A conservation leader rewrites the role humans play in the narrative of climate change.
For more than 30 years, Conservation International has helped nature thrive by minimizing human impact on threatened environments. But as the climate crisis worsens, the global nonprofit has come to realize that human impact can only be redressed by human intervention. Conservation International wanted to complement its science and field program capabilities with a human-centered design firm that could drive innovation and progress. So the organization is working with IDEO to evolve its leadership and culture. As we bring creative tools to Conservation International, we're learning much about the challenges of fieldwork and what it takes to be a truly regenerative organization.
integrated human-centered design into annual goals, project pipelineS, and fundraising efforts
20% of the organization
is now involved in design-thinking projects
The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that we have ten years to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions or humanity will suffer devastating consequences.
We need to conserve one third of the global ocean using area-based measures and ensure at least 75% of seafood is harvested using socially responsible, environmentally sustainable methods by 2030.
75% of the world’s poor rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, which in turn depends on nature for pollination, irrigation, and soil replenishment.
Conservation International is made up of conservation experts. To bolster its work, we bring a focus on scale, speed, and the human element to every project.
How does that look in the field? To restore the forest of Fiji, Conservation International paid a cash incentive to the community to buy, plant, and care for new trees and foliage. But once those cash incentives stopped flowing, the work ground to a halt. Taking a human-centered-design approach, one employee uncovered an insight: Fijians are more motivated to help in exchange for longer-term, noncash incentives like building infrastructure in villages. Small projects such as footpaths, repairs to communal trucks, beehives, or sports programs for youth continually reminded the community that the environment is a provider for their families, imparting a feeling of shared ownership in its conservation.
Stories like this, repeated around the globe, are how we hope to help Conservation International find sustainable outcomes. Our work together, including a six-month fellowship to help emerging leaders develop new capabilities, and a series of strategic, future-focused events for executives, has brought more tangibility and deeper collaboration to the organization.
Together we hope to create businesses, food solutions, and energy alternatives that conserve nature, and improve human health—because humans are a part of nature, too.
"Working with IDEO has helped us transform into a more experimental, innovative, and collaborative organization. We dream big, and IDEO has accelerated our progress and inspired our teams in the field as we reimagine the conservation movement for the good of all."
Executive Vice President of Field Programs, Conservation International
Thank you to Daniela Raik, Ashleigh McGovern, Kelvin Alie, Jennifer Howard and Aulani Wilhelm for their partnership in this work.
Photos: Harvey Enrile, Madhushree Narayan, Marlon Del Águila, Gustavo Cruz, Manat Silitonga, and Louisa Barnes.