Given the complexity of conservation issues that need to be addressed, most of us will agree that working in partnership makes full sense. By sharing insights, we learn from each other, and by pooling talent, clout, and resources, we potentially have a much bigger impact together than any of us can ever have on our own.
In 2016, with its closing in sight, the MAVA Foundation radically changed its way of working by moving from a portfolio of around 150 different projects to establishing 25 Strategic Partnerships. FOS Europe helped shape and implement the Strategic Partnership approach. Now, after 6 years of operation of the Partnerships, we have taken the time to pause and reflect, and to chronicle MAVA's approach to developing Strategic Partnerships in a publication along with a brief summary.
A Strategic Partnership can best be described as the collaboration between actors with different but complementary capabilities, working towards achieving shared conservation outcomes on a scale that matters. It is more rigorous than the often softer form of collaboration that is more common between partners and projects. In Strategic Partnerships, partners share responsibility for implementing plans, and they consciously and collectively reflect on and adapt their work in the interest of the desired conservation impact.
A Strategic Partnership functions as a round table, which implies an ongoing discussion in which all voices are relevant and heard. Hierarchical differences are kept to a minimum. One or more donors are an integral part of the partnership, but are not in the driving seat when it comes to programming and strategic decision-making.
Partners share and jointly make use of the best available information to substantiate claims, foster transparency, and support decision-making. This helps partners move beyond individual stakes, typical roles, and politics — and focus on what matters most from a conservation impact perspective.
Overall, we believe that the approach is transformative and can help the global conservation community to increase its impact. By sharing our key learnings, we would like to encourage government agencies, international NGOs, grassroots organizations, research institutes, and donors to truly collaborate on the most urgent environmental issues of this time.