Investing in Conservation

A first-ever survey of conservation impact investing reveals a market of approximately $23 billion a

Sustainable Community Enterprise for Long-term Conservation

By: Wain Collen (2014 Fellow) It is well understood that the Amazon Basin is a complex ecosystem vit

Becoming a Fellow: An Overview of the Kinship Fellows Application

Becoming a Fellow: An Overview of the Kinship Fellows Application The application due date for the 2


Investing in Conservation

March 3, 2015 in Funding, Fundraising, and Finance, Kinship Webinar Series

A first-ever survey of conservation impact investing reveals a market of approximately $23 billion across just the last five years, and finds that investments in this space are expected to more than triple over the next five years (2014-2018). Join the report’s authors, Charlotte Kaiser, Managing Director of NatureVest and Kinship Faculty member Ricardo Bayon, Partner and Co-founder of EKO Asset Management Partners, as they summarize the report’s major findings. The webinar recording, speaker bios, and compilation of the live Twitter feed are below.

WEBINAR: Investing in Conservation: A Landscape Assessment from Kinship Conservation Fellows on Vimeo.

Speaker Bios:

Ricardo Bayon, Partner and Co-founder, EKO Asset Management Partners

EKO Asset Management Partners is a new breed of financial institution seeking to find innovative financial solutions to the world’s environmental problems. The company manages a fund that invests in carbon credits aimed at the California market and also provides advice on a variety of other markets for ecosystem services including water, biodiversity, fisheries, stormwater management, among others. Prior to co-founding EKO, he helped found and served as the Managing Director of the “Ecosystem Marketplace,” a web site and information/analysis service covering these emerging environmental markets.  In that capacity he co-authored a number of publications on voluntary carbon markets, mitigation banking, and ecosystem services including “The State of Voluntary Carbon Markets 2007: Picking up Steam” and “Voluntary Carbon Markets: An International Business Guide to What They Are and How They Work,” and “Conservation and Biodiversity Banking: A Guide to Setting Up and Running Biodiversity Credit Trading System”. For nearly two decades he has specialized on issues related to finance, banking, and the environment. He has done work for a number of organizations, including Insight Investments, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank, IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, Domini Social Investment, among others. His articles have appeared in publications such as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, the International Herald Tribune,. He has also written numerous publications and chapters on mitigation banking, biodiversity markets, markets for water quality, and other environmental markets. He was born in Bogota, Colombia, and is currently based in San Francisco.

Charlotte Kaiser, Managing Director, NatureVest

Charlotte leads product development for NatureVest, The Nature Conservancy’s program developing opportunities to drive private capital to conservation. She managed the launch and sale of the $25M Conservation Note, the first investment-grade retail debt produce offered to conservation impact investors, which sold out in less than twelve months. Previously she worked at Citibank in community development investing, providing debt and equity financing for green buildings, affordable housing, and energy efficiency initiatives. She has also worked for the New York City Parks Department building civic engagement and stewardship of the City’s parks and natural areas, and in Indonesian Borneo on a community-based forest management enterprise in a national park buffer zone. Charlotte holds a BA from Harvard University in Environmental Science & Public Policy, a Masters in Environmental Science from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and an MBA from the Yale School of Management. She currently serves on the board of ioby, “in our back yards,” an innovative crowdsourcing resource platform for civic groups improving American cities. Charlotte lives in Brooklyn with her husband, an urban planner, and their son.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. We work to conserve the Earth’s ecologically important lands and waters in local places across all 50 U.S. states and in more than 30 other countries around the world. We create innovative conservation solutions that benefit nature and enhance the well-being of people who depend on vital natural resources for their lives and livelihoods.

Sustainable Community Enterprise for Long-term Conservation

February 24, 2015 in Economics and Business, Mechanisms for Market-based Conservation

By: Wain Collen (2014 Fellow)

It is well understood that the Amazon Basin is a complex ecosystem vital to the health of the planet and life as we know it. Ecuador, located on the Pacific coast between Colombia in the north and Peru in the south and east, is home to around 116,000 km2 of tropical Amazonian forest. Ecuador has made impressive progress in terms of indigenous rights: around 68% of the Ecuadorian Amazon is legally recognized as indigenous ancestral territory. In contrast, between 1990-2000, Ecuador also registered the highest rates of deforestation of all the countries in the Amazon basin.

In this context, there is a growing array of attempts by government, NGO, and private actors to build conservation or sustainable development initiatives with local communities, all underpinned by the two-pronged aim to conserve forest while generating livelihood benefits. These include eco-tourism, non-timber forest products (NTFPs), payments for ecosystem services (PES), community forest management (CFM), reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), agro-forestry, and the list goes on. The problem is that few of these noble ideas actually get to a stage that could honestly be called sustainable – where local communities are driving sustainable development initiatives with local capacities in a way that is financially self-sustaining. More commonly, projects face real challenges to survive beyond initial project funding and to evolve to a stage of local ownership. In the context of climate change, projects that don’t lead to sustainable forest management over 20-30 year periods will not have much impact.

wainAfter working in the Amazon for eight years, I realized that unless something is done to address these broad-based challenges faced when trying to link conservation with indigenous community economic development, then the model is redundant. I have dedicated the last two years to developing an organization called PlanJunto that has the mission to “Build Sustainable Community Enterprise,” with a real emphasis on the “sustainable” aspect. PlanJunto’s vision is that local indigenous communities in the Amazon are able to manage their natural surroundings sustainably and in effective cooperation with their allies. PlanJunto might be called a bridging organization because, rather than setting up new projects with new ideas (there are plenty of those), we provide specialized support to help existing projects incorporate a “Sustainable Community Enterprise” element that strengthens their PES, REDD+, CFM, or NTFP project, by really focusing on how this project is going to last for 20-30 years.

Collen, Wain - field photoAfter two years of refining a rather unconventional business model, improving communication methods, and honing our business pitch, we know our service offering resonates with the needs of our partners. PlanJunto is currently applying its framework and tools to three pilot projects. One is an Amazonian fair trade tea supply chain, the second is a traditional community healing center deep in the forest to treat modern ailments with holistic medicine, and the third is a solar canoe river transportation service linking isolated communities to markets and services and mitigating pressures to build new roads. Despite these projects being varied in nature, they are all dependent on building local community capacity that is able to take these projects, make them their own, and drive them to meet local livelihood needs in service of achieving global environmental benefits.

Becoming a Fellow: An Overview of the Kinship Fellows Application

January 20, 2015 in About Kinship

Becoming a Fellow: An Overview of the Kinship Fellows Application

The application due date for the 2015 cohort of Kinship Conservation Fellows is just around the corner (January 26, 2015). Join Kinship Fellows Director Nigel Asquith (2005 Fellow), Vice President Renee Michaels, and Communications Associate Catherine Rabenstine for a look at what sets the Kinship Fellows program apart from other professional development opportunities and a walk-through of the eligibility requirements and essay questions involved in completing a Kinship Conservation Fellows application.

Click below to listen to a recording of the webinar. Please note, due to technical difficulties a portion of the webinar was not recorded. A compilation of the Tweet Chat is also available below.

With questions about the application process, please email Cat Rabenstine at

WEBINAR: Becoming a Fellow: An Overview of the Kinship Fellows Application from Kinship Conservation Fellows on Vimeo.

The Financing Potential of Biodiversity Offsets in Protected Areas

January 15, 2015 in Ecosystems & Biodiversity, Funding, Fundraising, and Finance

Since the Convention on Biological Diversity was agreed upon at the Rio Earth Summit more than 20 years ago, global Protected Area (PA) coverage has increased, but commensurable financial commitments to manage PAs have not. Submitted to the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, this Fellows-authored paper argues that biodiversity offsets can act as an alternative financing mechanism where funding for PAs is inadequate. Cecilia Simon (2014 Fellow) and Paola Bauche (2014 Fellow) presented the evidence-based case for this innovative approach in a December 2014 webinar. Please find the webinar recording, speaker bios, and live Twitter-feed of the webinar below.

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Kinship Fellows Paper: The Financing Potential of Biodiversity Offsets in Protected Areas from Kinship Conservation Fellows on Vimeo.


Simon, Cecilia (2014) - 125x60pxCecilia Simon is a climate change consultant focused on environmental issues. For the past few years she has focused mainly on REDD+ in Mexico. She has also contributed to the development of the Climate Action Reserve Protocol (currently being tested at a pilot project) and has worked closely with different stakeholders, from government entities at the national level to local communities. Cecilia has also been engaged in the development of local forest projects with indigenous communities whereby she has gained significant experience in the voluntary carbon market and project co-benefits. Prior to working as an independent consultant, she headed Pronatura Mexico’s Climate Change program and worked with local communities in the structuring and sale of the first voluntary carbon credits in the Mexican market. Cecilia received a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Universidad Iberoamericana and is currently studying a Master of Science on Biodiversity, Wildlife, and Ecosystem Health.

Bauche, Paola - photoPaola Bauche studied biology in Guadalajara and has a master’s degree in geography by McGill University in Canada. She has worked with non-governmental organizations in natural resources sustainable management, as well as creating local efforts on payments for ecosystem services. During five years she worked in the National Forestry Commission in Mexico, designing and managing the program “Local PES mechanisms through matching funds”, a nationwide program that seeks to incentivize the participation of users of ecosystem services, public or privates, and involve them in watershed and biological corridors maintenance in Mexico. Nowadays Paola is an independent consultant in topics like payments for ecosystem services and climate change in Mexico and other countries of Latin America, and she collaborates with researchers of Duke University in learning more about the aspects that make successful local PES mechanisms in Mexico.

Urban Natural Areas: Enhancing Human and Ecological Health

January 5, 2015 in Conservation Collaborations, Ecosystems & Biodiversity

By: Sarah Charlop-Powers (2009 Kinship Fellow)

Since participating in Kinship Conservation Fellows in 2009, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see an uptick in the use of market-based mechanisms to address challenges in the field of urban conservation. With the majority of the world’s people living in urban areas, there is an increased interest in understanding how natural spaces in cities function, in quantifying the values that they provide, and in using nature-based solutions in response to pressures including rising temperatures and regional flooding.

_DSC0087In 2012, I co-founded the Natural Areas Conservancy, a privately-funded non-profit which works closely with New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) to manage the more than 10,000 acres of publicly owned forests and wetlands in New York City.  We work citywide, conducting research, creating data-driven best management practices, creating green jobs, and offering public programs.   We are building upon the known and anticipated role that natural areas will play in helping to address issues of landscape resiliency, reducing inequality, and improving human health.

Marine Park Brooklyn

Marine Park – Brooklyn

The Natural Areas Conservancy recently completed its first project, an ecological and social assessment of all significant natural areas under the jurisdiction of NYC Parks. These studies have resulted in a comprehensive dataset, establishing a benchmark of the ecological condition of natural areas, and providing valuable information about how these places are used and valued by park visitors. We conducted research in more than 50 parks, including forests, salt marshes, freshwater marshes, and grasslands. We also interviewed 1,600 park users (in partnership with the US Forest Service) to better understand how these places are used by local communities.

Our research focused on the following questions:

  • What is the condition of natural areas in NYC?
  • Who is using natural areas and how?
  • What long-term management strategies can we recommend to improve degraded areas and protect high-quality sites?
Pelham Bay Park - Bronx

Pelham Bay Park – Bronx

Our results highlight the diversity of our ecosystems as well as some of the challenges and opportunities present to restoring and protecting our natural areas in ways that address the physical site conditions and the community needs. The Natural Areas Conservancy’s research allows for this type of nuance compared to one-size fits all restoration models. Our results include detailed information about the user experience of visitors to our forests and wetlands, and invaluable data about plant regeneration, species distribution, and the extent of invasive plants in our natural areas.

More and more, caring for urban natural areas is seen not as an operational mandate, but as an opportunity to increase the human and ecological health, while promoting resilience in the face of environmental threats.

This is the largest dataset of ecological health for any urban area in the nation, and provides us with a chance to shift from an opportunistic to a data-driven decision-making approach for restoration, conservation, and the creation of resilient landscapes. More and more, caring for urban natural areas is seen not as an operational mandate, but as an opportunity to increase the human and ecological health, while promoting resilience in the face of environmental threats. At the Natural Areas Conservancy, we are excited to work in this innovative field, and look forward to collaborating with our colleagues in cities around the world.

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Read more about the work of the Natural Areas Conservancy:

Bronx Bureau, City Limits: Huge Surveys Seek to Understand the Soil and Spirit of City’s Parks, by Jarrett Murphy | October 2, 2014.

Columbia Spectator: Where the Wild Things Are: Urban Ecology and the Changing Landscape of New York City, by Laura Booth | September 11, 2014.

New York Environment Report: Reporter’s Notebook: Marine Park is Incredible. Here’s Why You Should Visit, by NYER | August 27, 2014.


charlop-powers, sarah - kinshipSarah Charlop-Powers is the Executive Director of the Natural Areas Conservancy. She has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Binghamton University and a master’s degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She is a 2009 Kinship Fellow. Contact her at


From Ficus to Filter

December 11, 2014 in Ecosystems & Biodiversity, Mechanisms for Market-based Conservation

From Ficus to Filter: Certification as Market-based Environmental Change

BY: Arshiya Bose (2013 Kinship Fellow)

How global certifications fall somewhat short of local biodiversity needs … and the need to innovate for locally relevant and democratic market-based solutions.

As a Kinship Conservation Fellow in 2013, I had strong opinions, but muddled ideas, about how to address biodiversity threats in coffee producing landscapes. As a conservationist and coffee addict, the knowledge that every cup of coffee destroys 3cm2 of rainforest, just doesn’t sit well. And 1.4 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily. As an aspiring conscious consumer, what must I do? If I want to become aware of the ecological footprint of coffee, where can I access information? If I want to drink filter coffee with minimal environmental impact, can I find it? A little over a year later, I have put into motion the beginnings of a social enterprise that aims to use various market-based solutions to incentivize coffee producers, roasters, and retailers to grow and sell coffee grown under the shade of native-tree species. This project, going by the name of Gaia’s Cup, has taken its first steps on the ground.

The core idea for this enterprise model came from two well-researched facts in India. The first was that biodiversity threats from loss of shade cover were measurable and increasing. The second was that global certification schemes did not address these threats in truly transformative ways.

Measuring Biodiversity Threats

With respect to shade trees and biodiversity, the case of certification in India is quite unique. Coffee production in India began in the forests, amidst trees and alongside beasts.

All across the world in some of the most famous coffee locales, such as Columbia, Brazil, and Costa Rica, beans are most likely grown in areas where forests were almost totally clear-felled to plant coffee. In these regions, coffee plantations look like those of tea – endless rolling hills of coffee and one hilltop visible from the next. This method of ‘sun’ coffee is becoming increasingly preferred the world over for its booming productivity.

In India however, coffee is entirely shade-grown. It is one of the only countries in the world where 100% of its coffee is grown under the shade of forest trees. In most coffee growing regions in India, coffee plants compose the ‘undergrowth’ of a forest mosaic.

Coffee farms in India are also teeming with wildlife, especially if one looks closely underneath leaves or in the soil. Many threatened birds either nest in coffee farms or use these farms as safe flying pathways between forest fragments. Charismatic elephant giants are passé weekly visitors, often ignored, but sometimes shooed away for disrupting coffee picking activities. Leopards, however, are considered elusive celebrities!

At first glance, coffee growing in India sounds perfect. Coffee farms exist. So do trees and wildlife. In reality, however, like all coveted things, this harmony is fleeting. Coffee growing has intensified exponentially in the last three decades. Forests, paddy, and fallow lands have been brought under production. Shade trees on farms have been thinned out to allow in sunlight to boost yields. What used to be 100% shade-grown coffee is today less shade-grown and perhaps veering toward sun coffee.

So biodiversity threats have been clearly measured.

Sustainable Certifications Fall Short

Compared to elsewhere in the world, in India, the concepts of sustainable or shade-grown coffee are entirely new. In fact, most Indians don’t know what these terms mean. We therefore have a unique opportunity to discuss, debate, and find meaning in these terms for ourselves, and authenticate these beliefs with impacts on the ground. I think this makes us very lucky.

In the past, normative frameworks (i.e. ideas of good and bad) for social justice, environmental issues and business ethics were vocalised by governments, labour unions, and even religious organisations. However, in the current scenario of globalisation, ideas and cultures around social and environmental issues are ‘transnational’ rather than national. These norms are increasingly pushed for by non-government actors, such as NGOs, businesses, and public-private partnerships. Instead of laws and mandatory regulations, we see ‘voluntary regulations’ (less so in India but certainly elsewhere in the world).

The most prolific of these concepts are ‘sustainability certifications’, also called ‘eco-labelling’. Certifications work by ‘naming and shaming’ bad practices and creating incentives through certifying good practices. These extend beyond coffee of course (see FSC and MSC certifications).

The coffee industry has been one of the most active spaces for such certifications. A walk down the aisle of a supermarket presents a diversity of packages imprinted with images symbolic of the goals that they attempt to achieve – resplendent tropical birds, shade trees and faces of farmers. Intertwined with these images are the stamps of certification labels; Fair Trade, Organic, Bird-Friendly, Starbuck’s C.A.F.E. Practices, UTZ-Certified, and Rainforest Alliance.

Unfortunately, that’s the extent of most people’s experience. Knowledge about these certifications stops at the label. Most don’t know what environmental and social practices each of these certifications require from farmers. Most don’t know whether these certifications have positive impacts – whether they improve forest cover, increase populations of threatened species or secure livelihoods of farmers. More importantly, most haven’t a clue whether they have adverse impacts. We simply aren’t aware of the fine print.

However, most do know that certifications are global, meaning that certifications promote the same standards irrespective of the country or production system. For example, in Fair Trade certifications, farmers have to set up and run co-operatives and trade with buyers as per identical rules across different countries. Similarly, Rainforest Alliance certification requires coffee farms to maintain at least 12 tree species per hectare of farm area in India, Brazil, or wherever else.

Keeping all of this straight seems tricky.

With regard to shade-grown certifications, in India we find (courtesy of amazing scientists at the Coffee Agroforestry Network – CAFNET) that coffee farms can have up to approximately 54.34 species per acre. So while farmers in Brazil have to totally re-jig farming practices to meet biodiversity standards of certification schemes, coffee producers in India can sit back and practice business as usual? Pretty much – which is what I found while I was doing research on coffee certification in India. Despite clear evidence of biodiversity loss, Indian farmers were in compliance with the certification standards.

In addition to conservation problems, current coffee production also leaves social costs. Workers on plantations are often from highly marginalized communities, including landless adivasis (forest-dwelling indigenous peoples). We do not know whether employment on coffee plantations has been beneficial or exploitative of workers, but we do know that global certifications are unlikely to address the entire gamut of environmental and social problems that are peculiar to the Indian context.

So one size doesn’t fit all.

Innovating Locally

This situation causes me immense coffee-related indigestion – not wholly due to the increased consumption of chemical pesticides and fertilisers that go along with intensified farming. So I did what any sensible, strategic thinker would tell me not to do. I started a brand of coffee that wasn’t a business, but was a venture into the alternative. Gaia’s Cup is an experiment to reconcile coffee production with biodiversity conservation. We work on ways to support and incentivise coffee growers to conserve forest trees and wildlife species on their farms. We do this through a social enterprise setup – coffee from ‘conservation blocks’ on farms is sold and revenue is invested back into conservation activities. Or that’s the plan anyway! This started with developing a local farming philosophy for coffee. We have discussed and debated with coffee producers and gleaned the best of the global certification standards into a ‘coffee and conservation practice’ – currently piloted on seven farms in Kodagu district, India.

Gaia’s Cup is an experiment to reconcile coffee production with biodiversity conservation.

Venturing into a meaningful alternative isn’t straightforward. On the contrary, it is replete with dilemmas – ethical, moral and pragmatic. We may come out the other end with a project that is no alternative at all – a coffee company that trades ginormous volumes, imposes rigid rules on producers, but has little meaningful conservation or social impact. Or we could be too small, reaching only ten plantations in ten years. There is no ready prescription for the path we need to take, but the ball has been set rolling. As we roll, we will continue to reflect on our work and its contribution to the sustainable coffee movement. We’re hoping our iterative approach will help us define sustainable coffee for ourselves. For now, it would be fair to say that we’re just experimenting.

For information on our work, log on to or ping us on

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Bose_ArshiyaArshiya Bose has been captivated by the natural world ever since her school years at Rishi Valley when they would shake scorpions out of their shoes each morning! In 2005, she completed an undergraduate degree in Biology and Creative Writing from Bryn Mawr College. Although, this was an unconventional combination of subjects and people tried to dissuade her, she was keen to explore interdisciplinary disciplines and experiment with creative ways of expressing biological phenomena. In 2005, she undertook an MPhil in Environment, Society and Development from the Department of Geography at Cambridge University and for the first time, learned about the complexity of protecting nature. She subsequently returned to India to work with Kalpavriksh, an environmental NGO doing policy advocacy on livelihood rights of forest-dwelling indigenous communities. With the desire to learn how to carry out research, she returned to Cambridge in 2009 for a PhD. During her PhD research, she felt very strongly that academic research was not enough to conserve the coffee landscape I had been studying and loved so dearly. Motivated by the desire to make a difference, she set up Gaia’s  Cup, a small organization working on conservation in these landscapes. Through this work, she hopes to build partnerships with coffee growers to enhance sustainability by maintaining the forest elements of coffee plantations. This includes evaluating current market-based incentives such as certification and price premiums for eco-friendly coffee and proposing modifications or alternatives to these existing mechanisms.

Leadership in a Conservation Context

December 1, 2014 in Leadership and Business Skills

By: Christine Ageton (2007 Kinship Fellow)

“What time is it?”

This simple but famous quote by Meg Wheatley, leadership and systems change guru, is more relevant now than ever. What Meg Wheatley is asking is, “In what context are we being asked to lead, right now?” “What are the political, social and financial realities that impact our work?” “What do we know intuitively that is key to the big changes we are hoping to make in the world?” and therefore “What leadership is called for from us in this moment?”

I love this inquiry and I think that it is a perfect launching point for a conversation about the type of leadership that is called for as we navigate astoundingly complex ecological, geo political, and social contexts; all while keeping focused on what is possible for people and planet. No small effort!

Back in 2007 when I was a Kinship Fellow, I only had a glimpse of how my career would evolve. I knew that I cared deeply about worldwide conservation and was fascinated by how less empowered stakeholders could have greater agency in environmental management. At the time, I was working with Native American and Hispanic populations in New Mexico on rural drinking water protection. Armed with master’s degrees in community development and water resource management, I was dedicated to advancing methods for rural leaders and particularly women to understand and manage their communities’ water systems.

As time went on I invested increasingly in becoming a skilled facilitator and adult educator and my work was evolving to focus on leadership training and program building that would create the conditions for conservation and social change leaders to do their best work. I followed what interested me and found myself working less with communities on direct conservation issues and working more with the passion-driven conservationists and social entrepreneurs who were doing the work on-the-ground. After four years on the Kinship faculty and five years living and working in Latin America on conservation leadership issues, I moved back to the U.S. I now oversee three North America-based leadership programs for social entrepreneur change leaders through BALLE (BALLE Fellowship, Funders Circle, and Community Foundation Circle); consult on a two-year fellowship program for doctoral conservationists (Smith Conservation Fellows); and co-direct an international leadership program for non-North American conservation leaders worldwide (Conservation Leadership Programme, a collaboration among Conservation International, Flora and Fauna Intl., Birdlife Intl, and Wildlife Conservation Society).

In this article I’d like to share what I have learned through the course of my career about how leaders learn and how they foster others to learn. I focus on leadership development that supports two main objectives: What makes us happier and fosters deeper meaning in our lives; and what evokes real change toward the kind of world we want to live in. I’ve had the privilege to work with some amazing conservation practitioners who embody those principles. I hope these points will spark conversation about what kind of leadership you believe is called for and what you have seen in your careers so that we can grow from each other.

  1. There is no one leadership theory that serves all needs.

Traditionally, most disciplines are self-referential when it comes to leadership modeling. We ask, “Who within the conservation world exemplifies the leadership we need?” This inquiry is useful as far as it goes, but increasingly to do our best work we need to beg, borrow, and steal from the best systems change and leadership thinking of our time, which comes from many disciplines.

A recent article in Conservation Biology written by my leadership consultant and climate change scientist colleague, Maureen Ryan, and her Smith Fellow colleagues, highlights how the conservation movement has been slower to adopt new advances in leadership methodologies. The article is a call for peers to consider cultivating creativity as an essential skill in their leadership as scientists. The authors encourage their fellow conservationists to look at examples within social movements and the business world to inform their work. I concur and I’ve listed below some the resources that I believe are most useful for all change agents.

In particular, I am a fan of Meg Wheatley (Berkana Institute) and Otto Scharmer (MIT). Both are systems change theorists who study how movements build and the leadership needed to support them. Conservationists are no longer just called to do good science, but also to communicate what is needed in a compelling way, and to help build the new systems that will truly protect our planet. We need to be referencing leadership and change models that speak to these needs.

  1. Focus on your big vision, not your current title, organization, or project.

Many people get lost thinking that a specific project or organization must succeed for them to be successful in their overall vision for conservation success. According to a recent Forbes article, the average North American professional will change jobs every 4.4 years[1]. This rings true for me and many of my colleagues in North America and internationally. So, if this is the case, how can we stay true to our own mission?

The key is to stay focused on your big vision for the world and what you need to learn and do to get there. Change or failure is disturbance, and disturbance evokes learning, and learning is how we grow. The best leadership programs know this and are investing in a leader’s passion, not their current title or project. These programs have a knack for finding the folks with a passion for the cause that is in their heart and will carry through their whole lives. Kinship Fellows is a great example of this, as well as Ashoka, Echoing Green, and Rockwood Leaders of Color – these fellowship programs know that they are choosing fellows for the passion that drives them and they trust that the investment they make in these individuals will carry them through the unknown future trajectory of their career. They believe that this investment will bear fruit because they will continue to be in positions of influence that will serve conservation for the long haul. It matters very little whether Kinship Fellows go on to lead NGOs, serve in the Ministry of Environment, run for public office, or run for-profit consultancies. What matters is that we continue to be change agents resourced with the inner and outer attunement to know what is called for next, and to be able to lead in many contexts. I think that this is a seminal learning point for both individuals and institutions. So often we get hooked on a single project succeeding or on the long term success of our organization, and while these do matter, the bigger vision is paramount. Does this project, organization, or partnership still serve the bigger vision of what I believe will really make a change? If yes, great. If not, move on.

  1. Emphasize peer-to-peer learning.

Another great Meg Wheatley quote is “We are the heroes we have been waiting for.” Many of you already know this to be true, that you and your peers are creating the solutions that will truly change the world. In an expert and authority obsessed world we so often look to an academic or consultant or even funder to determine the right direction when it is our fellow conservation practitioners who have the practical and applied discernment to determine what is really needed. I think that this is particularly important as we seek to partner with other disciplines, like using market-based solutions for conservation. For instance, Grameen and ACCION understand micro lending, but you as practitioners understand the context of the communities where you work. Will micro-lending work in your situation as a tool for shifting livelihoods? Maybe, or maybe not, but it is likely that your peers who are also trying to blend market-based solutions with conservation objectives will offer you the best consult.

This is an important shift in leadership theory and application. When we turn to our peers, not outside experts, we often get exactly the applied information we need. I see this in all the groups I work with, from social entrepreneurs to conservationists to funders. Once they realize what an incredible free resource their peers are and that it is OK to ask for help and insights, the networks light up and things start happening.

  1. We have to dance on the way to the revolution.

A friend of mine returning from the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) conference lamented that it was so depressing. It seems that all the presentations were about limited funding, dire environmental conditions, and over-extended professionals. It is true that the current state of affairs for our global environment is not good. However, all of us need to feel that our work is making a difference and need to celebrate our successes along the way.

Systems change theory is increasingly showing that the pioneers and innovators who are building the new way of being need to have some space away from the dominant system to dream, connect, and create. This is what is called a Community of Practice, a group of like-minded individuals who can come together to not only imagine what is possible but also feel supported and part of something bigger. It is a long way between where we are today and the change that we want to see in the world, and the pioneers of this change need to play and connect so that they can be resourced to keep doing the good work. The networks that do this best both connect on a level of purpose as well as a level of friendship and joy.

It is inspiring to me to imagine all the incredible conservation leaders of this world resourced in a way that they feel they have the support they need, that they understand their path to impact, and that they enjoy the journey. Earlier, I stated that I’m only interested in leadership development that 1) makes us happier and fosters deeper meaning in our lives, and 2) evokes real change toward the kind of world we want to live in. This is what I will believe will create real and lasting change in our individual lives and in the world.

There is much more to read about this, here are a few of my favorites:


Manolis, J. et al. 2008. Leadership: a new frontier in conservation science. Conservation Biology 23:879-886.

Ryan, M. et al. 2014. Cultivating Creativity in Conservation Science. Conservation Biology 28: 345-353.

Scharmer, C.O. 2011. Leading from the Emerging Future: Minds for Change – Future of Global Development, Paper prepared for Ceremony to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the BMZ Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Berlin, Germany, November, 2011.

Wheatley, M. 2008. What is our role in creating change? Berkana Institute.

Wheatley, M. and D. Frieze. 2010. Leadership in the age of complexity: from hero to host. Berkana Institute.


Heifetz, R and Linsky, M. 2002. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Harvard Business School Press.

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Christine_headshot_200wideChristine Ageton is Chief Program Officer at BALLE and is based in Bellingham, Washington. She provides oversight and strategic direction for all BALLE leadership and convening programs, including Fellows and funders, while also guiding overall organizational strategy. Christine has extensive experience in national and international non-profit leadership, organizational development, program design, and facilitation. Previously, Christine designed and implemented programs in economic development (Clinton Foundation-Peru, Project Healthy Children -Kenya, Haiti), drinking water protection (New Mexico Rural Water Association), and conservation planning (IDB, World Bank –Belize, Honduras and Guatemala). Christine is also an instructor who has taught international development and conservation leadership (Conservation International & College of Santa Fe) and guided peer-to-peer learning for conservation professionals (Kinship Conservation Fellows program). Christine received her bachelor’s degree from Skidmore College and holds two master’s degrees from the University of New Mexico in Community and Regional Planning and Latin American Studies. She is a 2007 Kinship Fellow.


My Experience as a Kinship Fellow

November 28, 2014 in About Kinship

Innovative Tools and Inspired Leaders: My Experience as a Kinship Fellow

By: Jennifer Chapman, 2014 Kinship Fellow

It was a busy morning, and I was mildly irritated to hear my phone ring … again! I had been on the phone all morning and wanted to get my head down to work. My screen showed an unknown number, and I answered wondering who it could be. To my great surprise and happiness, it was Nigel Asquith, director of the Kinship Conservation Fellows, and he was calling with extremely good news. I had been selected to join the 2014 cohort!

For the entire month of July, 19 fellows working in 11 countries descended on the small town of Bellingham, Washington in the USA (a beautiful part of the world next to the North Cascade Mountains), to take part in an intensive program geared toward training conservation practitioners on the use of market-based tools to achieve environmental outcomes.

As the Fellows arrived through the day, we were all excited to learn of each others diverse work. The list of interesting and diverse projects was amazing and I felt overwhelmed to be surrounded by so many inspiring people.

The first week kicked off with a debate on the effectiveness of using market tools to stimulate positive behavior change for improved environmental protection. For example, while markets encourage fast innovation and allow a more dignified participation in conservation than regulations might, their downfall is that they assume all people want to maximize profits, ignoring the intrinsic value of nature. This angle was countered with the argument that those with a personal interest in conservation will behave in an environmentally conscious way, but those with no interest are motivated by economics – markets provide a means to include more sectors of society into achieving conservation outcomes.

Greg, a fellow from Emzemvelo KZN Wildlife in South Africa, elegantly concluded the debate with the statement: “It is not that market tools alone are the most effective conservation mechanism, but that the most effective conservation mechanism is one that incorporates market tools.” Later in the course, visiting faculty members Ray Victurine and Ricardo Bayon reinforced this while discussing the somewhat uncomfortable subjects of nature capital valuation, biodiversity offsets, and species banking.

Valuation of species, biodiversity, carbon, and wetlands forces the deconstruction of nature to be considered as a direct cost to the project implementer, such as a mining company or property developer. The idea is that once all prevention and mitigation measures have been taken to reduce environmental impact of the development or mine, the company pays a calculated offset amount to be directly invested in measurable conservation outcomes in an equivalent environment. Without this system, such companies have no incentive to reduce impact of their activities or to invest in conservation, whilst demand for their products, including parts in the computer on which I’m writing this blog, continues to rise.

During extended faculty member, Ruth Norris’s introduction to the conservation finance conundrum, I was shocked to learn that in the U.S., only 3% of all philanthropic funding is used for conservation, environmental, and animal welfare programs. This is the smallest slice of the philanthropy pie, and is simply not enough to implement all the necessary projects to improve access to clean water, clean air, combat climate change, harvest wild resources sustainably, improve agricultural practices, and slow the rate of extinctions. Ruth then gave examples of ways different approaches to overcome this, from Guayaki tea to Blue Ventures’ market-based models! I sat proudly in the room as Ruth described how our expeditions operate.

The economics portion of the curriculum was my first introduction to the subject, and simple concepts of supply, demand and opportunity cost spoke volumes about the need for an accelerated lionfish market development in Belize. It was stressed that in any market, the producers are the economic actors – this means that willingness to pay and demand for lionfish must rise to overcome the risk of lost income that fishers face if they focus their efforts away from high-value and high-demand traditional fisheries such as lobster. Furthermore, an uncoordinated market increases perceived risk even if demand exists: a fisher on the reef doesn’t know if a restaurant in San Pedro is looking to buy or has just bought lionfish, and so this must be weighed in their decision to spend additional fuel to travel to San Pedro and tout their product.

Understanding what drives human behavior is central to successful natural resource management interventions, and clearly demonstrated by the Environmental Defense Fund’s catch shares fish game – I had heard of this game being played in fishing communities around Belize as part of the Fisheries Department’s consultation process for managed access, so I really enjoyed finally taking part myself. On a personal level, I was absolutely blown away by the advances in fisheries management in the USA: catch shares and improved fishing methods have removed the race to fish, leading to enormous reductions in by-catch and ever-increasing stocks.

I was most inspired by visiting faculty Christo Marais’ Working for Water (WfW) program in South Africa, where invasive alien flora reduce water quantity and disturb rivers, leading to excessive sediment load. This has reduced water security and cost the country millions in dam maintenance. With the compounding issue of high levels of unemployment and poverty, WfW combined governmental funds for poverty alleviation with fees collected from water-users to provide training and employment in ecosystem restoration. In doing so, not only are biodiversity and ecosystem services improved, but people are also provided with jobs and the burden of expensive dam maintenance is lessened. This so gracefully shows how intertwined conservation and development needs are.

These stimulating classes were interspersed with field trips, where we had the opportunity to explore the beautiful northwest. Each field trip built bonds between the fellows, and I think we all agree that, while the whole program was above-expectations-excellent, the best outcome of our time at Kinship was building a new network of professional peers and, beyond that, friends. Friends with a wide range of perspectives, who challenge and encourage, but hold the same values and share the same overall objective: for nature to be valued in and of itself, and to bring that value to the decision-making table.

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Click here for a compilation of reflections from Fellows about their experience at the program. Click here to apply to be a 2015 Kinship Fellow!

Chapman, Jennifer - photoJen Chapman is the Country Coordinator for Blue Ventures in Belize, where she has led the development of research and conservation programmes since 2011. A key part of this has been leading the promotion of market-based strategies to address invasive lionfish populations, including the successful development of international export and domestic markets. Prior to working in Belize, Jen was based in Singapore, where she was responsible for developing and leading educational fieldtrips throughout South East Asia, specialising in marine biology, conservation and environmental education. She received a Bachelor of Science with honours in Biology from the University of Southampton in the UK, where she subsequently worked as a research assistant investigating the environmental sustainability of bioenergy crops. Jen believes passionately that innovative, sustainable, market-led approaches are required to solve problems of depletion of marine resources – the recovery of which are inextricably linked to human health, wealth and happiness.

Legendary Bahamian’s Ecotourism Destination Opens

November 26, 2014 in Conservation Collaborations, Eco-Tourism, Ecosystems & Biodiversity, Marine and Fisheries

By: Dan Tonnes and Scott Gillilan (2009 Kinship Fellows)

When Edwin Burrows placed the first small fish in a saltwater lake near his home on Eleuthera, Bahamas some 65 years ago, he watched it slowly swim away, knowing one day he could catch it again when it was much larger. With a growing family, he needed to diversify his income and food sources to make ends meet.  He put sea turtles in the lake, made an egg-laying beach amongst the mangroves, and raised the young turtles in a small, homemade alcove along the shoreline. He grew pineapples in a field near the lake. He caught and sold fish to locals and tourists.

Over the next four decades Edwin and this 43-acre lake in Eleuthera, Bahamas would become synonymous with each other. He become a one-man force preserving the lake, gathering trash thrown along the roadside, and driving by at late hours of the night to deter turtle and fish poachers. On some maps, the lake is even called “Burrows Pond.” Edwin secured a lease from the government, but with 14 kids, numerous grandchildren, and the attendant duties of family, his dream of turning the lake into a world-class eco-tourism destination never became a reality.

Turtle in Turtle LakeWhen Edwin died in the early 1980’s, so did his dream. Over the next 30 years the sea turtle population persisted, but was threatened by poachers and a beach that was becoming overgrown. Most of his kids and grandkids moved away from Eleuthera and found success elsewhere, though thoughts of the lake and their father’s dream remained. When developers proposed to clear the mangroves along the shoreline, forever changing the pristine environment of the lake, the Burrows knew they needed to act soon to have a chance of making Edwin’s dream come true.

Arrival of initial deck lumber_02The Burrows family reached out to a group of Kinship Conservation Fellows to revitalize the lake effort, and in 2013 and 2014, a total of seven members of the Watersheds and Coastal Resiliency Affinity Group visited the lake, bringing with them a conservation photographer, a meeting facilitator, a landscape architect, conservationists focused on marine biology and sea turtles, and a tourism industry professional. With expertise in hydrology, renewable energy, marine biology and ecology, the team developed a report that provided a roadmap to revitalizing Edwin’s market-based conservation opportunities at the lake. They conducted baseline scientific surveys and helped restore the turtle beach. Team member Clark Stevens, a professor at Woodbury University, led a semester-long design studio class on the lake. Members of the Burrows clan visited the class in California and told the story of the lake to the group of rapt students who were immersing themselves in helping to solve the challenges the Burrows family faced.

“The Kinship Team really made this lake revitalization take off. My father (Edwin) would have loved their collective passion and persistence,” said James Burrows, Marine Reserve Director and Edwin’s son.

In early 2014, Professor Stevens, 2009 Kinship Fellow Scott Gillilan, and four students from the design class visited the Burrows family in Nassau to outline the potential methods to preserve and monetize the lake. After this meeting, the Burrows wrote a three-phase business plan and have since been developing the initial business infrastructure which includes lake adventure activities for tourists, like kayak and paddle board rentals and guided nature exploration on the lake.

Edwin’s Turtle Lake Marine Reserve will soon become the first privately managed marine conservation area in the Bahamas.

On November 1, 2014, “Edwin’s Turtle Lake Marine Reserve” will become the first privately held marine conservation area in the Bahamas, emphasizing mangrove and sea turtle conservation and research. Business development has been entirely self-funded by the Burrows Family thus far, but to achieve long term protection of the watershed, including securing parcels that remain for sale and diversifying income streams, the family is starting a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo. Much work remains, but Edwin’s dream now has a fighting chance of becoming reality.

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WEBINAR: Working Toward Sustainability in Fisheries

November 12, 2014 in Conservation Collaborations, Marine and Fisheries

oct2014_v3 350x350 Overfishing is one of the greatest threats to the health and sustainability of ocean ecosystems. It also poses a threat to the 3 billion people around the world who rely on seafood as an important source of protein and the millions of fishing industry workers who depend on stable wild fish populations for a steady stream of income. Unsustainable fishing—caused by poor fisheries management and wasteful fishing practices—is depleting the world’s fisheries, hurting the seafood industry and impacting marine ecosystems. However, there is hope. There is a growing number of examples where both fish and fishermen are thriving thanks to a change in incentives that aligns fishermen’s economic interest with the biological health of fish stocks.  These fishery management systems—catch shares—also known as rights-based management systems have increased fishermen’s well-being and supported the rebuilding of healthy fish populations. To watch the webinar recording, click on the video below. For the presentation slides, click here.

Featuring Kate Bonzon (2003 Fellow) of the Environmental Defense Fund, this webinar, Rights-Based Management: A Global Movement Toward Sustainability in Fisheries, examines how well-designed catch share programs can provide more fish in the water, more food on the plate and more prosperous communities citing examples of fisheries around the world.

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Bonzon, KateKate Bonzon is a leader in designing fisheries management approaches that deliver results. Collaborating with policymakers, fishermen, fishery managers, practitioners and other industry stakeholders, she is a leading pioneer in the development and design of catch shares worldwide. She oversees EDF’s cutting-edge research on catch shares and has developed numerous tools to advance catch shares including the first step-by-step guide for designing and implementing catch shares, the Catch Share Design Manual; the most comprehensive global database of catch shares; and an interactive learning game. She regularly presents on fisheries issues around the world and has trained hundreds of individuals on how to design and implement catch shares to meet their goals. Prior to her work on catch shares, she helped conceptualize, design, and capitalize the California Fisheries Fund which gives West Coast fishermen low-interest loans to facilitate their transition to sustainable fishing practices. She is a 2003 Kinship Conservation Fellow.

WEBINAR: A Global Movement Toward Sustainability in Fisheries from Kinship Conservation Fellows on Vimeo.