On The EDGE Conservation

The challenge

On The EDGE Conservation (OTEC) is a media and technology charity for the natural world. The team are committed to reconnecting the public with the value and importance of biodiversity, as well as bringing about lasting, large-scale change to protect species and ecosystems across the globe.

OTEC provides funding to projects around the world and works with storytellers and scientists to publish entertaining and compelling online narratives that inspire a greater respect and appreciation for the natural world. OTEC worked with NPC in the early stages of its growth, across the first two years in which the organisation had paid members of staff, 2019 and 2020. Initially, the team asked NPC to help the organisation adopt grant-making best practice, from the outset of its work. We were then asked to provide more in-depth support on good grant-making processes, theory of change and impact measurement.

The approach

In 2019, NPC provided OTEC with a critical friend analysis that built on our What makes a good charity? Framework, which helps charities analyse their effectiveness. Over the course of 15 years, this framework has been honed by charities and funders seeking to understand and improve their performance, as well as by funders conducting due diligence on grant-holders. The approach continually evolves, but at its core are the four domains of effectiveness: purpose, impact practice, people, and finance and operations.

We recognised that some of the content of this approach—for example reviewing your impact—would not yet be relevant given OTEC’s early stage of development, however, we felt it would help OTEC identify where it needed to focus its efforts going forward. NPC completed a desk-based review of existing documentation to assess OTEC’s early processes against sector good practice, and we interviewed a range of staff and trustees. The subsequent analysis report recognised OTEC’s early adoption of many aspects of grant-making good practice and made recommendations for the next stages of the organisation’s development. Our recommendations included further improvements to OTEC’s grant-making practice, internal communication practice, and impact practice.

Through a retainer contract in 2020, NPC provided support on these themes. To enhance OTEC’s grant-making processes, we conducted a review of its early grant-making practice and ran a series of workshops for the, now growing, OTEC team. These workshops covered the codesign of grant-making processes and included training on grantee due diligence. To support the refinement of OTEC’s impact practice, NPC and OTEC collaborated to complete a rapid re-assessment of the organisation’s early stages theory of change.

The result

Off the back of working with NPC, OTEC has prioritised organisational development in the areas we highlighted as important. OTEC further honed its grant-making practice and its approaches to internal communication. The theory of change development process has enabled OTEC to identify key grant-making outcomes, related to locally led conservation; organisational capacity and leadership; influencing legal and policy frameworks; and increased media attention and public knowledge of overlooked biodiversity. These outcomes now form part of the charity’s framework for impact measurement, which sets out a path for achieving the organisation’s long-term goal of reducing threats to species and averting their extinction.

Working with NPC has been key to our early development as a charitable foundation, ensuring we work and grow in line with best practice, and setting out a strong basis for effective grant-making in the conservation sector.

Nisha Owen
Director of Conservation, OTEC

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