What do you get when almost 150 conservation-obsessed people from 33 countries around the globe—including three EcoLogic representatives from three countries—converge on rural Spain? Aside from splendid food, landscapes, and cultural heritage of Món Sant Benet and Barcelona, you get the power of connections and ideas to improve the practice of conservation. Especially when the vast majority of attendees are conservation coaches with a penchant for motivational talks, top notch facilitation, and expertise in the practical matters of helping teams and organizations gain ground in conservation efforts, sometimes against all odds.
EcoLogic’s Regional Program Director, Gabriela González, based in Guatemala, and Senior Manager for Impact, Learning, and Innovation, Dave Kramer, based in Cambridge, were invited to join the 2015 Conservation Coaches Network (CCNet) Rally thanks to the work they’ve been doing with longtime conservation coach Yven Echeverria, based in Mexico. Appropriately, no one would ever think of calling CCNet’s biannual gathering a conference. As a rally, it afforded Gaby, Dave, and Yven a chance to galvanize energy and test out some ideas on other coaches while receiving guidance and feedback and even helping to influence the thinking of bigger organizations
The potential for EcoLogic to steer the conservation field to say “and” rather than “or” when considering people and nature is truly stronger than ever. The rally started with a keynote address that highlighted a shift in thinking in conservation circles, but that really wasn’t all that new to EcoLogic. In the keynote “Unlocking behavior change in conservation,” Dr. Meredith Niles of the University of Vermont discussed the importance of empowerment and a person’s perceived capacity to make change. These concepts are the foundation of EcoLogic’s work: empowering rural communities to conserve ecosystems, helping local people believe in themselves and the power of their community to lead sustainable change and to do things they previously thought impossible.
Through our presentations, facilitation efforts, and informal conversations during meals, trail runs, and one amazing outing to Montserrat, the EcoLogic team received invaluable feedback and new perspective on three aspects of our work: 1) insight into scaling up our work to a landscape level in Honduras, 2) questions and excitement related to the license we’ve taken to adapt the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation to fit EcoLogic’s people-centered approach to conservation projects, and 3) advice to help refine our business processes so that we maximize the value of the Open Standards for our projects and community partners, managing projects adaptively with our eyes collectively on ambitious long-range goals as well as more immediate practical targets.
At the end of the day, the CCNET “rally” inspired the EcoLogic team to improve planning conservation projects with a focus on results and values and to continue to place primary importance on local community partners, all while learning from and exchanging ideas with groups from as far afield as Tanzania and Australia. We’re all in this together, and it’s a process of continual improvement and learning. It’s nice to have the tools and community to back us up.
The Conservation Coaches Network (CCNet) is an interconnected community of conservation practitioners whose mission is to catalyze transformational conservation by empowering people to develop, implement, evaluate, adapt and share effective strategies that achieve tangible conservation results benefiting people and nature all over the world.