Click to read: The importance of being hopeful

The importance of being hopeful

Today I learned a new Malagasy word: fanantenana, which means hope. I ran a workshop with our field managers at Durrell’s Office in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo about the Durrell Index, our monitoring and evaluation system which allows us to measure and communicate the difference our programmes make, and the data management that underpins this framework. During this session Herizo (Hery) Andrianandrasana, Durrell’s Coordinator of Ecological Monitoring and Protected Areas, was helping to explain the Index to the team in Malagasy.  He kept saying the word ‘fanantenana’, so I asked what it meant. Hery said “hope”. Although bleak news stories about the state of the natural world and its future are commonplace, the majority of conservationists I have met tend to be positive and optimistic people at heart, in spite of often overwhelming bad news, daily set-backs, and frustratingly small budgets. What is it that motivates us to keep going, often against difficult odds? Hery thinks it is hope. We conservationists are passionate about the species and habitats we work with and we devote our lives to trying to make a difference. We must hold some hope in our hearts that things can and will change for the better, that our efforts will support sustainable development and ensure that the species and special places we care so much about are still around for future generations.

The Durrell Index is all about hope. It features a number of indicators that measure the threats facing our species, the actions we take with our key partners to try to reduce those threats, the changes that arise as a result, and ultimately the long-term difference that our actions make to our target species - the impact of our conservation actions. Durrell’s Mission of saving species from extinction might be easy to grasp, but measuring our progress towards that mission is not quite so straight forward! The Durrell Index allows us to say with confidence that whilst Durrell might be a relatively small charity, we punch above our weight when it comes to conservation impact. It allows everyone who works at Durrell to spread a message of hope. Conservation works. We can turn back the tide and reverse the fortunes of species on the brink of extinction. It takes time, resources and passionate, optimistic conservation heroes. Luckily, at Durrell we’ve got plenty of heroes and we’re in it for the long haul.

Durrell’s positive, hopeful attitude towards conservation has put us in a prime position to be on the organising committee of a new movement, Conservation Optimism, alongside ZSL and Oxford University’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science. The Conservation Optimism Summit which is to be held on the 20th and 21st of April at Dulwich College and with a free public day on the 22nd April at London Zoo, is an exciting new initiative to celebrate conservation successes. It promises to be an exciting and ground-breaking few days involving conservationists, artists, writers, film makers and other creatives.

At the summit, Durrell’s Conservation Science team are organising two sessions. The first, ‘Selling success:  marketing a better world with conservation optimism’, on the Thursday morning has been co-organised with Rosie Hancock-Pook and Lindsay Harris from Imperial College London. It will take the form of an interactive ‘speed marketing challenge’, bringing together inspirational conservationists and a team of expert marketing and behaviour-change professionals from Ogilvy Change and PHD Worldwide to share creative ideas and develop an industry-wide, positive communications campaign framework to help empower people to take action.

On the Friday morning, we’re joining forces with the Wildscreen Trust to run the session ‘Selling success: storyboarding to empower the next generation of conservationists’. The workshop will explore how the conservation community can pass on our enthusiasm and communicate our work to the wider public through storytelling and film. This session will bring together professionals from the world of film, media and marketing to look at the art of storytelling.

At Durrell we’re excited about being part of the Conservation Optimism movement because it’s all about hope and converting that hope into positive change.

Lianne Concannon is based in Durrell’s Conservation Science Team in Bath and is responsible for managing the Durrell Index and the data that power it. She has recently returned from Madagascar where she has been working to improve monitoring and data management protocols.

Posted 18 April 2017

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