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Global perspectives on the pathways for developing capacity for conservation remain limited. Hindering the robustness of solutions is a dearth of opportunities to foster discussion and dialogue among capacity development practitioners, academics, partners, beneficiaries and donors. Additionally, little is known about donor perspectives on capacity development, and about pathways to developing a more sustainable investment in capacity development for conservation. The 2019 Capacity Building for Conservation Conference in London, UK, provided a unique opportunity to convene more than 150 capacity development practitioners from the global conservation community. The Conference included structured opportunities to hear donor perspectives on strengthening capacity development. Session leaders took detailed notes to document donor perspectives and the discussions around them. A thematic analysis of this empirical evidence resulted in the identification of four key themes with corresponding recommendations, consisting of (1) collaborative design of capacity development initiatives, (2) monitoring and evaluation, (3) longer-term and flexible investments, and (4) building strong relationships between donors and grantees. Given the Convention on Biological Diversity is currently drafting the long-term strategic framework for capacity development post-2020, and global calls to protect significant portions of our land- and seascapes, our recommendations are timely and may inform a way forward.
Biodiversity loss is one of the greatest global challenges and requires substantial investment in building the capacity of conservation professionals to design and implement robust conservation plans. In this study, we surveyed 155 past participants of training in facilitating species conservation planning processes given by the Conservation Planning Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. Based on a recently developed theory of change for the training, we examined how and to what extent the training contributed to the desired outcome of increasing trainees’ capacity for leading the design and facilitation of species conservation planning processes. Our results indicate that recall of training content, self-efficacy (an individual's belief they can complete a specific task or behaviour successfully) and peer network participation had significant impacts on the outcome of applying training content in the workplace. Furthermore, our results suggest that self-efficacy played a highly influential role in trainees' participation in species conservation planning post-training. The implications of this research point to designing conservation training that considers not only the skills and knowledge to be gained by learners but also the strategies that enhance trainees' self-efficacy in applying new skills and knowledge and in establishing peer networks to support trainees in turning training objectives into realities.
Training plays a central role in the pursuit of conservation goals, and it is vital to know if it is having the desired effect. However, evaluating the difference it makes is notoriously challenging. Here, we present a practitioner's perspective on overcoming these challenges and developing a framework for ongoing evaluation of a conservation training programme. To do this, we first created a theory of change, describing the pathway of change we expect from training delivery to conservation impact. This provided the clarity and structure needed to identify indicators of change in the short, medium and long term. For data collection, we utilized both quantitative and qualitative methods to provide a more complete understanding of the change expected and capture any that might be unexpected. However, the more time that passes since a training event, the more difficult it becomes to attribute results; in response, we shifted predominantly to the use of qualitative methods to understand the long-term results achieved. After 3 years of implementation, this framework has enabled us to measure the difference our training makes to individuals and their work, and to provide evidence for the contribution it makes to achieving conservation impact. We believe that the lessons learnt can be used to improve the evaluation of training activities across the conservation sector and maximize the impact they achieve.
Capacity development is increasingly recognized as central to conservation goals. Efforts to develop individual, organizational and societal capacity underpin direct investments in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management, and sustain their impact over time. In the face of urgent needs and increasingly complex contexts for conservation the sector not only needs more capacity development, it needs new approaches to capacity development. The sector is embracing the dynamic relationships between the ecological, political, social and economic dimensions of conservation. Capacity development practitioners should ensure that individuals, organizations and communities are prepared to work effectively in these complex environments of constant change to transform the systems that drive biodiversity loss and unsustainable, unequitable resource use. Here we advocate for a systems view of capacity development. We propose a conceptual framework that aligns capacity development components with all stages of conservation efforts, fosters attention to context, and coordinates with parallel efforts to engage across practitioners and sectors for more systemic impact. Furthermore, we highlight a need for practitioners to target, measure and support vital elements of capacity that have traditionally received less attention, such as values and motivation, leadership and organizational culture, and governance and participation by using approaches from psychology, the social sciences and systems thinking. Drawing from conservation and other sectors, we highlight examples of approaches that can support reflective practice, so capacity development practitioners can better understand the factors that favour or hinder effectiveness of interventions and influence system-wide change.
This book brings together leading conservation practitioners to reflect on their response to the current global biodiversity crisis, through the lens of island species recovery and management. Initial chapters cover the biological understanding of small population biology and the growing threat of invasive species, while subsequent chapters discuss the management of these threats and the complexity of leading projects within a dynamic and still relatively unknown system. Multiple case studies from islands worldwide illustrate key points, allowing readers to draw on the first-hand practical experience of experienced professionals. This resource will be invaluable to both current and future conservation professionals, helping them to go beyond disciplinary 'comfort zones' and develop, manage and lead projects over extensive timeframes in a way that brings others with them on the journey.