Pathways to Success
Taking Conservation to Scale in Complex Systems
Pathways to success
Sources and Further Information
This book is intended as a guide to analytical frameworks and tools for conservation program managers and funders who want to increase both the scale and the effectiveness of their work.
Good conservation is as much an art as it is a science. And like any art, it requires years of hands-on practice to achieve mastery and to know when to follow the rules – and when to bend, break, and reinvent the rules. It is our hope that this book can help you realize what knowledge and skills you need, what you may currently lack, where you can go to find additional training and support, and most importantly, give you confidence in traveling along your pathways to success.
Chapter 1. Framing and Assessing the Situation
Clarifying Your Purpose
The business literature has many examples of authors advocating for what Peter Senge terms a “shared vision” and Jim Collins calls “big hairy audacious goals.” That said, it’s hard to provide much guidance on what is essentially a values decision. Four very different sources you might find useful:
- Robert Pirsig (1974) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. A classic exploration of the relationship between classical Western science and romantic Eastern philosophy that argues that you don’t define the right purpose, but rather you define yourself by what you choose as your purpose.
- James Cone (2000) Whose Earth Is it Anyway? CrossCurrents 50: 36-46. A powerful essay exploring the links between racism and environmentalism.
- David Schlosberg (2007) Defining Environmental Justice: Theories, Movements, and Nature. A theoretical and political framework that draws together moral consideration for nonhuman nature with environmental justice concerns.
- FOS (2020) Initiative Prioritization Tool. A template for using both absolute rankings and time & treasure points to get feedback from a team to assess a number of candidate initiatives.
Selecting Target Factors and Bounding the Scope of Your Program
There is a long history of guidance for defining and selecting target factors:
- TNC (2007) Guidance for Step 2: Define Project Scope & Focal Conservation Targets in Conservation Action Planning Handbook. The concept of target factors goes back to The Nature Conservancy’s 5S/Conservation Action Planning methodology.
- FOS (2017) Conceptualizing and Planning Conservation Projects and Programs: A Training Manual. A practical guide to selecting target factors.
There is also an extensive body of practice in the Conservation Standards community related to understanding and modeling the links between conservation and human well-being factors, in particular looking at ecosystems services:
- Nick Salafsky (2011) Integrating Development with Conservation: A Means to a Conservation End, or a Mean End to Conservation? Biological Conservation 144: 973-978. The source for the sailboat diagrams in this chapter.
- CMP (2015) Integrating Human Wellbeing in the Open Standards. A slide deck with guidance for thinking about the relationship between conservation and human well-being target factors.
- CMP (2016) Incorporating Social Aspects and Human Wellbeing in Biodiversity Conservation Projects. A document version of this material.
Another source of potential conservation and human well-being targets are those being developed by various international conventions:
- Convention on Biological Diversity (2010) Aichi Biodiversity Targets. These are the global targets promoted by the convention. Note that the convention will soon release the post-2020 targets.
- UNDP (2015) Sustainable Development Goals. These are the broader sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations.
Chapter 2. Planning Your Strategies
Understanding Your Impact Trajectory
The material in this section was shamelessly taken wholesale (with permission!) from the following blog:
- Liz Ruedy (2018) Six Models for Understanding Impact. A brilliant and simple explanation of different potential trajectories for program impact relative to the status quo.
Finding Key Intervention Points in Situation Pathways
Identifying intervention points is as much an art as a science and thus hard to encapsulate in guidance. That said, some general food for thought can be found in:
- Donella Meadows (2008) Thinking in Systems: A Primer. Chapter 6 in this book has an interesting discussion of how to use systems thinking to identify 12 types of intervention points in a system.
- DJ Abson et al (2017) Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation. Ambio 46: 30-39. This article extends Meadows’ analysis, lumping her 12 types of intervention points into 4 key concepts focused on the system’s parameters, feedback loops, design, and intent, with the latter options being more powerful, but also less commonly addressed.
Identifying Candidate Actions
There are many resources available to learn more about different types of generic conservation actions for different intervention points:
- Nick Salafsky et al (2008) A Standard Lexicon for Biodiversity Conservation: Unified Classifications of Threats and Actions. Conservation Biology 22: 897-911. The original list of conservation actions.
- CMP (2014) Conservation Actions Classification, v. 2.0. A more recent hierarchical classification of all conservation actions.
- FOS & CMP (2020) Conservation Actions and Measures Library (CAML). A curated library of generic pathway diagrams for single conservation actions and compound conservation strategies.
There are also a growing number of libraries that provide synthesized evidence for the effectiveness of different conservation actions:
- Conservation Evidence. A website and journal with expert reviews of conservation strategies.
- Collaboration for Environmental Evidence. A website and journal with systematic reviews of conservation strategies.
- Evidensia. A website with evidence for market-based conservation strategies.
Creating Strategy Pathways to Show Theories of Change
The theory of change concept was first developed in the 1990s in the development world by Carol Weiss and soon spread to other fields. Basic introductions include:
- Richard Margoluis et al (2013) Results Chains: A Tool for Conservation Action Design, Management, and Evaluation. Ecology and Society 18:22. An overview of the basic concept.
- FOS (2017) Conceptualizing and Planning Conservation Projects and Programs: A Training Manual. A practical guide to developing theory of change pathways.
- GEF (2019) Theory of Change Primer. A review of theories of change in different disciplines.
- Miradi Software. A software system explicitly designed to support strategy pathways.
Developing Your Approach for Going to Scale
There are many different models for taking programs to scale. Some of the most helpful sources include:
- Peter Senge (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. A good discussion of how to think about scaling using a systems thinking approach.
- Everett Rogers (2003) Diffusion of Innovations, 5th ed. The classic work on how to spread ideas.
- Michele Lee Moore, Darcy Riddell & Dana Vocisano (2015) Scaling Out, Scaling Up, Scaling Deep: Strategies of Non-Profits in Advancing Systemic Social Innovation. Journal of Corporate Citizenship 58: 67-84. An analysis of three models for scaling social innovation.
- R. Sam Larson, James Dearing & Thomas E. Backer (2017) Strategies to Scale Up Social Programs: Pathways, Partnerships and Fidelity. An overview of three different approaches to scaling.
- Jim Collins (2019) Turning the Flywheel. A monograph expanding the flywheel scaling concepts developed in his earlier works.
- CAML (2021) Pathways for Scaling Approaches. Detailed pathway diagrams for each of the five scaling approaches presented in this book.
The cash-flow analysis presented in this section is inspired by the methodology developed over decades by Glenn Jenkins and Arnold Harberger at the Harvard Institute for International Development, in particular as taught by Robert Conrad of Duke University:
- Glenn Jenkins, Chun-Yan Kao & Arnold Harberger (2018) Cost-Benefit Analysis for Investment Decisions. A summary of the cash flow analysis methodology used in this section.
- FOS (2021). An Economic Cash-Flow Model for Taking Nature-based Climate Solutions to Scale. The cash-flow model example presented in this section.
Determining Your Program’s Investment Approach
Some of the more helpful discussions of different approaches to philanthropy include:
- Paul Brest and Hal Harvey (2018) Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy, Second Edition. Suggestions for improving the strategic philanthropy approach.
- John Kania, Mark Kramer & Patty Russell (2014) Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Suggestions for improving the strategic philanthropy approach.
- The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (2016) A Practical Guide to Outcome-Focused Philanthropy.
- Jim Collins (2005) Good to Great and the Social Sectors: Why Business Thinking Is Not the Answer.
Chapter 3. Operationalizing and Implementing Your Program
Setting SMART Goals and Objectives
There is a long history in the business and social sector world of setting goals and objectives:
- Peter Drucker (1954) The Practice of Management. A foundational work in this field that introduced the concept of ‘management by objective.’
- Peter Senge (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. One of Senge’s core disciplines involves creating ‘shared vision.’
- Jim Collins & Jerry Porras (2004) Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Emphasizes the concept of Big Hairy Audacious Goals as a way to chart a path to success.
- FOS (2018) Conceptualizing and Planning Conservation Projects and Programs: A Training Manual. Contains a practical guide to setting goals and objectives in conservation work.
Managing Trade-Offs & Conflict
There is a large body of study and practice on conflict resolution that is beyond the scope of this book. Two sources for this chapter:
- Kai Lee (1993) Compass and Gyroscope: Integrating Science and Politics for the Environment. A good overview of combining the compass of adaptive management with the gyroscope of politics for managing bounded conflict in dealing with large-scale messy ecosystems.
- Nick Salafsky (1994) Ecological Limits and Opportunities for Community-Based Conservation. In Natural Connections: Perspectives in Community-Based Conservation. The source for the analysis between natural world and human well-being tradeoffs.
Turning Your Strategic Plan Into an Actionable Work Plan
A recent Conservation Measures Partnership working group review found dozens of guide books and software systems that support waterfall-style work planning (e.g. Asana, Monday.com, Microsoft Project). There are also a number of systems that support more agile task-oriented software development planning (e.g. Jira). Unfortunately, there seems to be a major gap in systems that link strategic planning to agile work planning. This working group is currently exploring extending Miradi Software to help fill this gap.
There are nascent efforts to develop standards for recording conservation actions and costs. For example:
- Gwen Iacona et al (2018) Standardized Reporting of the Costs of Management Interventions for Biodiversity Conservation. Conservation Biology 32:979-988. Proposed data fields for capturing the costs of actions.
Assembling an Investment Portfolio
There is a wide literature on different methods for prioritizing options:
- R. Gregory, L. Failing, M. Harstone, G. Long, T. McDaniels, & D. Ohlson (2012) Structured Decision Making: A Practical Guide to Environmental Management Choices. A useful overview of structured decision making; Chapter 8 provides a comprehensive guide to consequences tables.
- Kent Messer & William Allen (2018) The Science of Strategic Conservation. If you want to go there, this book provides a detailed introduction to various mathematical model-based decision tools.
- CMP (Forthcoming) Making Strategic Planning More Strategic. A review of different criteria and tools for comparing and selecting strategies.
Chapter 4. Synthesizing Existing Evidence
Determining Your Burden of Proof
This section is directly adapted from a paper that Nick wrote with Kent Redford developing the framework for determining the burden of proof for a program:
- Nick Salafsky & Kent Redford (2013) Determining the Burden of Proof in Conservation. Biological Conservation 146: 247-253. This work also greatly benefited from numerous conversations with Lash LaRue, Professor Emeritus at Washington and Lee Law School.
Identifying Claims Requiring Evidence
This section is directly adapted from work that FOS has been doing with Parks Canada to identify and vet evidence for key restoration strategies:
- Jean-François Bisaillon, Lalenia Neufeld, Joshua Kummerfield, Karly Savoy, Amelie Mathieu, Judy Boshoven, Jaclyn Lucas & Nick Salafsky (2021) Developing the Evidence Base for a Caribou Conservation Breeding Strategy in Jasper National Park. Evidence capture sheets developed for a multi-stakeholder workshop review of a critical caribou restoration strategy.
- Robyn Irvine, Amanda Lavers, Andre Laurin, Becky Graham, Christine Persohn, Paul Harper, Kent Prior, Judy Boshoven & Nick Salafsky (2021) Developing the Evidence Base for Restoration Strategies in Canadian National Parks. Evidence capture sheets for different strategies. Our seabird nesting example is a fictionalized adaptation of a real-world program developed by Robyn Irvine.
Compiling Evidence Sources and Weighing Claims
Chapter 2 above has links to some of the most useful libraries of synthesized conservation evidence. Other sources for this section include:
- Nick Salafsky et al (2019) Defining and Using Evidence in Conservation Practice. Conservation Science and Practice 1: e27. The source for much of the material in this section.
- Collaboration for Environmental Evidence (CEE). This website has a wealth of information including guidance and standards for evidence synthesis.
- Glenn Suter (2016) Weight of Evidence in Ecological Assessment. A helpful guide to weighing evidence.
- Natalie Dubois & Andrés Gómez (2018) Evidence in Action: Using and Generating Evidence About Effectiveness in Biodiversity Programming. A useful overview of using evidence in USAID work.
- Michael Lewis (2016) The Undoing Project. A highly readable summary of the work by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky on cognitive non-rational biases and heuristics used in decision making.
Chapter 5. Monitoring & Adapting
Developing Your Monitoring Plan
Some good sources to consult include:
- Richard Margoluis, Caroline Stem, Nick Salafsky & Marcia Brown (2009) Design Alternatives for Evaluating the Impact of Conservation Projects. New Directions for Evaluation 122:85-96. A review of different monitoring designs.
- FOS (2017) Designing Monitoring and Evaluation Approaches under the Open Standards. Another review of monitoring approaches.
Monitoring Your Strategy Effectiveness
The effectiveness monitoring approach presented in this section was developed for Miradi Software.
Defining and Measuring Long-Term Program Success
The following are some of the key references for systems for assessing ecological targets, threat reduction, and conservation capacity.
- TNC (2007) Guidance for Step 3: Assess Viability in Conservation Action Planning Handbook. Provides a basic intro to the theory and practice of viability analysis.
- Nick Salafsky & Richard Margoluis (2001) Threat Reduction Assessment: a Practical and Cost‐Effective Approach to Evaluating Conservation and Development Projects. Conservation Biology 13: 830-841. One approach for rolling up threat measurements to create an overall index; it could be useful going forward to update this thinking to apply to large-scale programs.
- Nick Salafsky, Richard Margoluis, John Robinson & Kent Redford (2002) A Conceptual Framework and Research Agenda for Conservation Science. Conservation Biology 16: 1469-1479. The source for Table 5.4.
- Annette Stewart (2018) Conservation Capability Maturity Model: A Tool for Assessing and Improving Performance of Conservation Organisations. A practical overview of how to assess organizational capacity built on a framework applied in many disciplines and the source for Table 5.5.
Analyzing Data and Using the Information to Adapt
Each type of data will have its own specific analytical approaches and techniques and as such, its own set of guidance materials. One general source is:
- Richard Margoluis & Nick Salafsky (1998) Measures of Success: Designing, Managing, and Monitoring Conservation and Development Projects. Chapter 7 explains the old-fashioned steps involved in preparing data for analysis.
Reporting to Your Team and Stakeholders
The Conservation Measures Partnership and Miradi Software have an active working group developing better reporting templates and tools to support key analyses in the Conservation Standards. Specifically, there is great interest in developing standard data reporting and visualization tools and building the Application Program Interfaces (APIs) linking conservation data with other types of data using standard business information systems such as:
Material in this section draws in part from:
- WWF. 2017. Planning for Sustainability and Responsible Exits. An overview of how to think about exits.
Chapter 6. Promoting Collaborative Learning
Contributing to the Global Evidence Base
Key sources for this section include:
- Annette Stewart, Nick Salafsky & Richard Margoluis (2018) Evidence Libraries: A Guide for Practitioners and Funders. A review and analysis of evidence libraries in medicine, education, policing, conservation, and other fields.
- Nick Salafsky et al (2019) Defining and Using Evidence in Conservation Practice. Conservation Science and Practice 1: e27. Figure 6.2 in this book is derived from a more detailed version of the strategy pathway for generating, accessing, and using evidence in Figure 4 in this paper.
- Conservation Actions and Measures Library (CAML). A web-based library of generic pathways for single-action and compound conservation strategies.
Developing Learning Networks
This material has drawn on the following sources:
- Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott & William Snyder (2002) Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. A summary of the theory and examples of communities of practice, primarily drawn from the business world.
- Marcia Brown & Nick Salafsky (2004) Learning About Learning Networks: Results from a Cross-Disciplinary Study. A review of learning networks that is the basis for this section.
- Malcom Gladwell (2000) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. A classic book on how to create more effective networks.
Building the Discipline of Conservation
The overall theory of change in this section is based on similar thinking outlined in sources including:
- Conservation Measures Partnership (2017) CMP Strategic Plan 2017-2022. A situation assessment and theories of change for transforming conservation practice.
- Foundations of Success (2020) FOS Strategic Plan. A situation assessment and theories of change for improving the practice of conservation.
There is an extensive literature about the concept of collective impact based on an original article: