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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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The science, policy and practice interface

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Shareholder activism: Standing up for sustainability?

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Doing science Differently: Co-producing Conservation outcomes

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Strengthening collaborative And inclusive strategies for Deforestation-free policies An evidence-based approach For the soy supply chain