Building Capacity and Capability Across the Conservation Sector
Through Conservation Leaders, we are supporting conservation leaders to achieve greater conservation impacts
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is building the capacity of Aotearoa New Zealand’s conservation and natural resource management leaders to achieve even greater conservation impacts and build a future where both people and nature thrive. Through our Conservation Leaders training program, we are supporting participants to become qualified Conservation Leaders, who can then go on to share their skills with other conservation leaders across the country to achieve greater conservation impacts at scale.
Around the world, the conservation community is tackling large, complex and urgent environmental challenges with high stakes. In many places, people running the world’s most critical conservation and sustainable development projects rely on their own skills and resources. However, without more rigorous measurement of effectiveness and disciplined recording of their efforts, we cannot know or demonstrate that we are achieving desired results.
Aotearoa New Zealand has a proud history of conservation achievements, including bringing several species back from the brink of extinction. The country is full of passionate individuals and dedicated community groups keen to make a difference, often within their immediate natural environment. To accelerate this impact, TNC is working with individuals and organizations to give them additional skills and expertise to work on large-scale and complex conservation initiatives.
Conservation Leaders Program
Conservation Leaders is a four-year program to develop conservation coaching capability in Aotearoa New Zealand and help address the current capability gap in this area. We aim to train conservation leaders across the country in the Conservation Standards (CS), also known as the Conservation by Design (CbD) and Healthy Country Planning (HCP) approach, as well as support them to become qualified Conservation Leaders. Over the next couple of years, TNC aims to train around 180 New Zealand conservation leaders in CS and build national capacity to deliver impactful project management.
In mid-November 2022, TNC brought expert coaches, Stuart Cowell and Philippa Walsh, to Taupō, New Zealand, for a week of training in the ‘Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation’. The training was held at Wairakei Resort and was fully booked within a few days of being advertised. This training was designed to equip participants from conservation groups and leaders with the tools to deliver landscape-scale projects that achieve impacts at a level that affects whole ecosystems and empowers others to lead similar projects. Almost 30 participants from various organizations around the country attended the training, mostly from iwi-led community projects.
The Conservation Standards Approach
The CS approach has been widely used around the world and has adapted well to the needs of working with Indigenous peoples on conservation projects. “Our conservation leaders and planners have thousands of things to worry about—this
approach helps us to identify the critical issues and actions and to work out what will have the biggest impact, what’s the furthest we can go with minimal resources,” said Stuart, Director of Conservation Management. “It allows us to break apart the big challenges, like climate change or habitat loss, and relate the moving parts back to our values—then develop system responses and keep evaluating and testing them to improve our response."
“We can incorporate Indigenous views and voices into the model and facilitate the
establishment of new standards that reflect their perspective. The Conservation Standards offers a meeting point for western and Indigenous thinking, which allows for the dovetailing of cultural values leading to more holistic outcomes."
In addition, CS provides an effective decision-making tool that can bring clarity to the decision-making process and lift program managers out of a perpetual planning vortex: “It recognizes the complexity, enables you to make the best decisions you can with the information you have, but acknowledges the ambiguity of the challenges the sector is facing."
Having a common approach across the globe will help conservation projects share a common language, learn from each other and lift standards internationally. “Most industries have standards that are shared between organizations—this is no different."
TNC is facilitating CS training in New Zealand to support the many community groups and organizations taking on conservation projects around the country.
“New Zealand has a lot to fight for, with so many unique species and habitats under threat. The training program is designed to support community-led projects to achieve multiple enduring outcomes. We’re asking a lot of these groups, and we can support them by giving them the right tools to enable them to plan for successful outcomes," said Carl McGuinness, TNC New Zealand Acting Country Director.
"The socio-economic impacts of our environmental and climate crisis cannot be underestimated, and the conservation standards approach enables a more responsive, consultative way of working that can be adopted and used at the ground level by community groups, iwi and restoration programs.”
CS strengthens communities through its collaborative approach, and focuses on multiple outcomes and values—social and economic as well as environmental, which is the only way we can really approach the complex challenges we face.
“We’ve bought two experienced trainers, Stuart Cowell and Philippa Walsh, to share an approach that is used worldwide. They have comprehensive experience working with Indigenous people and will be using a flexible, adaptive approach to ensure the approach is fit for community groups and iwi, as they can adopt and adapt it to meet their needs.”
“Conservation Standards' strength is in its flexibility, with feedback loops and regular monitoring and adjusting to keep improving the outcomes. It strengthens communities through its collaborative approach and focuses on multiple outcomes and values—social and economic as well as environmental, which is the only way we can really approach the complex challenges we face."
After a successful 2022 workshop, TNC will take the valuable learnings and feedback from the week in Taupō to design and improve future trainings in Aotearoa New Zealand. Stay tuned to learn more.