Conservation by Design

The Basics: A Science-Based Approach

What are the keys to effective conservation? Science-based goals and measuring your results.

The basic concepts of Conservation by Design are simple: setting goals and priorities, developing strategies, taking action and measuring results.

Setting Goals and Priorities

Conservation goals describe the results we want to achieve for biodiversity. Based on the best available scientific information and our sophisticated mapping and planning tools, The Nature Conservancy sets both long-term and near-term goals for conserving the abundance and geographic distribution of critical species and ecological systems. Our overall goal is to ensure the long-term survival of all biodiversity on Earth.

And to make the most effective progress toward our conservation goals, we establish priority targets — those places, threats to biodiversity and strategic opportunities that are most in need of conservation action or promise the greatest conservation return on our investment.

Developing Strategies

Guided by those priorities, we then work with a range of partners to design innovative conservation strategies toward meeting our goals. Our strategies reflect not just our understanding of ecology and critical threats to biodiversity, but also our assessment of the social, political and economic forces at play. We seek solutions that will meet the needs of people as well as species and ecosystems.

Taking Action

The Conservancy is committed to place-based results by taking action locally, regionally and globally. The bulk of our resources — human and financial — are spent executing the strategies we develop together with partners. Our actions are varied and agile, but typically include:

  • Investing in science to inform decision-making;
  • Protecting and managing land and waters, as we did with the largest forest conservation deal in the United States;
  • Forging strategic alliances with a variety of groups from all sectors;
  • Creating and maintaining supportive public policies, practices and incentives;
  • Strengthening the institutional capacity of governments and non-governmental organizations to achieve conservation results, through programs such as the Amazon Indigenous Training Center;
  • Developing and demonstrating innovative conservation approaches, such as our work to create resilient networks of protected marine areas;
  • Building an ethic and support for biodiversity conservation, such as we do with community restoration projects;
  • Generating private and public funding, including through innovative debt-for-nature swaps.
Measuring Results

We measure our effectiveness by answering two questions: "How is the biodiversity doing?" and "Are our actions having the intended impact?" Tracking progress toward our goals and evaluating the effectiveness of our strategies and actions provide the feedback we need to adjust our goals, priorities and strategies and chart new directions.