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Conserving our Natural Environments: A Capacity Challenge

Posted on February 19, 2019
By Liz Weaver

Golden Gate BridgeFrom time to time, the Tamarack Institute is contacted to be a key informant in different studies.  Last Fall, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and its partners were interested in understanding how capacity building could improve sustainability and outcomes for the California Landscape Stewardship Network. 

The results of this research study have been released and provide useful recommendations for those working on environmental issues as well as those working across systems and geographic boundaries.  The Capacity Building for Collaboration:A Case Study on Building Sustainable Landscape Scale Stewardship Networks in the 21st Century looked at the unique challenges facing landscape scale stewardship networks; finding sufficient stable funding to steward and sustain conserved lands; and increasing public and funder awareness of the importance and vitality of natural environments. 

The Case Study includes several success stories from the field of land conservation including examples of foundations who have invested in network and capacity building as well as land conservation. It concludes with 14 key recommendations which are useful to all systems change practitioners not just those involved in stewarding and conserving natural environments.  These recommendations include: 

  1. When initiating collective work, strategically align and leverage partner budgets and funds to maximize the impacts and benefits.
  2. Seek to include diverse interests and understand your role within the larger network’s efforts.
  3. Develop landscape-scale funding priorities through the network; create a menu of investment opportunities; and leverage network staff expertise to pursue joint funding from diverse sources.
  4. On large-scale, cross-boundary projects, determine which partner is best positioned to negotiate the most cost-effective rates with contractors, universities, and other involved agencies.
  5. Never rely on a single sector for funding. Develop a multi-year business model that leverages multiple funding streams (e.g., public and private funding; fee-for-service income).
  6. Avoid accepting money that is not aligned with your goals and approach.
  7. Don’t scope a particular problem according to a particular grant opportunity. Resist the temptation to do a smaller project or approach that doesn’t achieve your desired outcomes.
  8. Strategically leverage existing funder relationships to source additional funding opportunities.
  9. Know the funders and policymakers in your region and actively include them in your network.
  10. Think of funders as key influencers first; find opportunities to align with them beyond just financial resources and cultivate relationships built on trust. Avoid transactional thinking and behaviours and instead plan for the long term.
  11. Generate impact! Then make every effort to tell your impact story.
  12. Use non-technical language and the power of metaphor to increase resonance and visibility with policymakers and funders.
  13. Track and measure your progress and develop network-relevant metrics tied to increased scope and scale of relationships and trust; systems-level problem solving; resource sharing; operations and communications efficiencies; crisis preparedness; diversity, equity and inclusion benefits; and community resiliency.
  14. Keep working to improve your business strategy, fundraising, and communications efforts. Seek out resources, specialized training, peer-to-peer learning, and mentoring.

Learn More:

Systems Change, Blog, Community Change

Liz Weaver

By Liz Weaver

Liz is passionate about the power and potential of communities getting to impact on complex issues. Liz is Tamarack’s Co-CEO and the Strategic Lead for Collective Impact. In this role she provides strategic direction to the organization and leads many of its key learning activities including collective impact capacity building services for the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Liz is one of Tamarack's highly regarded trainers and has developed and delivered curriculum on a variety of workshop topics including collaborative governance, leadership, collective impact, community innovation, influencing policy change and social media for impact and engagement.

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