As the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin continues to focus on our impact on Wisconsin’s lands, waters and wildlife, we are exploring resources that focus on evidence-based practices, evaluation, measuring and monitoring, as well as the best practices utilized by peer conservation organizations across the globe.

Our Director of Conservation Programs, Cait Williamson, recently returned from a week-long training to become a coach through the Conservation Coaches Network (CCNet). Alongside leaders from organizations such as WWF, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Nature Conservancy Canada and the Wildlife Conservation Society, including participants from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Ecuador, Cait learned how to lead and facilitate conservation project and program planning using the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation (OS).

This training will empower NRF to not only utilize the OS framework for our programs in Wisconsin, but can be shared with local, statewide, regional and even international partners to support their conservation efforts.

CCNet Coach Training 2020
Making Conservation Efforts More Efficient and Effective

The Open Standards are a conservation planning tool which helps teams be systematic about planning, implementing and monitoring their conservation initiatives.

Used by dozens of organizations on every continent, the OS are a framework for doing good conservation. These standards were developed by leading conservation organizations, including Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund.

The Open Standards draw on many fields, and the open source and common language framework ensures that conservation successes and failures can be shared across the globe, helping all of us to improve our work. Today, hundreds of organizations at varying scales are using the OS, and some major funders are even making the Open Standards a requirement for funding and using it in their own strategies and programs, including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation (OS)
The Open Standards model has 5 components, as seen in the model above. Built upon adaptive management models from other fields, the OS also includes elements specific to conservation planning, including human wellbeing targets, and climate change considerations. Organizations can implement all or part of the OS when working on conservation projects and programs. The framework focuses on the following key pieces of planning:

 

  1. Conceptualize: Summarize what you want to conserve and understand the current and desired condition, including critical threats and the conservation situation (socio-economic and ecological systems).
  2. Plan Actions and Monitoring: Identify goals, strategies, assumptions and objectives, defining theories of change that demonstrate how the strategies will work.
  3. Implement Actions and Monitoring: Implement the strategies, using work and implementation plans and timelines.
  4. Analyze, Use, Adapt: Analyze results, adjust assumptions, results chains, etc. as needed.
  5. Capture and Share Learning: Document what you learned and share with the conservation community.
CCNet Coach Training 2020
Increasing NRF’s impact on the field of conservation in Wisconsin

We plan to incorporate the Open Standards process into our work at the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin to ensure we have the most significant impact possible on Wisconsin’s natural resources. By taking the time to consider the conditions for success, developing SMART goals and objectives, selecting strategies based on a robust theory of change and committing to monitoring to ensure that strategies are adapted as necessary, the OS approach is powerful.

In the spirit of shared learning, we also plan to offer resources on the Open Standards to our Wisconsin conservation partners, such as webinars and workshops on what the Open Standards are, and how organizations at all scales can use them in their conservation work.

Written by Caitlin Williamson, Director of Conservation Programs

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