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Strengthening Partnerships for African Conservation Leadership

Strong partnerships between global conservation organizations and networks, and effective local African conservation organizations, are a critical ingredient in achieving lasting impact and change. In order to explore some of the key lessons from partnership development in African conservation, the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG), in collaboration with Maliasili Initiatives, organized a dialogue on Strengthening Partnerships for African Conservation Leadership, hosted by the World Resources Institute, Washington, DC on February 16, 2017.

This half-day dialogue produced a discussion on current practices, challenges, and opportunities related to building robust global-local partnerships that can foster the kind of organizational leadership and capacity that African conservation efforts need to scale up results and address current threats.

Effective and committed local organizations are key change agents in achieving lasting impact in African conservation. Such organizations are driving promising and scalable conservation models, new collaborations, and policy reform efforts across Africa, often working closely with international conservation groups, funders, and government agencies. Finding ways to effectively support and invest in the growth and viability of African conservation organizations, and their individual leaders, is consequently a key long-term strategic issue for the African conservation field.

The dialogue facilitated discussion around the following aspects of these issues:

Panel speakers brought a variety of perspectives including international conservation groups, research, and specialists working on leadership and organizational effectiveness. Speakers included Peter Veit, World Resources Institute (WRI); Lisa Steel, World Wildlife Fund (WWF); Allison Martin, The Nature Conservancy (TNC); Emily Wilson, Well Grounded, Jessica Campese, Independent Consultant, and Fred Nelson, Maliasili Initiatives (moderator).

In addition, the case study report, AFRICAN ADVOCATES: Partnerships for Building Civil Society, A review of World Resources Institute support to East and Southern African civil society organizations 1995-2005, was introduced. This review highlights key lessons from WRI’s work in the region, and shows how strong, adaptive, and responsive partnerships can have long-lasting impact on the emergence of key civil society organizations working on land and natural resource governance.

Following the panel session, participants divided into working groups to discuss key obstacles and strategies to creating robust and durable global-local partnerships to support African conservation leadership. Priority recommendations from this group work included:

1. Keys to designing and maintaining effective partnerships between international and local organizations:

2. Key pitfalls to avoid in designing and maintaining partnerships:

3. Opportunities for ABCG to promote robust global-local African conservation partnerships:

Participant organizations represented included ABCG members: Conservation International (CI), the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), TNC, WWF, WRI, as well as Maliasili Initiatives, the Rights and Resources Group, Well Grounded, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the State Department, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

ABCG is supporting WRI, TNC and Maliasili Initiatives through its Emerging Issues small grant Piloting Mechanisms for Strengthening African Conservation Leadership and Organizational Capacity. This project aims to design and pilot a new program for strengthening the management and leadership capacity of key individuals working in African natural resource management and conservation. The training program targets mid-career leaders of outstanding, high-potential organizations in eastern and southern Africa.

ABCG is supported by USAID to advance understanding of critical biodiversity conservation challenges and their solutions in sub-Saharan Africa. ABCG is hosted by the Wildlife Conservation Society, in coalition with the African Wildlife Foundation, CI, JGI, TNC, WRI and WWF.

For more information, please contact Fred Nelson, Maliasili Initiatives, at