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Exploring the potential of gamification to finance nature conservation: a new report

Biodiversity loss is one of the world’s most immediate and critical challenges and at the same time it is becoming increasingly difficult to build interest in and fundraise for nature conservation. The latest estimate of the gap between what is needed to be spent to conserve nature and what is actually spent (the ‘conservation gap’) is over USD 800 billion per year. 

A new report by the Luc Hoffmann Institute – Using Gamification in Nature Conservation – explores how storytelling and gamification can derive value from, and for, wildlife. It highlights some current and past initiatives, theories and lessons learned from these efforts. The report not only lays out the current landscape, but also aims to spark people’s imagination to act on an increasingly urgent need.

‘’Finding the value that people will pay for is the holy grail of 21st-century conservation. The conservation community is sitting on a massive asset – charismatic species, wildplaces and nature stories – that could provide massive value with the right model’’, says Adrian Dellecker, Head of Strategy and Development at the Luc Hoffmann Institute. ‘’This report seeks to stimulate innovation, encourage entrepreneurs, and convince states and corporations that by using available technology, we can meaningfully address the painful financial gap in global conservation efforts and reconnect humans with nature. This report is not an end in itself: it must result in a flurry of innovation from a new generation of entrepreneurs.’’

This report begins with an overview of gamification, followed by an exploration of gamified marketplaces as alternatives for donations. Experts in a range of fields were interviewed and eleven case studies were examined, ranging from blockchain games to gamified marketplaces. In conclusion, the report recommends that gamification should be considered as one solution in a wide suite of methods to revolutionise nature conservation funding.

The authors of Using gamification in nature conservation are PentaQuest, independent gamification experts and Sasha Sebright, an MPhil candidate at the University of Cambridge who has been working closely with the institute’s Gamifying Nature Conservation project team.

To learn more about the Luc Hoffmann Institute’s work on gamification techniques and conservation please visit Gamifying Nature Conservation

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From valuation to revenue generation: A new report mapping the landscape for a nature economy

Recent years have seen the emergence of innovative financial transaction mechanisms designed to help reverse the alarming trends in biodiversity loss. If implemented at scale, these mechanisms could help to kickstart a nature economy, where financial flows would take account of the natural laws and boundaries of our planet.

A new report by the Luc Hoffmann Institute – Mapping the Landscape for a Nature Economy – provides an inventory of these new transaction mechanisms and a range of related enabling frameworks. In doing so, the report aims to stimulate discussion and creative exploration. Further research on how well the mechanisms perform is needed to identify those most likely to attract large capital providers.

“Since we live in a world motivated and driven by economic incentives, giving an economic value to nature should provide an incentive to preserve it,” says Adrian Dellecker, Head of Strategy and Development at the Luc Hoffmann Institute. “This report takes an important step towards creating a nature economy that bridges the gap between academic valuations of nature’s benefits and the real-world transactions that are needed to fund conservation.”

The report describes a total of 23 transaction mechanisms and examples of their implementation. The mechanisms range from fiscal interventions and regulatory instruments to new government-enabled markets, traditional market-based instruments and hybrid mechanisms. The inventory also lists enabling frameworks, which provide common approaches to accounting and valuation. And finally, it covers the global datasets and standards that are necessary for the transaction mechanisms to be scaled up.

The authors of Mapping the Landscape for a Nature Economy are Britta Rendlen, an independent advisor on sustainable finance, and David Uzsoki, who is Sustainable Finance Lead and Senior Advisor at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). The report is published in collaboration with IISD and the MAVA Foundation.

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The Future of Nature-Based Tourism: A new report on the impacts of COVID-19 and paths to sustainability

COVID-19 has led to an abrupt halt in nature-based tourism around the world, marked by travel restrictions, lockdowns and closures of protected areas. Unfortunately, when tourism stops, so too do the benefits of conservation, both for wildlife and local communities alike.

A new report by the Luc Hoffmann Institute – The Future of Nature-Based Tourism: Impacts of COVID-19 and paths to sustainability – outlines the challenges facing the nature-based tourism sector and offers recommendations for future resilience and sustainability. The author, Dr Anna Spenceley, is a leading authority in sustainable and responsible tourism with a focus on biodiversity conservation and protected areas, particularly in Africa.

While there have been some positive impacts from the global pause in tourism – such as a decrease in overtourism at popular destination sites, allowing wildlife the space to recover – it has also seen local livelihoods, many of which depend entirely on nature-based tourism, decimated and declines in revenues that go towards conservation efforts. 

An EU survey cited in the report found that 543 tourism operators working in African protected areas collectively employed 48,000 people, of whom more than half were recruited locally. On average, 65% of local staff members were on reduced wages and hours because of the pandemic, and more than half have put some (or all) of their local employees on leave without pay since February 2020. An estimated 94% of local employees would be affected by being on reduced wages, unpaid leave, being made redundant or unemployed if the crisis continues.

The report offers examples of some pathways to sustainable recovery, such as virtual tours and creating new tourism products with lower rates for domestic visitors. Technical and financial assistance are also being made available in the form of grants, crowdsourcing, and investment and facilitation platforms. An African-led collaborative platform, incubated by the Luc Hoffmann Institute in 2020, for example, is being developed by WWF to increase existing fundraising efforts, connect funders with beneficiaries and build resilience within African wildlife communities, in response to COVID-19. 

“The halt in tourism has been devastating for so many communities and conservation efforts, but the pause has also given people time to reassess priorities,” said Jon Hutton, WWF International Global Conservation Director and former Director of the Luc Hoffmann Institute. “Systems analysis is crucial for change, and research like this highlights the institute’s work in accelerating innovation and catalysing new approaches. It shows there is hope and a path toward recovery through diversification, resilience and sustainability.”

The research also emphasises the urgency of diversifying community livelihoods and conservation funding beyond a sole reliance on tourism. Since 2019, the Luc Hoffmann Institute has been working to address this need through Beyond Tourism in Africa, an innovation challenge held in partnership with the African Leadership University’s School of Wildlife Conservation and WWF-Africa. The challenge sought innovative ideas for how communities could diversify their incomes beyond tourism revenue. Fifteen winners were selected, with ideas ranging from live, virtual nature classrooms to rewilding initiatives, forest carbon payment systems and more.

“Assessing and understanding what actually happens when we experience shocks in our current systems is a key step to accelerating sustainable futures.”

“COVID-19 has forced us all to stop and reflect on how our world fundamentally works and for whom, and to consider alternate and better pathways. This report, and its research, open a door to discussion and new perspectives, which in turn can lead to systemic change and, eventually, a world in which all life on Earth can thrive together,” said Melanie Ryan, Director of the Luc Hoffmann Institute.

To learn more about the Luc Hoffmann Institute’s work on nature-based tourism and its incubation of the collaborative platform now being developed by WWF, please visit Securing the Future of Nature-based Tourism in Africa.

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Strengthening Futures Capacity in Africa: a new African Ecological Futures report

How can Africa develop its potential without having a negative impact on nature and on the benefits that local communities in Africa derive from nature? Looking 50 years into the future, when Africa has become a prosperous and dynamic force internationally, what ecological infrastructure would African societies want to see left? How much of the continent’s forests, watersheds, wildlife and traditional lifestyles should be protected and fostered, and how should that be done?

Increased use in Africa of tools for thinking about the future can help ensure the right questions are asked today. A new report on strengthening futures capacity in Africa, incubated by the Luc Hoffmann Institute for WWF’s African Ecological Futures project, explores the different methods for imagining the many possible futures for Africa and for identifying the actions required to reach those futures. The report’s author is Laura Pereira, a South African researcher who specialises in futures methods for imagining sustainable development pathways.

As well as providing a snapshot of the extent to which futures thinking is currently used in Africa, the report also points to a set of tools that can be used by people in Africa in a futures-oriented approach to strategic planning. Ranging from scenario planning and backcasting to science fiction prototyping and the Cynefin framework for decision-making under complexity, the tools are described alongside the kinds of questions they can help to answer.

In an afterword, Fred Swaniker, Founder of the African Leadership Group, welcomes the new report. He says it is “a great step to shifting our paradigm towards how we plan for and imagine Africa’s ecological future.”

Preferences and pathways: strengthening futures capacity in Africa is published as part of the Luc Hoffmann Institute’s commitment to the African Ecological Futures programme, now in its second phase. In publishing the report, the institute hopes to contribute both to the creation of an engaged group of futures specialists and to planning efforts for the development of futures-thinking capacity in Africa.

To learn more about the African Ecological Futures programme and contribute to boosting institutional futures capacity on the continent, please contact Adrian Dellecker at: adellecker@wwfint.org

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‘Imagining transformative biodiversity futures’: Nature Sustainability commentary explores future scenarios for life on Earth

A new commentary published in Nature Sustainability highlights a need for greater diversity, justice and creativity in efforts to rebalance humanity’s relationship with the natural world. Citing three evocative scenarios of what the future of life on Earth might look like, the article aims to spark conversations about the choices society makes for humanity and nature.

Set in 2050, the scenarios portray the potential consequences of decisions and events in the coming years. Though none are inevitable, the stories are based on existing and emerging narratives, strategies and trade-offs for biodiversity, climate, human health, conservation and sustainable development. Authored by a diverse group, including a strong and inspiring set of early career voices, this piece shines a light on the contrasting worldviews and priorities that will shape our futures and provides a snapshot of how diversity in collaboration prompts us to think differently. 

At the heart of the commentary is the need for biodiversity to cross-pollinate with other fields, and move beyond “us vs them” mentalities. We can no longer live in linear, siloed spaces, but must take a fresh, conscious, integrated approach. Our futures depend on innovation and collaboration, people and nature, justice and eco-sustainability, gender equity and development.

“It is beautifully unique to see a high-profile, science-based commentary piece focused on future scenarios and written by young voices in narrative form,” says Rebecca Shaw, Chief Scientist WWF. “This is a new generation’s take on communicating science, not unlike the rise of street art as a form of a more activist and uncompromising set of voices.”

This commentary caps the two-year, Luc Hoffmann Institute-led Biodiversity Revisited initiative, a global, collaborative review of the narratives, principles and practices underpinning biodiversity. 

The project culminated in publication of the Biodiversity Revisited research and action agenda, designed to rethink biodiversity research and generate new conservation actions that put justice at the centre of our efforts. The full agenda is available on ResearchGate and the Luc Hoffmann Institute website, and a synthesised version is under review for publication in Conservation Biology. The foundations for Biodiversity Revisited were laid by Seeds of Change, a compilation of provocative reviews and essays about how to sustain a biodiverse world.

Accompanying the Nature Sustainability commentary will be a thought piece on the Nature Communities website and an interview with Luc Hoffmann Institute Director Jon Hutton and Head of Programme (ad-interim) Melanie Ryan. This offers a candid review of the Biodiversity Revisited journey, including the challenges and impacts of a collaboration involving almost 300 people from diverse countries, sectors, disciplines, and career stages. 

The commentary appears in the latest issue of Nature Sustainability and is available open access for four weeks.

The Nature Sustainability commentary authors are: Carina Wyborn, Federico Davila, Laura Pereira, Michelle Lim, Isis Alvarez, Gretchen Henderson, Amy Luers, Kristal Maze, Maria Jose Martinez-Harms, Jasper Montana, Melanie Ryan, Chris Sandbrook, Rebecca Shaw, Emma Woods.

Biodiversity Revisited was led by the Luc Hoffmann Institute in collaboration with WWF, Future Earth, ETH Zürich Department of Environmental Systems Science, the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London
This initiative was generously supported by the NOMIS Foundation, MAVA Foundation, Foundation for Environmental Conservation and The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center.

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Biodiversity Revisited: New frontiers for biodiversity knowledge and action

A two-year collaboration involving nearly 300 people of 46 nationalities has culminated in a new agenda that charts a course for more effective biodiversity research and action for the next five years.

The agenda is the result of Biodiversity Revisited, an initiative conceived by the Luc Hoffmann Institute that has looked at why the world has failed to stop biodiversity loss and what large-scale changes are needed to sustain diverse and just futures for life on Earth. The initiative carried out the first comprehensive review of the concepts, research, policies and practices underpinning biodiversity conservation since the term emerged in the 1980s. 

The diversity of life that sustains humanity is being severely degraded by human action. This is leading to a deterioration in land, air and water quality, loss of natural ecosystems and widespread declines in populations of wild species. These changes are well documented and of existential significance to human societies, yet significant knowledge about the problem has not catalysed effective, broad-based action. Biodiversity has not, generally speaking, proved to be a compelling object for sufficient action to halt the degradation of the diversity of life on earth.

This research agenda is based on the premise that humanity is part of biodiversity and that we are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. It urges the conservation community to think more broadly and draw on different perspectives, such as the political, legal, economic, social, cultural, and philosophical.

“This agenda is an invitation to consider a new way of thinking and acting in tackling interconnected challenges, whether local or global,” says Dame Georgina Mace, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystems at University College London. “We hope it inspires collaboration between different sectors of society and academia, and invite researchers, policy-makers and funders to take the agenda forward to radically change the way conservation is done.”

A strong interdisciplinary research agenda is critical at a time when global inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and further highlighted by the Black Lives Matter protests have reinforced the need for justice to be at the centre of our efforts. With society undergoing seismic shifts in every aspect of life, holistic collaboration across sectors, disciplines and communities is more important than ever if we are to achieve sustainable futures.

The Biodiversity Revisited agenda aims to guide researchers, practitioners and decision-makers in reframing biodiversity research with a holistic approach that puts an emphasis on justice and the inclusion of a diversity of perspectives. 

Four main themes are covered encompassing a series of research questions designed to broaden thinking and collaboration, and encourage a more comprehensive understanding of what constitutes ‘desirable’ futures. 

  • “Revisiting biodiversity narratives” addresses the entrenched concepts and narratives that have separated humans, cultures, economies and societies from nature. 
  • “Anthropocene, biodiversity, and culture” explores perspectives on the fundamental and evolving relationships between biodiversity and human cultures.
  • “Nature and economy” examines the existing economic and financial systems, which are some of the primary drivers of biodiversity loss.
  • “Enabling transformative biodiversity research and change” draws all of these together, focusing on what individuals and institutions can do to embrace and open up spaces for transformative change by expanding the knowledge, values and cultures utilised within biodiversity research. 

The agenda advocates changes in the way institutions fund, review and conduct research. These could involve adopting more flexible objectives, unlocking funding for inter- and transdisciplinary research and action, integrating professionals across different career stages, and creating equal opportunities for marginalised voices. While interdisciplinary research is increasing, there continues to be a lag in including non-academic voices in research projects, notably those from marginalised communities.

Download the Biodiversity Revisited research agenda.

Visit Biodiversity Revisited for more information about the initiative and its outputs, including Seeds of Change, a compilation of expert reviews and provocative essays that preceded this agenda.

Biodiversity Revisited was led by the Luc Hoffmann Institute in collaboration with WWF, Future Earth, ETH Zürich Department of Environmental Systems Science, the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London

This initiative was generously supported by the NOMIS Foundation, MAVA Foundation, Foundation for Environmental Conservation and The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center.

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The surprising new way to approach human-wildlife conflict: a new report

The way to solve human-wildlife conflict (HWC) may not be as straightforward as people think. Conflicts are fundamentally social and political issues between people and groups of people, but the language of conflict is often associated with negative interactions between wild animals and people, hence the rise of the common term ‘human-wildlife conflict’. 

As the human population grows and environmental issues such as climate change and habitat degradation escalate, negative interactions between wildlife and people are predicted to increase in both frequency and intensity. This in turn leads to conflicts between groups of people with different interests, values and power. Most often, the people directly affected by the depredations of wild animals have very little of the latter. Such conflicts are widespread, and in some cases seriously threaten the worldwide goals of biodiversity preservation and sustainable development. 

Who makes the decisions where there are negative interactions between wild animals and people? Who writes the rules, and who implements them? Who mediates and what is ‘good’ governance in these circumstances? 

There is a widespread acceptance in some parts of the conservation community that profound changes are required in the way  ‘human-wildlife conflict’ is understood, addressed, and managed. However, there are few visible expressions of this awareness being translated in a practical context. Duan Biggs of Griffith University in Australia is convinced that there are some simple tools that can make a significant difference – especially standards and best practice guidelines –  and the Luc Hoffmann Institute has been incubating his ideas so that they take shape and have impact. As part of this work the institute has been helping Duan and others unpack and analyse what is already going. The new report on ‘The state of knowledge and practice on human-wildlife conflicts’ arises from this analysis. Compiled by leading specialists in the field of HWC, it points the way to developing a standard to guide and improve approaches to HWC globally. 

The report addresses fundamental governance questions and uses existing research on relevant standards from natural resources management and wider conservation practice to advise on the factors to consider and the potential design for a new standard.

Read more about the Navigating Conflict over Iconic Wildlife initiative here. If you would like to contribute to the further development of a new global standard for human-wildlife conflict, please contact Jon Hutton, Director, Luc Hoffmann Institute at jhutton@wwfint.org

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Seeds of Change – inspiring a new research agenda for life on Earth

What has gone wrong with nature conservation and how do we bring about transformative change to create a more sustainable future? Which types of knowledge, ethics, principles and actions are needed to reverse the decline of biodiversity? And given the urgency to act, how can we harness them to sustain a just and diverse future for life on Earth?

These are the questions underlying Seeds of Change – provocations for a new research agenda, a compilation of expert reviews and essays generated by the Biodiversity Revisited initiative, led by the Luc Hoffmann Institute in collaboration with WWF, Future Earth, ETH Zürich Department of Environmental Systems Science, University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London. The essays offer diverse, innovative insights and perspectives on biodiversity conservation from around the world from the political, legal, economic and ecological to the moral, social, aesthetic and cultural.

Covering six themes: concepts, narratives, science, governance, systems and futures, the 30 essays and six reviews were written ahead of a Biodiversity Revisited symposium held in Vienna in September 2019 which brought together 74 researchers and practitioners from 23 countries.

Biodiversity Revisited is the first extensive review of the biodiversity concept since the term was coined in the 1980s, looking at why it has not been compelling enough to stop the degradation of the diversity of life on Earth. Seeds of Change underpins the debate about how different types of research practices, knowledge and processes could play a more effective role in setting the foundations and directions for a biodiverse world by 2030.

The initiative aims to raise new awareness about biodiversity and how to conserve it, and will culminate in a five-year research and action agenda.

Download Seeds of Change

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New Luc Hoffmann Institute analysis surveys over 130 incentives for community-based conservation

Fresh off the press is the Luc Hoffmann Institute’s latest analysis publication, ‘Diversifying local livelihoods while sustaining wildlife

The publication provides a landscape snapshot of different models for community-based conservation, mainly in Southern and East Africa, and is accompanied by an inventory of over 130 community conservation initiatives. It is part of a forward-looking initiative with WWF-Norway focussed on identifying and piloting new revenue streams for wildlife conservation beyond tourism and hunting, which have long served as the primary source of revenue for wildlife conservation.

The institute considers  this publication as a starting point. It hopes to help spur new models to provide communities a genuinely sustainable living from their natural environment, all while ensuring the long-term conservation of wildlife and natural systems.

If you would like to take part in the institute’s efforts to find innovative business models for life on Earth, please contact Adrian Dellecker, Head of Programme, Luc Hoffmann Institute at adellecker@wwfint.org

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