Why are the Conservation Standards so powerful?
The Conservation Standards (CS) cover all bases for planning and managing conservation projects and programs at all scales and themselves adapt as learning progresses.
Being open, they use tools from other disciplines as and where needed, without loss of the ‘big picture’. They have been developed FOR and BY conservation practitioners and have been tested and honed in the field many times.
The core elements that set the CS apart are:
- Considering the initial conditions required for successful implementation and who should be involved in the planning, prior to ‘diving in’;
- Defining exactly what is important for conservation and how you will measure progress and success. Doing this from the outset helps to ensure that effort is accurately targeted;
- A set of tools to define the relative importance of threats and to ensure that the root causes are addressed ‘head on’;
- Explicit pictures of how you think other people and institutions affect your project
- Detailed and SMART goals and objectives to guide your work
- A range of tools to aid selection of the best strategies and to adapt them to hone impacts whilst still in the planning phase
- Forensic analysis of selected strategies using theory of change (aka results chains, project logic) to probe the assumptions underlying the strategies
- Forecasting what monitoring is needed (and costs) and how this will be used to adapt activities
- From the outset, accepting that not all information may be available, so prioritizing research and information gathering to best effect
- Being focused on on-ground change and using evolving evidence-base of your project to change strategies and tactics as needed.
The Conservation Standards propose an adaptive management approach that helps project teams systematically plan their projects, determine if their projects are on track, why they are on track or not, and what adjustments they need to make. To be successful, a project must be based on both sound project assumptions (theory) and good implementation. Often, however, project teams are not explicit about the assumptions behind the strategies they choose. Consequently, when their projects do not produce desired results, the conclusion is often that the project team did not do a good job implementing the project strategies. As shown in Figure 1, however, projects may fail due to theory failure, even when the project team does an excellent job implementing the project activities. An adaptive management approach helps teams plan their projects such that they will be able to trace their success and failures to back to poor theory, poor implementation, or a combination of the two.