea to scale-up:

We welcome concepts at all stages of development, from ideation through to prototyping or beginning to scale.

Guiding principles

Diversity, intersectionality and social equity should be guiding principles for all successful ideas.

Featured examples

The examples spotlighted below are innovatively addressing the challenges facing conservation NGOs. We hope they serve as inspiration for the type of solutions this challenge is seeking.

Text overlay from Ecoversities website
Image courtesy of ecoversities.org

Ecoversities is reimagining higher education. It is challenging the status quo and seeking to transform the education system by decolonising pedagogies and embracing local knowledge systems and learning practices.

It aims to restore and re-envision learning processes that are meaningful and relevant to the call of our times.

Colectivo amasijo is a women-led collective that rises from the will to care, conserve, and celebrate. The collective listens to the narratives of women close to the land – non-dominant narratives – and enables ways to share, learn, and relate.

They are redesigning conservation work by creating conditions to actively reflect on the origin and diversity of food, de-hierarchizing knowledge and focusing on “doing” (haceres) as a way of learning.

Multi-coloured corn in a basket
Aaron Burden / Unsplash
Text overlay: save the Amazon rainforest while playing
Image courtesy of letsinvert.io

Invert is a Web3 platform developing forest conservation solutions at scale via decentralized technologies, such as NFTs. It is reimagining philanthropy and fundraising models by gamifying nature conservation.

The idea allows anyone to participate in the ecosystem and join their conserve-to-earn model
Invert’s metaverse is a digital home for endangered forests where users can play, earn, create and explore while tackling deforestation and creating a better future.

Flock Together is a birdwatching collective for people of colour that enables them to reclaim the green spaces and rebuild their community’s relationship with nature.

These walks are a forum to share experiences, challenge perceptions, find and offer support, and develop a stronger connection to the natural world on their own terms. The walks take place in remote forests and local city parks. They started in London and chapters have opened in Toronto and New York.

Diverse group of people birdwatching
Image courtesy of flocktogether.world

Application Details

Who: Any individual or team from around the world may apply. If applying as a team, we ask that you name three key team members in the application form and nominate a lead representative, who will be the first point of contact and the primary participant in the incubation programme for winning ideas. Participation by up to two other team members in incubation activities is also possible, but the team lead should be consistently present throughout. If your team is larger than three people we ask that you take responsibility for sharing learnings and ideas developed through the co-learning and incubation process back to the wider team.

Sector: We strongly encourage teams composed of people from different sectors. Applicants do not need a history of working on conservation-related projects or ideas or within NGOs.

Age: Individual entrants must be aged over 18 and teams must comprise at least one entrant who is aged over 18.

Language: We are currently accepting applications in English only, but we strongly encourage both native and non-native English speakers to apply. No judgements will be made on language proficiency. The incubation and co-learning programme offered to winners will be conducted in English. 

We acknowledge that there is a need to embrace linguistic diversity, however, at this stage of the initiative, we are unable to do so in a way that is truly inclusive. If you need support to complete the forms in English, please do reach out to us at futurengo@wwfint.org and we’ll find a way to support you as best as we can.

We are calling for submissions from anyone from any sector or background with bold ideas for concepts, projects, businesses, products, models or structures. Ideas must meet the following criteria for consideration:

  1. Reimagines and redesigns

    Contributes to the development of a reimagined and redesigned conservation NGO sector that can better respond to the social and environmental challenges the world is facing.

  2. Challenges and transforms

    Challenges the status quo and aims to build a just, equitable, and sustainable future for people and the planet.

  3. Feasibility, fundability and relevance

    ​​Can be feasibly taken to the next level, is fundable and financially sustainable and can be considered relevant or replicable in a global context. Considers financial, technological, market or other dependencies or obstacles.

  4. Provides a good fit for collaboration and co-learning

    Brings richness and strength to the collaborative process of co-learning and incubation. Challenges and aspirations can be effectively addressed alongside the host institution.

€5,000 in prize money and a place in a tailored co-learning and incubation programme with either the Luc Hoffmann Institute, Impact Hub or IUCN CEESP.

The collaborative programmes of co-learning and incubation will start in the second half of 2022 and the length and duration will be agreed between the winner and the host institution. The programmes are expected to last at least 6 months.

The host institution will work alongside winners to take their ideas to the next level of implementation or testing. Winners and the host will collectively design the co-learning process, with elements that may include:

1. Coaching or Networking

●  1:1 conversations with fellow entrepreneurs and change-makers.

●  Curated introductions to potential partners, clients and/or funders.

●  Participation in a Community of Practice that enables peer to peer learning.

●  Monthly knowledge sharing conversations.

●  Access to the incubating organisation’s networks and contacts.

2. Financial & Funding Support

●  Potential access to funding and/or support to fundraise for the idea.

●  Opportunities to pitch to international investors.

●  Access to bootcamps and coaching to get investment-ready.

3. The opportunity to form a project team within the host institution and lead the project with sustained support throughout the different stages of the project development (for those ideas incubated through the Luc Hoffmann Institute only).

4. A six-month membership with Impact Hub (for those ideas incubated through Impact Hub only).

Why co-learning?

The host institutions seek to avoid a ‘top-down’ process of incubation that maintains the status quo. Instead the Luc Hoffmann Institute, IUCN CEESP and Impact Hub aim to learn from the winning ideas, collaborate together and, where relevant, challenge their own approaches and practices.

In this section you will find some examples of projects and ideas that have been innovatively addressing the challenges facing conservation NGOs. We will be continuously updating these, and we hope they serve as inspiration for the type of solutions this challenge is seeking.

1. Colectivo amasijo is a women-led collective that rises from the will to care, conserve, and celebrate.

They create the conditions to actively reflect on the origin and diversity of food, de-hierarchizing knowledge and focusing on the “doings” (haceres) as a way of learning.

They listen to the narratives of women close to the land—non-dominant narratives—and cook collectively as a way to share, learn, and relate. Through food, the interdependence of language, culture, and territory is understood as a network of interrelationships.

2. Flock together is a birdwatching monthly support club combatting the underrepresentation of black, brown & POC in nature.

The six pillars of Flock Together are: building community, challenging perceptions, showing the benefits of nature, championing ecological protection, offering mental health support, and providing creative mentorship for the next generation. Their mission is to “create a world where every person of colour has the freedom to explore and engage with the natural world, on their own terms."

3. Success Capital is an LGBTIQ+, youth-led, managed, & serving organisation linking grassroots experiences with global and regional mechanisms.

Their work is centred on three pillars: a) participatory decolonized knowledge production, b) peer to peer systemic knowledge sharing and c) supporting variant forms of civic action.

To help you prepare, below you'll find a preview of the questions contained on the application form.

1. Provide a clear description of the specific problem that your idea aims to solve, using non-expert language. Include evidence of the problem, ideally from your own experience as well as from secondary sources. Focus on setting the stage for your solution (rather than describing how you intend to solve it).  If your idea is specific to one region, please state in which geographic area (country, region, specific site) you are trying to solve the problem. (200 words or less)

2. Describe your idea, including how it will contribute to solving the problem identified and to reimagining and redesigning a conservation model that can better respond to the social and environmental challenges the world is facing. (250 words or less)

3. What makes your idea innovative? Describe how your idea challenges the status quo to create more equitable, inclusive and future-relevant pathways for conservation . Remember, not all ideas may be ‘new’ per se – some may have been implemented in communities and localities for decades – yet the innovation could lie in the process of mainstreaming them and changing the system.  (200 words or less)

4. Describe how your idea aims to build a just, equitable, and sustainable future for the planet. In answering this question, think about how your idea addresses existing inequalities in conservation work and seeks to improve life on Earth. (200 words or less)

5. Does your idea relate to one or more of the themes identified as areas where change is most needed in conservation NGOs? Describe how your idea contributes to change within this theme (or themes), thinking about which elements of the theme (or themes) it addresses. If it does not not relate directly to any of these themes, use this space to provide more detail on the change your idea seeks to create. (200 words or less)

-  Operational and funding models

-  Communication and narratives

-  Interdependency and inclusivity

-  Legacy, power and principles

-  Other

6. Describe who will benefit from your idea, both directly and indirectly. Where possible, include numbers of beneficiaries and when answering think about their characteristics and geographic locations. (150 words or less)

7. Have you begun to test your solution, put it into practice or develop a minimum viable product?

- If YES, describe any outcomes or data you have to demonstrate impact so far. Describe any problems you encountered and how you want to improve your solution. (200 words or less)

- If NO, describe the assumptions you are using to predict impact. What do you need to move from idea into practice or testing? (200 words or less)

When answering this question and thinking about impact, try to tell us what type of information you think is important to track. We encourage you to think outside the box and make suggestions that can steer away from traditional ways of measuring impact. Make sure that you tell us how they can be measured.

8. How would your idea be sustained financially over time? Describe the funding or revenue model and any specific financial milestones achieved to date or projected. (200 words or less)

9. Describe the potential of your idea to be replicated or deployed in a global context, or considered relevant in localities outside of your own. What are the potential obstacles that stand in the way? (200 words or less)

10. How does the idea benefit from the strengths, expertise, and assets of yourself and/or your team members? Describe individual or team links to the geographic, social or cultural context of your idea. (200 words or less)

11. What is the next major milestone for your idea and what is the biggest problem you face in achieving it? (150 words or less)

12. What is conservation to you? Describe how you feel about this term. (150 words or less)

Please see the challenge FAQ for more information.

Where are we coming from?

“It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties.”

- Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene

At the Future of the NGO initiative, we acknowledge the importance of recognizing our positionality, including the way we understand the concepts and knowledge we are using and sharing. By reflecting on where we are coming from and how we interpret our key concepts, we aim to engage in the ongoing debates that we believe are central to the sector, and which have been a major motivation for this project in the first place.

Here we present our understanding of some key concepts. These are by no means exhaustive, static or definite; we are in an ongoing learning process and we hope that this starting point serves as an invitation for our readers to join us in the discussion!

Conservation:

The Future of Conservation NGOs project has been, above all, an effort to provide the conservation sector with a space to embrace uncertainty, uncomfortable discussions, and deconstruct itself. Central to this has been the recognition that the term conservation itself is fundamentally controversial, and comes with a legacy and a long history of unresolved issues.
One of our main learnings throughout this process is that conservation means very different things across people, race, class, gender, discipline, schools of thought, sectors and geographies, to name a few. There are diverse understandings upon why, who, how and what to conserve, and one of the main goals of this Innovation Challenge is to better understand our interlocutors’ view on this.
This said, we also acknowledge that there is no neutrality in these debates, and that stating that we don’t have our own opinion around what conservation is would not only be naive, but simply dishonest. Here, we want to share with you OUR understanding of conservation, hoping that this will create an open discussion.
For us, conservation refers to: ways of being and living that are intended to maintain, establish or improve thriving relationships among all life on Earth.

References:
LHI’s understanding of what conservation means is mainly inspired by the thinking of:
Robin Wall Kimmerer – Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
Sandbrook, C. (2015) ‘What is conservation?’, Oryx, 49(4), pp. 565–566. doi: 10.1017/S0030605315000952.
Wyborn, C. et al. (2020) ‘Imagining transformative biodiversity futures’, Nature Sustainability, 3(9), pp. 670–672. doi: 10.1038/s41893-020-0587-5.

Impact:

Throughout this initiative we talk about impact. For the Innovation Challenge, we are seeking for innovative and unconventional solutions that positively impact conservation outcomes. But, what do we mean with impact for conservation effectiveness?
As previously stated, conservation is normative and means different things for different people. In this sense, the way one understands positive impact for conservation directly reflects our own values and ideas of what is better for life on Earth. In the conservation sector, impact indicators have been traditionally shaped by the values and views of the donors, which often ends up in the imposition of Global North conservation priorities and styles in projects implemented in the Global South.
While using the word impact constantly, we want to acknowledge that we understand that this is a normative concept, that it is not subjective and that it must be constantly examined. We want this Innovation Challenge to provide a space for the ideation, mainstreaming and discussion of new ways of looking and measuring impact for conservation.

Minimum viable product:

“A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product's initial users.”

References:

What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)? - Definition from Techopedia (no date) Techopedia.com. Available at: http://www.techopedia.com/definition/27809/minimum-viable-product-mvp (Accessed: 17 April 2022).

Positionality:

“Positionality is the notion that personal values, views, and location in time and space influence how one understands the world. In this context, gender, race, class, and other aspects of identities are indicators of social and spatial positions and are not fixed, given qualities. Positions act on the knowledge a person has about things, both material and abstract. Consequently, knowledge is the product of a specific position that reflects particular places and spaces.”

References:

Warf, B. (2010) ‘Positionality’, in Encyclopedia of Geography. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 2258–2258. doi:10.4135/9781412939591.

Timeline

Webinar

On Wednesday, 4 May 2022, we hosted a webinar: The future of conservation NGOs – Innovation Challenge – Seeking innovative ideas for transformative change.

The webinar featured an informational session about the innovation challenge and live Q&A, as well as short inspirational talks.

The speakers:

  • Anca Damerell, Head of Programme at the Luc Hoffmann Institute 
  • Ameyali Ramos, Deputy Chair for the IUCN Commission on Environment, Economic and Social Policy and the International Policy Coordinator for the ICCA Consortium 
  • Bruno Lacey, Global Associate at Impact Hub 
  • Martin Kalungu-Banda, consultant in organisation and leadership development, a facilitator of innovation and change; trainer, coach and author and a social-entrepreneur

If you were not able to attend, you can watch the full recording below.

Questions

Please see the challenge FAQ for more information.
For specific questions about the challenge or the incubation programmes, contact futurengo@wwfint.org.

Terms & Conditions

Read the full project Terms & Conditions.

Categories
Uncategorized

The Future of Conservation NGOs

Redesign the operational, financial, and governance models.
Challenge dominant Global North narratives, embrace different and plural voices & knowledge.
Dismantle racist and discriminatory structures, decolonise conservation practices.
Embrace a more inclusive approach, collaborate & engage with a diverse range of actors.

Four broad themes provide a guide to the areas where change is most needed in conservation NGOs. The challenge is seeking innovative ideas that address these themes, but also welcome those that do not fall neatly within the themes. 

In phase one of ‘The future of conservation NGOs’ initiative that started in December 2020, the institute facilitated a series of bilateral consultations and a convening where a diverse set of thinkers and leaders helped identify the areas that are impacting conservation effectiveness.

The issues and challenges shared by the participants were clustered into the dominant and recurring themes where change is most needed.

The Four Themes

1. Power and Legacy

Future of Conservation NGOs: Power & Legacy

There is a need to address and dismantle racist and discriminatory structures, rebalance the power, move away from neo-colonial conservation approaches and address the consequent disparities in the distribution of financial aid and resources.

Keywords: Shift Mindset | Decolonise | Rebalance

Sub themes:

Power
Imbalance

Principles & Values

Education & Learning

Power & Funding

Mindset
shifts

Innovations could offer solutions in one or more of the following:

  • Addressing and challenging the existing power structures between
    • Urban and rural areas
    • Global North and Global South
  • Decolonising mindsets and behaviours
  • Decolonising education 
  • Decolonising communication 
  • Decolonising funding practices

How might we embrace collective and shared leadership?

How might we create equitable representation across boards and management to dismantle top-down/hierarchical models?

How might we decolonise conservation practice and actions?

2. Interdependence and Inclusivity

Future of Conservation NGOs: Interdependence and inclusivity

The conservation sector must embrace a more inclusive approach to external collaborations and engage with a diverse range of conservation players. The scale of the challenge – encompassing climate change, the sixth mass extinction, water scarcity, pollution, inequality, poverty, and more – means that solutions require new and unexpected forms of cooperation among different actors.

Keywords: Diversify | Include | Integrate

Sub themes:

Partnerships
& people

Interdisciplinarity
& interdependency

Innovations could offer solutions in one or more of the following:

  • Mainstreaming the inclusion of different and alternative perspectives, realities and knowledge in nature and conservation work.
  • Challenging Global North ideas and concepts of conservation action for impact at the expenses of valuable local indigenous knowledge.
  • Finding innovative partnership models and collaborations that can improve conservation effectiveness.
  • Facilitating cross-sectoral integration of biodiversity conservation, climate problems and socio-economic issues for collective action.

How might we design hybrid models where global-issues are addressed in a systematic manner instead of siloed?

How might we create equitable representations across boards and management?

How might we mainstream alternative strands of evidence-based knowledge?

3. Communication and Narratives

Future NGO: Communication and narratives

Conservation’s dominant Global North narratives need to be questioned, challenged, and reframed. They need to bring together not just different narratives but, crucially, different and plural voices embedded in shared knowledge, values and vision.

Keywords: Challenge | Listen | Reframe

Sub themes:

Communication methods & tactics

Power & Communication

Changing narratives

Innovations could offer solutions in one or more of the following:

  • Communicating and engaging with non-traditional players.
  • Adopting more modern systems and tools of communication and engagement.
  • Challenging and reframing dominant ‘Global North ideas and concepts’ of conservation impact.
  • Providing voice to alternative perceptions, realities and knowledge about natural resources.
  • Improving collaborations and engagement with social movements such as Me Too, Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion.

How might we effectively reach specific groups in the places where they reside?

How might we better frame narratives and steer away from a victimised narrative?

How might we harness social movements to maximise impact?

How might we value nature across different social systems, cultures, beliefs?

4. Operational and Funding models

Future NGO: Operation and funding models

The conservation sector is constrained by a traditional linear approach to solving problems and a short-term project-based approach. This often leads NGOs to miss the big picture and to struggle for limited short-term financing. With a multitude of interdependent and complex social, environmental and economic challenges, the conservation sector needs to reimagine and redesign its operational, financial and governance models.

Keywords: Simplify | Cooperate | Reimagine

Sub themes:

Funding models & partnerships

Operational & governance models

Innovations could offer solutions in one or more of the following:

  • Addressing the power imbalances encountered during planning, governance and implementation of projects
  • Improving engagement with non-traditional partners
  • Increasing the availability and diversity of long-term financing for conservation
  • Addressing the uneven distribution and access to available finances
  • Mainstreaming need-based funding approaches.

How might we restructure/ reorganise governance and operational models for greater inclusivity?

How might we better engage non-traditional partners to deliver the envisioned biodiversity and social impact?

How might we reimagine new models of philanthropy/ funding mechanisms that could provide long-term sustainable financing?

Return to the Innovation Challenge landing page

Related Resources:

Read our report Exploring possible futures for conservation NGOs

Discover 15 bold ideas for how conservation NGOs could transform

The White-Savior Industrial Complex
A March 2012 article in The Atlantic that provides an overview of the problematic ‘White-savior narrative/victimised narrative’ by Teju Cole.

Categories
news publication

Thinking together: a new report explores possible futures for conservation NGOs

The work of nature conservation organisations is becoming increasingly urgent in the face of the interlinked crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. At the same time, digital transformation and shifting societal norms create extraordinary challenges for these organisations, as well as opportunities for change.

Conservation NGOs have come under increasing pressure, with questions about organisational culture and racism, colonial legacy, power distribution and funding models. To ensure their continued relevance, effectiveness and legitimacy, they must seek new roles and organisational forms.

The Luc Hoffmann Institute has published Exploring Possible Futures for Conservation NGOs, a report that is intended to help kickstart a journey of reimagining how nature conservation is organised and approached. The report is based on the first phase of “The Future of Conservation NGOs”, an initiative that seeks to explore possible futures for conservation NGOs as well as innovative pathways to those futures.

Report: Exploring possible futures for conservation NGOs

“The context in which conservation NGOs operate has changed greatly and, as a result, the organisations themselves need to change too,” said Anca Damerell, Head of Programme at the Luc Hoffmann Institute.  “This report sets out some bold and innovative thinking around how conservation NGOs can shift towards possible new roles, filtered through lenses that capture our fast-changing world.”

“We have asked ourselves whether we are the right organisation to lead this conversation,” said Melanie Ryan, Director of the Luc Hoffmann Institute. “Acknowledging that we, too, are part of the status quo and have to be honest and also turn the mirror on how we can do better as part of this exploration and community. We are committed to including a highly diverse set of voices in this initiative and incorporating critiques with the aim to help spark a necessary radical transformation of the nature conservation sector.”

After describing the external and internal trends that are currently affecting the work of conservation NGOs, the report presents 15 potential future roles for them, each one based on a possible future state of the world. In each case, potential pathways towards the role are described, along with the mindset and culture required and the organisational forms best adapted to that role. Examples of organisations that already embody aspects of each role are also given.

The following 15 propositions are examples of potential roles for future conservation NGOs.
Luc Hoffmann Institute

The report is co-authored by Barney Tallack, who leads and supports strategy and transformation processes across NGOs of all sizes, and Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken, who works on international development and civil society issues in practice, in academia and as an independent consultant. The report also draws on inputs from a diverse group of thought leaders and practitioners drawn from across the world, who were either interviewed or participated in a convening held in September 2021.

About the Project: ‘The Future of Conservation NGOs’ brings together conservation practitioners, community members, thinkers, disruptors, and leaders – from across different geographies, disciplines, and sectors to reimagine the presence, role and structure of conservation NGOs. It explores in-depth the impact of systemic patterns such as organisational culture and racism, colonial legacy, power asymmetries, and funding models on conservation NGO effectiveness. It scrutinises the emerging disruptions to the conservation sector, challenges current assumptions and identifies emerging tensions and desired outcomes. This initiative aspires to uncover root causes, identify areas of change and focus on co-creating innovative solutions and regenerative pathways that are future-relevant. To date a total of 59 people, aged 26 to 60+, were either interviewed by the institute, took part in a two-day convening, or both.  If this initiative resonates with you and you would like to engage with us, please contact Anca Damerell, Head of Programme at the Luc Hoffmann Institute, at adamerell@wwfint.org.