The Luc Hoffmann Institute brings together diverse thinkers to reflect on the future of conservation NGOs

The world around us is rapidly changing and the conservation sector is increasingly feeling the impact of these changes. Topics surrounding climate change, biodiversity, socio-environmental justice and the need for better sustainable practices and governance are becoming common conversations. 

On 15-16 September 2021, the Luc Hoffmann Institute convened a group of 41 conservation practitioners, academics, researchers, strategists, activists, fund managers, science communicators and supporters over two virtual sessions to discuss the future of conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs). 

The institute used the Three Horizons Approach framework to facilitate different ways of thinking and spark themes to be explored throughout the meeting. Graham Leicester and Catherine Cooney of the International Futures Forum facilitated the sessions. 

The aim of the meeting was to deliberate on the existing challenges, innovations and disruptive trends and to collectively identify areas of inquiry to create sustainable pathways for conservation NGOs.

On the first day, we looked at the bigger picture within which NGOs operate; the current trends and disruptions that the sector is facing and is likely to be affected by in the coming years. Next, we focused on the present concerns and collective aspirations for the future of conservation NGOs.  

The conversations spanned the complex relationships between nature, culture, people, economy and power. 

We heard some thought-provoking questions: “What if we could challenge ourselves to a vision where conservation is no longer needed because everyone should be living conservation?” With that, someone asked, “If I am no longer a conservationist….what am I?”

On the second day, we examined the need to embrace a broader diversity of worldviews. We delved into the complexity that we face, identifying areas of tension that we have encountered while exploring creative resolutions.

“How do we make space for the inner work that is needed for these changes?” asked one participant.

The session ended with the group reflecting on the psychological, cultural and spiritual work needed for deeper and longer-term change. One participant put things in perspective by quoting American environmental lawyer and advocate James Speth. “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change, but I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.”

Where next? 

We look forward to continuing this conversation and finding innovative pathways forward for conservation NGOs. If this initiative resonates with you and you would like to engage with us in the development of The future of conservation NGOs, please contact Anca Damerell, Head of Programme at the Luc Hoffmann Institute, at adamerell@wwfint.org.

Related reading

A September 2021 thought piece by Marcelo Furtado, visiting scholar at Columbia University.