The Conservation Learning initiative: improving the impact of conservation strategies

Working in partnership with the MAVA Foundation and Foundations of Success, we are excited to present the Conservation Learning Initiative.

Petrels. Image credit: Paul Donald

The conservation community needs smarter and more successful actions to improve the impact of its work. For example, it is not always clear how to create training programmes that improve performance in a lasting way, or what the ingredients of a successful conservation partnership are, or how donors can set up funding so that grantees can work in a strategic and sustainable way.

One way of designing successful, effective actions is through using insights from evidence-based learning. Recent years have seen significant steps forward in developing concepts for defining and using evidence in conservation. In late 2021, the MAVA Foundation, Foundations of Success, and Conservation Evidence joined forces in an initiative to build further on this work.

We’re excited to share these practical steps for evidence-based learning. We believe this approach can help transform conservation decision making and really deliver for both biodiversity and society.

Bill Sutherland
Miriam Rothschild Professor of Conservation Biology
University of Cambridge

Bufo bufo. Image credit: Silviu Petrovan

Combining the strengths of their approaches with MAVA’s treasure of nearly 30 years of conservation data, they set out to formulate assumptions and collect evidence to answer key learning questions. The results of this joint work is now available on the Conservation Learning Initiative website:

  • A practical 5-step approach for evidence-based learning in conservation, designed for combining different sources of evidence, dealing with differences in reliability and relevance, and drawing conclusions.
  • Valuable insights based on data regarding four widely used conservation strategies: capacity-building, forming partnerships and alliances, providing flexible funding, and research and monitoring.

Uncovering the evidence buried in MAVA’s 30-year portfolio of grant-making has been a fantastic experience. We hope other donors and conservationists will continue this evidence-based approach to benefit our collective conservation efforts.

Lynda Mansson
Director General
MAVA Foundation

Black backed jackals. Image credit: Paul Donald

The lessons learned will help conservationists fine-tune their work or investment to increase their conservation impact. By applying the approach on their own data, they can learn from evidence to make better decisions and progressively improve strategies.

In addition, Foundations of Success and Conservation Evidence intend to revise and improve the approach over time – ideally with participation from the wider conservation community. Visit the website or download the report or to learn more and to join the discussion about the approach or the learning topics.

There is much to gain by questioning the assumptions behind our conservation actions. A minimal investment in assessing evidence leads to a huge payoff in better understanding how to make our actions more effective.

Nick Salafsky
Executive Director, Co-Founder
Foundations of Success

Great white pelicans. Image credit: Andrew Bladon

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