Developing a theory of change for protecting the environment, restoring nature and safeguarding against climate change.
The Conservation Collective is a network of local foundations funding effective grass-roots conservation initiatives to protect the environment, restore nature and safeguard against climate change. Foundations encourage established and new philanthropists to give money to the most effective grassroots initiatives, in the places that they love. The Devon Environment Foundation supports a regenerative farm called the Apricot Centre and has funded training courses for farmers looking to transition to more nature friendly farming practices. The Lamu Environment Foundation supports crab farming to empower communities to protect and restore their degraded and vulnerable mangrove forests through the creation of a sustainable income-generating activity.
As a fast-growing network of local organisations the Conservation Collective recognised a need to have a robust understanding of how, as individual foundations and collectively, it achieved change in the world. The collective also noted the need for a framework to measure and report at all levels of its operations. Thanks to the support of the MAVA Foundation, the Conservation Collective was able to work with NPC to develop its theory of change and a measurement framework.
NPC supported the Conservation Collective to develop its theory of change through a series of workshops, with the full team, and more detailed workshops with a smaller group composed of a selection of leaders from some of the foundations within the network. The workshops explored how the Conservation Collective’s activities support outcomes and impact, including how the interventions influence stakeholders to think or do things differently. The team identified an approach, aligned to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that enabled each of the foundations to identify their activities within a shared vision for change.
Following this, NPC worked with the foundations to design a new application and reporting process for grants that would be applicable across all their work. This process will mean more consistent information is available about activities and impact both within foundations and across the Conservation Collective as a whole. NPC also designed a case study template to support the team to share their stories, and advised the Collective on how they might measure the success of their influencing work.
The new theory of change helps the central team, existing and new local foundations to communicate how the network and the local foundation play a role in supporting work that leads to desired social, economic and cultural outcomes, and environmental impacts. The non financial support (capacity building, networking, knowledge sharing) that we give our foundations, grantees and local partners is very important but challenging to measure. The new application and reporting forms are now live, after a complex multi-stakeholder participatory process. The next stage is to plan how we will practically record and measure key indicators, and how we will capture and share learnings with members and partners.
As a result of the work with NPC, the Conservation Collective is now en route to having a standardised approach to impact measurement, evaluation, and learning. This will allow our 16+ local environment foundations to coherently share the deep knowledge and expertise, replicate success stories and communicate lessons learnt within our network.
Jade Brudenell, Executive Director, Conservation Collective