Productive partnerships are one of the most important components of any successful conservation undertaking. Throughout this textbook, we have seen how successful partnerships can ensure effective law enforcement, sustainable development, ecosystem protection, and threat mitigation. Yet, many conservation projects continue to fail due to a lack of collaboration between community groups, scientists, and government leaders. Other projects fail due to unproductive partnerships, such as those relying too much on foreign consultants who lack the necessary understanding of cultural intricacies and organizational objectives in recipient countries (Mcleod et al., 2015). When considering conservation’s funding deficits, it is critical to wisely use what limited funds we have by maximizing each project’s prospects for success. Accomplishing this task starts with partnership composition.
Partnerships with local people
One of the most important groups to partner with is local people, particularly those individuals who are directly affected, positively and sometimes not so positively—hopefully only in the short term—by conservation projects (Redpath et al., 2013; Hall et al., 2014). Conservation projects are significantly more likely to achieve their long-term goals when they incorporate local histories and find ways to work with existing relationships between local people and their land (Waylen et al., 2010; Oldekop et al., 2016). When local people understand and buy into a project’s goals and purposes, they may not only become partners in conservation, but also take on leadership roles in, or become activists for, environmental causes.
Environmental monitoring by volunteer citizen scientists provides one of the prominent success stories involving local partnerships (Figure 19.7.1). For example, using hand-held devices (e.g. smart phones) with GPS capabilities, local communities are now able to map natural resources in their forests (http://www.mappingforrights.org), wildlife distributions, and poaching hotspots (Edwards and Plagányi, 2008), as well as forest loss (DeVries et al., 2016) and human-wildlife conflict (Larson et al., 2016). Even people that lack confidence can contribute to these efforts, through platforms such as iNaturalist which have automated features to help users identify unknown organisms they may encounter.
There are many benefits to local involvement in biodiversity monitoring. For example, field data collected by citizen scientists—which are often as accurate as those collected by specialists (Danielsen et al., 2014; Schuttler et al. 2018)—allow biologists to obtain information from more areas more regularly and more cheaply than would be the case if specialists collected that same data. Local involvement also ensures that conservation decisions and actions are more effective and quicker to implement (Danielsen et al. 2010) and improves engagement, creating stronger advocates for conservation (Granek et al., 2008).
Partnerships among conservation professionals
Conservation biologists need to be more deliberate in fostering appropriate inter-organizational partnerships. Such partnerships enable new information to spread quicker and enable conservationists to learn from each other and to know whom to contact when advice is sought. Strategic partnerships also enable specialization among organizations that they need not “do it all”. It allows sharing of scarce resources (e.g. trained volunteers, temporary staff, and citizen scientists) from one organization to another when not being utilized at a time. It also facilitates better coordination of activities, particularly at large scales, which improves project efficiency (Kark et al., 2015) organizational resilience (Maciejewski and Cumming, 2015), and conservation outcomes (Bonebrake et al., 2019).