Harnessing potential

Long-term conservation success depends on developing a network of committed individuals and institutions that are strong enough and effective enough to address the threats to our natural world.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has always worked on the premise that solutions to conservation problems ultimately lie in local hands. We actively promote the idea of harnessing the knowledge, enthusiasm and potential of those would-be conservation champions on the ground by working with them to increase their effectiveness.

It is now widely acknowledged that any serious attempt to find sustainable solutions to conservation challenges needs to be locally driven. But the ability of local institutions and individuals to address these challenges – particularly in some of the world’s most biologically rich areas – is often constrained by a lack of experience or limited access to the necessary resources, financial or otherwise.

Critical mass

With this in mind, one of FFI’s absolute priorities is to ensure that as many as possible of these people and organisations are equipped with the skills and resources needed to maximise their conservation impact.

At an individual level, we are providing professional development in areas such as leadership, advocacy and technical skills, through mechanisms such as the Conservation Leadership Programme, which offers grants, training, mentoring and networking opportunities to promising early-career conservationists in developing countries, and the Cambridge-based Masters in Conservation Leadership, which aims to train students drawn from all around the world to address the challenges of biodiversity conservation in an integrated and interdisciplinary manner by focusing on the root causes of biodiversity loss.

Boosting institutions and sectors

Cambodia is a prime example of a country rich in biodiversity, but severely hampered by circumstance. In this case, decades of under-investment in the education sector following civil war and the Khmer Rouge genocide had left the country scientifically and educationally impoverished. FFI joined forces with the Royal University of Phnom Penh to establish Cambodia’s first masters degree in biodiversity conservation and launch the Cambodian Journal of Natural History, the first scientific periodical of its kind.

At an institutional level, we offer support to our partners in strategic planning, building strong governance, finance and administration structures and improving access to funding. FFI’s interventions may take the form of anything from mentoring and coaching, to training, information sharing and exchanges. We are demand-led, responding to requests for support and tailoring our approach accordingly, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all solution on all our partners.

Building networks for learning, development and innovation

We are also developing ways to support and learn from each other. As the complexity of conservation issues has increased, FFI has recognised the need for closer collaboration between global leaders in this field so that their experiences and lessons learned can be shared more effectively, allowing us to be collectively more efficient. Building strategic alliances between groups to share information, skills and resources is leading to more successful conservation. The pooling of local and international skills is also providing important learning opportunities in both directions, resulting in improved conservation operations on a wider scale.

One of the most obvious ways to improve our collective efficiency is through the use of technology, and FFI is helping to connect technology experts with our field staff and partners on the ground in order to enhance the effectiveness of their work by allowing them to achieve more with the limited human resources at their disposal. At the same time, we are also giving our partners a voice to ensure that any proposed technological solutions are genuinely appropriate to their needs.

All of these activities are absolutely pivotal to FFI’s overall success. In the long run, they result in flourishing careers and a critical mass of thriving, self-sufficient partners capable of achieving great things for the biodiversity in their own backyards.