Before you start a project, it is important to note that certain conditions are needed for community conservation projects to work.
Some key elements for community action are:
- A pressure for change
- A shared vision
- Capacity for change
- Actionable first steps
People must feel a genuine need to improve or change the existing situation. They also need time to agree on priorities and must be willing to work with others to do so.
Successful community conservation projects tend to reflect three key principles:
1: The 'planning' principle
Successful community conservation projects are well planned and use inclusive planning and decision-making processes.
Regardless of the particular approach you take to planning your project, it is always important to:
- Involve everyone. Community conservation projects are effective where all parties are involved in the planning and decision-making at all stages.
- Identify priorities. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your conservation project won’t be any different! Spend time setting priorities to help guide your activities.
- Be flexible. Listen to what people are saying and if necessary, explore other options to get the job done. If a new opportunity comes up, you may want to take it. While it is difficult to plan for flexibility, it is possible.
- Build in ways to check your progress. It is important to plan how you’ll ‘take stock’ of your progress - see monitoring and evaluating progress to help with this task.
For more ideas about planning, see setting your direction.
School children planting
2: The 'partnership' principle
Successful community conservation projects are partnerships that uphold the Treaty of Waitangi principles and place high value on co-operation, trust and respect between all those involved.
For effective partnerships you need to enable everyone to be involved, whether they are individuals, representatives of groups, agencies or iwi, and jointly hold a ‘stake’ in the project. This includes a stake in deciding what the project does and how the project is undertaken, as well as ownership of its success or failure.
To build effective partnerships, you need to:
- Build and maintain relationships.
- Discuss and agree how the group should operate.
- Establish means for regular communication.
- Deal with conflicts as they arise.
- Use inclusive or ‘participatory’ decision-making when planning and implementing group activities.
For more ideas about effective partnerships, see working well as a group.
3: The 'learning' principle
Successful community conservation projects create opportunities for enjoyable learning and participation throughout the project, achieving lasting results.
The opportunity to learn is a strong motivator for many people taking part in conservation projects. This includes learning about the conservation issue and its solutions, learning how to work as a group and learning about each other as individuals and organisations.
Find out what people in your group want to learn and what skills they have that can be shared with others. Incorporate talks and demonstrations from people with expertise into regular meetings and events e.g. a scientist studying the area, a local landowner with historical knowledge or a member of the local iwi who can describe the significance of the site to Maori.
Taking time to reflect is very important for learning. In some situations where a group is very focused on ‘doing’, they often don’t make time to review their progress. Create time for your group to reflect on progress, and then use this information to adjust what you’re doing and how. This will help group members to learn from the project (as well as checking the project is on track).
See monitoring and evaluating progress to help with this task.
Stages of a community conservation project
These principles provide a touchstone for those involved in community conservation. They are useful to keep in mind when working through the stages typically involved in a community conservation project:
- Getting started
- Setting your direction
- Working well as a group
- Monitoring and evaluating progress