Writers’ Roundtable: How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Impact your Career?

The pandemic reshaped the world in innumerable ways. It’s one of those events where people will say “before the pandemic…” or “since the start of the pandemic…” to describe how an aspect of their life changed in a significant way. This edition of the newsletter asks our contributors how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their career in conservation.

Jeff Berckes (2013)

One of my major takeaways from the pandemic centers on the idea of scientific communication. We know as scientists that our world uses a cool lexicon. I mean, seriously, I love that I know the term pseudocopulation and obviously use it any time I see an orchid, but if I just go around saying words like that in public without explanation, I might develop an odd reputation. The early confusion around COVID-19 should remind us all of the dangers of inconsistent communication and how translating our work into understandable and relatable messages can earn support, respect, and action in the face of crisis. If I can make an analogy here, the lessons learned from the “acute” pandemic of COVID-19 can help inform our collective messaging to help fight the “chronic” pandemic of climate change and environmental degradation.

For over thirteen years, I ran a water quality research program in my state and often struggled to overcome the inertia of misinformation that can bog down restoration efforts. After leaving my job during the pandemic, I started a podcast on the Clean Water Act in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency (The Clean Water Pod) to help demystify and decode water quality restoration efforts in the United States. By using plain language to help define some of the trickier scientific and bureaucratic terms, the show aims to highlight the great conservation work in water quality in the USA while hopefully inspiring more people to get involved and act in their local communities. Every episode, I watch my guests fight their inner scientist in explaining their work, knowing that leaning on jargon will not work to get their message across.

As I near the end of the first season in that endeavor, I’m struck by how podcasts didn’t even exist twenty years ago when I was an undergraduate. As professionals, we need to understand the pathways consumers take in information and be willing to reach them with the right form and substance. Having said that, I look forward to sharing your Instagram story about your interpretative TikTok dance of fighting your inner scientist on my Twitter account.

Elizabeth Diego (2022)

When the curfews and restricted movements were announced, I was scheduled to undertake community monitoring field work that had to be canceled. In no way was the community going to access the internet for virtual meetings. At that point in time it was not about the internet access for the communities in rural areas but getting on with activities that would ensure their livelihoods are secure. Water was enlisted as an essential service and this meant that all one needed to do was ensure you adhere to the COVID protection protocols and get to serve as a government officer. I got engaged with a team of geologists who had to undertake assessment and supervision of groundwater drilling to ensure there was water provisioned to those in the densely populated informal settlements. As I played my role in communicating the need for access to land and engaging the communities on what to expect of the project, I engaged in the process of siting the groundwater, drilling, water quality testing, and water supply. The faces of the amazed and happy community members when they got access to water for free still remains the most rewarding memories in my career. My geologist colleague demystified all the groundwater jargon and since then I deeply enjoy conversations on groundwater conservation and all it entails. During the intense curfews the rivers in the city were visibly cleaner and the environment too was cleaner. As the restrictions eased, some of the positive habits remained ingrained with the people through an increased awareness of the importance of conservation.

Highlighting Action: Indah Rufiati

Indah Rufiati, Fisheries Lead in Pesisir Lestari – Blue Ventures, shared her work on assisting small-scale fishing communities in community-based fisheries monitoring and fisheries management in Indonesia at World Ocean Summit Asia-Pacific in Singapore in November 2022. Indah spoke about harnessing tech and data for small-scale fisheries management and the progress in digitizing data systems to support the community use of data for decision making in implementing fisheries management.

Indah is a 2022 Kinship Conservation Fellow, and she gained a lot of insights during the Fellowship on integrating market-based approaches to environmental issues. Currently, she is supporting communities to collect quality octopus data as the basis for supply chain interventions to maintain the quality of octopus and to reduce post-harvest losses so the fishers can get a better price from value-add processes.

Kinship Conservation Fellows Participate in COP15

When partners come together biodiversity financing can work.

Nine Kinship Conservation Fellows participated in various events of The 2022 United Nations Biodiversity Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Montreal. COP15 gathered government delegations from around the world to agree on a framework for global action to halt and reverse nature loss. The Fellows attended COP15 as part of the government delegations negotiating the final global biodiversity framework, led and participated in side events that shared their work and the impact of the agreement on future conservation efforts, and made connections to elevate the impact of their work.

Here are views on the value of the conference from some of the Fellows.

Dawn Carr (2019)
Country represented: Canada
Organization represented: Nature Conservancy of Canada
Contact: Dawn.Carr@natureconservancy.ca

What were the reflections you left with from the conference?

I attended COP15 for Biological Diversity as part of the Government of Canada Delegation and led the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s engagement throughout the conference. Upon reflection, I am so grateful that the level of ambition achieved within the final Kunming-Montreal Agreement was strong, measurable, and more equitably implementable among all parties through better funding mechanisms. It was also inspiring and meaningful to witness Indigenous-led conservation action be recognized as an essential path to success!

What opportunities do you find in your country / region for the “Loss and Damage Fund” that was agreed upon?

The loss and damage fund were agreed to during COP27 on Climate Change. While I didn’t actively participate at COP27, the financing outcomes of COP15 were similarly supported by Canada. On the first day of COP15, Canada announced $350 million in new international finance for biodiversity to push a more equitable finance agenda. This represents new and additional funding to previous efforts from Canada, in particular, its existing 2021 climate finance commitment of $5.3 billion over 5 years.

How do you think this fund can support market-based conservation?

Financing options are essential for countries to adapt to and mitigate against climate change and biodiversity loss, and countries that have been the drivers behind these two planetary crises will now enable markets to grow in developing countries to grow capacity and innovation that will spur new economic opportunities in support of nature.

Learning from the COP15 experience, how do you think that a Kinship Fellows presence (panel) can be secured for future global events?

Getting organized EARLY is essential! Allow adequate time to plan for inclusive involvement, and to understand equitable funding needs for all who have an interest in attending, requires time and a commitment to the Fellowship. By encouraging Fellows to collaborate on ideas, presentation submissions, and opportunities to share work experiences during CBD, UNFCCC or other Global IUCN events can spur initiatives and leadership among the Fellows community. Clear guidelines about what Kinship expects to occur in the lead up to, during, and after conference participation would also be very useful. Last, having a Kinship Conservation Fellow in situ where UN or IUCN Conventions occur is also helpful to understand processes, panel/presentation opportunities, and logistics.

Yuri Rugai Marinho (2020)
Country represented: Brazil
Organization represented: ECCON Soluções Ambientais
Contact: yuri@ecconsa.com.br

What were the reflections you left with from the conference?

I realized that the countries are getting closer to finding a way to demonstrate the scientific, economic, and political consequences of losing biodiversity on the planet. I believe that not only climate change issues will be sufficiently reported in the next few years, but also biodiversity issues. It was a great opportunity to discuss internationally about PES, carbon credits, and biodiversity credits, as well as to discuss the Brazilian scenario on this topic. Many discussions and side events had biodiversity goals and biodiversity credits as one of the main difficulties.

What opportunities do you find in your country / region for the “Loss and Damage Fund” that was agreed upon?

I have not identified real opportunities in Brazil related to the fund. But, the private sector in Brazil is already discussing this topic, and I hope that we find opportunities.

How do you think this fund can support market-based conservation?

I believe that the fund may support scientific and economic research, as well as technical events and projects, which are the first steps in this path.

Learning from the COP experience, how do you think that a Kinship Conservation Fellows presence (panel) can be secured for future global events?

I believe that the Kinship Conservation Fellows have deep knowledge and experience in their areas. They receive training (during the Fellows program) in market-based solutions, which is the main characteristic of the recent international environmental agreements. So, Kinship Conservation Fellows have a lot to share and their opinions may help to reach good results. I presented the methodology in the Carbonflor project to the Fellows Alonso Martinez and Liliana Martinez, who greatly contributed with suggestions and new ideas. This is a resource that the Kinship Conservation Fellows program has.

ECCON Soluções, is a company that developed a methodology of Payment for Environmental Services (PES) based on forest carbon and biodiversity under a project named Carbonflor. The methodology was presented at a side event during COP15 called “Payment for Environmental Services (PES) panel: a connection between biodiversity and climate change” in the Business and Finance space at Place Quebec.

Alonso Martínez (2020)
Country represented: Mexico
Organization represented: UNDP-BIOFIN
Contact: alonso.martinez@undp.org

What opportunities do you find in your country / region for the “Loss and Damage Fund” that was agreed?

I participated in the CBD COP, but not in the UNFCCC

How do you think this fund can support market-based conservation?

Apparently, the Loss and Damage Fund does not have any funds yet or clear rules of operation, but I was not in COP27.

Learning from the COP experience, how do you think that a Kinship Fellows presence (panel) can be secured for future global events?

A feeling of enthusiasm was felt during the first day of the meeting when delegates from around the world went to Montreal to discuss and adopt the new Global Biodiversity Framework. As the days went by, negotiations started to halt and become complicated due to the inability to advance in contentious topics such as resource mobilization. This topic remained one of the most difficult to advance and, in the end, did not reach the desired outcome. This made me think about how we must reflect on our role as Kinship Conservation Fellows. We must start thinking about the full diversification of resources, especially those from unconventional sources. We have the knowledge, expertise, network, and tools to do so, and we should strive to be agents of innovation in our context.

Even though I am a true believer in multilateralism and international relations, getting to listen to what other Kinship Conservation Fellows were doing outside the negotiation halls was a breath of fresh air. I was able to attend some of their side events and informal meetings where they were already out reaching their efforts and achievements to interested stakeholders who were keen to listen and even invest in their ideas. This confirmed how much is going on outside the formal process of the convention.

In that sense, the questions remain, how do we scale up and replicate these incredible examples? And how we could mainstream them into policy to make them the rule and not the exception?

Liliana Martinez (2020)
Country represented: Colombia
Organization represented: South Pole
Contact: lianmarsa@gmail.com

What were the reflections you left with from the conference?

My main reflection is that today biodiversity is not only on the agenda of governments, but also on the agenda of the private sector and civil society. Although for many it is not yet a clear topic to digest, there is an urgency in the call to action, to start developing projects that will help halt biodiversity loss, while helping to restore degraded ecosystems. It is time for each of us (personally and in the organizations we represent) to innovate conservation and funding strategies, to work collaboratively and constructively, and to share openly what has and has not worked for us. These lessons learned will help us not to repeat efforts, but to scale up and replicate actions that work well.

What opportunities do you find in your country / region for the “Loss and Damage Fund” that was agreed?

This fund was agreed at COP27 on Climate Change and ratified at COP15 on Biodiversity. It is an important way forward in terms of justice for developing countries and becomes an opportunity for them to access resources by thinking beyond mitigation and opening the door to adaptation, which is important in our countries to reduce climate risks for our communities. Although several aspects still need to be defined, it is a good initiative that will open up financing beyond the traditional financing mechanisms of payments for emissions reductions and/or carbon credits, among others.

How do you think this fund can support market-based conservation?

This fund opens up the opportunity for market-based conservation, because it invites us to think outside of the conventional and more commonplace of payment for results and carbon credits, ETS, associated with mitigation. It is an opportunity for innovation in financial mechanisms associated with adaptation and securing resources for long-term, government-funded projects. This opens the door to public-private partnerships, to generate financial mechanisms for the implementation of the resources.

Learning from the COP experience, how do you think that a Kinship Fellows presence (panel) can be secured for future global events?

I see Kinship as an opportunity for the different Fellows working on market-based mechanisms for biodiversity protection to present lessons learned, exchange approaches and promote the scaling up of successful projects. Even prior to the COP or in the two years following, work can be done to share challenges and seek solutions to developing projects that reflect the incorporation of improvements proposed by other Fellows. From an operational point of view, I think it also becomes an opportunity for Fellows, especially those working with the private sector, to manage accreditations, as it is usually easier for NGOs and governments as a step in this COP.

Other Kinship Conservation Fellows attendees:

Kinship Conservation Fellows Affinity Groups and Regional Projects

Kinship Conservation Fellows are encouraged to join and participate in Affinity and Regional Groups (AG/RG). The idea behind these groups is to generate collaborative opportunities between Fellows. Each AG/RG has access to funding from the Foundation ($10,000 (US) per calendar year) that can be used to foster Fellows collaborations.

In order to generate collaborative work among Fellows, Fellows who are facing a conservation challenge, where a market-based tool can be applied, are able to propose a project wherein the funding for a given AG/RG can be used for their project. The criteria for said proposal is explained below. Given the current reality, where in-person work has become extremely difficult or impossible, this collaboration could be in-person or virtual, depending on the situation. Fellows can have a joint application with more than one AG/RG, in which case, the recipients could possibly avail a larger funding opportunity if agreed by all groups involved.

Proposal Criteria

  • Projects must foster collaborative work between Fellows
  • At least three Fellows need to be involved in the project
  • The project needs to involve a market-based tool approach
  • Funding must be used to enable a conservation intervention or address a conservation challenge
  • Multi-disciplinary projects are encouraged
  • Proposals must delineate the involvement of the AG/RG (e.g. through video-conferencing consulting, in-person participation, etc.)

Proposal Format

The proposal must be one page, include Fellows leading the proposal, and adhere to the criteria above. The timeline to submit a proposal will be from November 1 to December 31 each year. Proposals will be reviewed in January each year, with a decision sent to Fellows by February 1. If an officer of an AG or RG applies with their own proposal, then they cannot participate in the selection process. Funds can be disbursed ahead of the project commencement, but full accounting to Kinship Foundation will be necessary once the project has concluded. The AG/RG and Community Advisory Group are not responsible for the success or failure of the selected proposal, nor for the disbursement or balancing of funds. Projects will be selected based on merit and conservation gain and blindly voted by members of the respective group.

Proposals must include: 

  1. Project purpose and outputs/deliverables
  2. Description of market-based-tools involved
  3. Key partners involved in the project (Fellows and other stakeholders)
  4. Budget breakdown
  5. Expected Outcomes / Outputs
  6. Project timeline


  • Activities
  • Fellows participation
  • Lessons learned
  • Accounting report
  • Recommendations for future experiences
  • High-quality photos for Kinship Foundation
  • Final report for the Foundation and Affinity/Regional Group(s)
    • This should be short and explicit (five pages max)
    • Conservation intervention description
    • Successes/failures/lessons learned
    • Links to other outputs (could be materials produced, website, app, etc.)

*The Foundation reserves the right to share non-sensitive or confidential information about the project for future promotional materials and/or newsletters/media content.*

Please reach out to Gonzalo Araujo with questions: gonzo@mareco.org.uk

New to the Kinship Conservation Fellows Community: Introducing Gladys Banfor

by Jeff Berckes

Kinship Foundation’s new Program Associate brings plenty of energy and intellectual curiosity to the position.

Born to Nigerian immigrants, Gladys Banfor grew up wanting to help people. Her sister, born premature, and her father, a cancer survivor, both spent their share of days in the hospital. To many communities, the health care system can be a place of sickness and mystery. Gladys wanted to change that perception to a place of healing and health.

She pursued her BA in Political Science and Biology with a specialization in Neuroscience from the University of Chicago before earning a Masters of Public Health from George Washington University Milken School of Public Health. It was there that she met a professor that planted a seed that would grow to eventually alter her career trajectory.

An environmental course in the master’s program clued Gladys into the relationship between people and the natural environment and she started asking herself questions. How does eating a healthy diet impact the environment? What is my environmental footprint and how can I do better? Who is doing this type of work? How can I do more? Do better?

After working in the public health field for five years, Gladys decided she wanted a chance to explore those ideas more while helping put her logistics and event management planning skills to good use. When the Kinship Foundation position opened, she jumped at the chance to join the team.

Gladys brings an insatiable thirst for learning new things and the ability to build communication campaigns to help spread information in a clear and understandable way. She’s looking forward to learning how she can help “lift up, scale up, and tell everyone about how to replicate it.”

Growing up in a family that immigrated to the United States, she’s particularly keen on working at the global scale and bringing together the diverse Kinship Conservation Fellows community. She enjoys diving into new recipe books and trying foods from around the world as she starts to fill her travel log with new and interesting places.

If Gladys comes to your town, you’re likely to find her at the local art museum or playhouse, taking in the culture and artistic expressions of the creative class. Her happy place is finding the quiet corner of a city buzzing with pollinators away from the buzz of city life or away from the city altogether at a beach.

Help me welcome Gladys to the Kinship community!

New to the Kinship Conservation Fellows Community: Introducing Angel Gibson

by Jeff Berckes

Dropped off in the middle of an unfamiliar city, armed with only a pocketful of gummy bears and the time and space to discover, Angel Gibson finds her bliss.

If that sentence strikes you as an unlikely way to introduce Kinship Foundation’s new Executive Vice President, stick with me. Angel brings an explorer’s mindset to the helm of the foundation, full of ideas and the background to confidently navigate the terrain. It makes all the more sense when you listen to the longtime strategist sketch out one idea after another, like a cartographer mapping the contours of the landscape.

After a career full of traversing big, unwieldy, multi-stakeholder initiatives for a wide variety of clients, Angel stands ready in the face of a new challenge. But the world of conservation represents a return to her roots rather than a trip to a foreign land. 

“I grew up in Nebraska, the only daughter of a high school football coach, in a small farming community,” Angel explained. “My grandfather owned the hatchery, and it wasn’t until years later that I realized just how progressive he was in his thinking.”

Angel’s grandparents installed solar panels on their land well before the technology was commonplace on the landscape. Her grandfather served as the mayor of his small Nebraska town, running on progressive ideals including land and water conservation.

“My grandparents would talk a lot about how important it was to not take out too much,” she continued. “He would talk about the importance of the ‘circle of life.’ Through action and deed, he had a true environmental ethos.”

Upon graduating from high school, Angel followed the path of many high achievers from the Midwest—she got out. Smith College in Massachusetts provided the “space and place” to understand how her roots shaped her sensibilities and how the lessons learned from her grandparents could serve as an asset to her work. 

Kinship Foundation came into the picture as part of the 2018 Kinship Conservation Fellows Focus Year. Angel worked with the foundation as a consultant to help identify ways to engage both the family and the alumni network of Fellows. Intrigued by the organization and the portfolio of projects in the Fellows network, she couldn’t resist the opportunity to join the team last year.

“One thing I got so excited about was the spirit of the foundation as a whole—everything the foundation does builds learning and capacity, meant to share with others those spaces and places. I love the collaborative nature that is baked into everything—from innovative initiatives in food-system-focused conservation, postsecondary education, biomedical research, and supporting early career scientists. I love the idea of joining in and figuring out what I can contribute to the party.”

If the Kinship Conversation Fellows were throwing a party, Angel is bringing more than just a bag of chips. When asked to describe her media diet, she revealed a pantry bursting full of a diversity of ingredients.

“Eat Like a Fish!” she exclaimed when asked for a specific recommendation. “Have you heard of this? I’m obsessed with it; I’ve bought multiple copies for people to read.”

The James Beard winning book by Bren Smith explores the idea of ocean farming as a way to fight the climate crisis. Smith’s swashbuckling tale maps a greener future to food production in an engaging, truth-telling form. In other words, a perfect Kinship book.

While she tends to stack non-fiction on the shelf to try and quench an insatiable thirst for knowledge, she always has a novel or book of poetry open to caffeinate the creative side of her brain. She’s currently enjoying Octavia E. Butler’s Parable series. Podcasts focusing on how things work and suggesting solutions to important issues intrigue her most. She recommended Throughline from NPR as a good example of historical explanations to modern day events.

Early on in her tenure, Angel finds herself “intrigued by the mountains of possibilities” to cross-pollinate the work of the Fellows’ network. “How can we apply the principles of adaptive learning and adaptive leadership and connect with the people most interested in the work? How can we add the rocket fuel to great ideas and help ignite it? How can we reinforce the social and emotional aspect of the work?”

When asked to describe her favorite travel experience, it should have come as no surprise that she most enjoys exploring an unknown city with a chance to reveal what makes the place great. She likes to learn the local phrases and figure out what makes the place tick. Even her favorite food, gummy bears, fits this explorer’s approach to adventure—easy to carry shots of energy to extend discovery time.

The Kinship Conservation Fellows network finds itself at an inflection point. With a critical mass of deep thinkers and problem solvers located around the globe, the network can influence real change as the world enters a critical stage of identifying and scaling conservation and climate resiliency. It will indeed take a village to emerge from this crisis.

As we start on a new era, help me welcome Angel Gibson to Kinship City, population 282 and growing.

We promise to keep the gummy bears fully stocked.

Making the Decision: When I decided it was a good time to get back in the field

by Lucía Ruiz (2019 Fellow)

These answers are being written while I do my first fieldwork in more than a year, sharing experiences from the core of Mexican community-managed forests: Oaxaca to the world! The emotions I feel can barely be described. It is true that spending time in touch with nature benefits you. I wholeheartedly wish a pandemic like the one we are facing nowadays does not keep us ever again from visiting the natural wonders our bodies and souls need (and have been craving) to be healthy.

What were the pros and cons that your organization considered when deciding that it was time to go back to the field?

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico has not gone back to the field entirely. Decisions are being taken on a monthly basis considering the traffic light monitoring system set by the government (red, orange, yellow, and green). The remainder of 2020, after the pandemic was officially declared in March, WWF shifted to home office-based work. It wasn’t until the first quarter of 2021 that some activities were allowed, and since then, each case is evaluated based on the risk for the person doing fieldwork and the people who will be part of the fieldwork. If local communities are to be visited, a special letter must be sent to the community to make sure they agree and feel comfortable with the planned activities.

The biggest benefit of not having done fieldwork during the most difficult months of the pandemic was making sure that no one was exposed as a result of their work. For the first few months, neither staff nor WWF-funded organizations were allowed to do fieldwork. By the end of 2020 some activities were allowed for local organizations, and this was fundamental for on-going projects.

In the first six months of the pandemic, the biggest challenge, and many times a cause of enormous frustration, was not being able to work hand-in-hand with local communities and waiting for the traffic light to change color in the states where our fieldwork is conducted. Virtual communications have complicated the momentum created before the pandemic with the projects. Additionally, developing trust and addressing complicated issues like finances and governance of Community Conservation Enterprises (CCEs) becomes a huge challenge.

What factors drove the decision to return and do fieldwork?

The main factors include the traffic light monitoring system, the health vulnerability of the staff doing fieldwork, health services available in the communities to be visited, and case-by-case situation assessments in which risk was analyzed for local communities. COVID-19 tests have also been a common denominator for field visits that require being in touch with remote communities. Another factor that was considered after the first quarter of 2021 was the urgency to deliver results to donors based on annual planning and scheduled activities for each project. Adaptive management has been fundamental: for some activities, we have talked to the donors and agreed to slow down the pace and also space out some of the activities to make sure that fieldwork is not done simultaneously by all staff.

How was the return implemented? (Biosecurity considerations, community engagement, partners support, family considerations and reactions)

The return to fieldwork has at all times been on a voluntary basis. Staff is encouraged to stay home if they do not feel safe doing fieldwork. Currently, one of the most important issues that WWF has highlighted is mental health and the importance of people feeling safe and consulting with their families if it’s a safe option to do fieldwork. This has also resulted in considering family structures as one of the most important considerations.

Additional to fieldwork measures, WWF Mexico has gone semi-virtual. Beginning in mid-March of 2020, home office was implemented. This new method of operation has brought us closer not only with our family and friends but also with the people who collaborate with us by considering all available options of communication.

How has the pandemic impacted the income generation projects you are involved with?

Fortunately, our organization has not stopped as a result of the pandemic, and we have noticed more interest from donors to invest in environmental or wildlife-related organizations/projects. An example is a growing interest in tackling the illegal wildlife trade and the conservation of vulnerable ecosystems. In this context, WWF has been able to support income generation projects throughout the pandemic to make sure local productive activities are not stalled.

For income generation projects—specifically one we are developing in southern Mexico called “Seeds of Change” funded by IKEA Social Entrepreneurship and implemented by WWF jointly with a local organization named Mbis bin—the biggest challenge has been maintaining the momentum for CCEs we are supporting. Most of their income was decimated due to the pandemic, and the fieldwork we were developing was halted throughout all of 2020. The little work we were able to develop was done through phone calls or virtual sessions, which was very challenging due to connectivity issues but also because working with communities is complicated when not having face-to-face sessions.

To cope with the economic downturn, what strategies were used for the conservation-oriented enterprises you work with? What strategies were implemented by WWF to support the income generation projects in your portfolio?

Constant presence and communication have been fundamental to ensure that CCEs feel constantly supported by WWF. In this context, the WWF network developed internal activities to discuss alternatives, including:

  1. WWF Mexico developed a system to help the Indigenous People National Institute (INPI) map COVID-19 cases in municipalities that have high rates of indigenous population. This tool was used by the Coordinating Centers of Indigenous Peoples (CICC) to have updated information and provide advice, as well as channeling support in the event of possible cases of infection.
  2. The Beyond Tourism Innovation Challenge, led by WWF Regional Office for Africa, in association with the Luc Hoffmann Institute, WWF Norway, and the Africa Leadership University, is an attempt to further reach out to partners on viable ideas to address the dependence of current conservation model on tourism and the opportunity to develop alternative income models through a conservation-finance model that is less dependent on tourism and hunting.
  3. A hackathon, in which more than 50 offices of WWF participated, was done to develop innovative solutions on how to build back better in Protected and Conserved Areas. The hackathon helped develop an innovative portfolio of economic incentives to build back better livelihoods in and around Protected and Conserved Areas after COVID-19. Through a design thinking approach solutions were ideated and prioritized to identify market tools that can help address current livelihoods and local economies challenges, create connections among partners that can lead to new collaborations, and contribute to the discussion of IUCN’s WCPA Task Force on COVID19 and PCAs.

Additionally, WWF has taken the mission to integrate innovation at its core to boost projects that integrate a design thinking approach and increase capacities in local communities.

Once in the field, what did you find and what resilience-type lessons you learned?

The main finding was that, although many of the CCEs saw impacts on their income, the work did not stop, and local income generation was maintained, even if it meant very low income. The most affected CCEs were those that are connected to regional, national, or international value chains, as those income fluxes were severely affected.

Some of the projects WWF Mexico works with include remote communities that depend on subsistence agriculture. These activities allowed them to produce enough food to meet local needs. Also, it was very clear how so many families we work with still depend heavily on remittances and were able to cope through 2020 by having this additional income from abroad.

From the resilience you found in your projects, what lessons you took for yourself that you think are useful for the community of Kinship Conservation Fellows?

The main lesson is that CCEs are resilient and will always find a way to survive through hazards, including pandemics. In this context, the main findings would include:

  1. Develop a protocol for going back to the field when the organization decides it’s ready.
  2. Ensure that even if fieldwork needs to be halted by your organization, phone calls or virtual interaction is maintained to make sure communities maintain the interest in the projects and advance trust with local stakeholders.
  3. Local partners and organizations are fundamental to maintain presence on the ground.
  4. Have emergent funds to support communities, strategic allies, and government agencies develop studies and monitoring systems based on the best science available.
  5. Constant brainstorming sessions with your organization/office and partners to develop ideas on how to support local conservation community enterprises.

Lucía Ruiz is Biodiversity and Finance Coordinator at WWF-Mexico

The Call for Connection to Nature in the Galápagos

by Noémi d’Ozouville (2017 Fellow)

In the Galápagos Archipelago, the local population lives on four inhabited island, and the majority of visitors’ sites are distributed across uninhabited islands. High costs and remote accessibility greatly limit local children’s experience of the magic and wonders of the Galápagos Protected Areas, terrestrial and marine. Recognized as one of the world’s best-known natural laboratories for evolution, the Galápagos Protected Areas offer an opportunity to look at this living laboratory also through the lenses of conservation, education, tourism, and mobility during the COVID-19 crisis.

During the 2017 Kinship Conservation Fellowship, I planted a seedling of an idea for what would become the Galápagos Infinito program. In 2020, while working within the Galápagos Government Council and after years of nurturing the seedling alongside engaged and visionary friends and colleagues, Roberto Pepolas and Valeria Tamayo (2018 Naveducando Pilot Project), Emiliano Rodriguez Nuesch (Pacifico Risk Communication Agency) and Norman Wray (Minister-President of the Galápagos Government Council 2019-2021), we planned to launch the program seeking to connect Galápagos children to their home.

Things took a different turn. COVID-19 hit a community which is 80% dependent on tourism hard. There were no commercial flights in or out of the islands for three months. A main component of the program hinged on agreements with commercial boat operators to transform their vessels into learning labs for three to five days a year. No tourism in Galápagos meant no boats on the water and no chance for the program to launch. The kids stayed home without access to school grounds, the beach, forest or farm, and no connection with nature or their homeland.

Our nascent and novel public-private-community program flipped the switch and took a plunge into the digital. We weathered out the pandemic storm by engaging with the teachers. Then connecting students from all four inhabited islands in the same zoom room and linking them to chefs, naturalist guides, boat captains, scientists, and more to virtually share experiences and build up their appetite for future in-person adventures. We reached children, alleviated isolation, supported teachers with inspiring content, and strengthened community and identity. We also built capacity for the growth of the program through rapid testing of actions (prototyping) and progressive increase in complexity of interventions. 

We found one person still active in the field despite the pandemic and with a unique perspective on the Galápagos Islands who could share his wisdom with the children from his office: Astronaut Victor Glover in the International Space Station (ISS). Few words can describe how we all felt—connected, inspired—sharing the answers he provided to the students as he looked down on the vital beauty of Earth from space. For 16 minutes, the time the ISS flew over the line-of-sight radio contact point, time came to a halt, thrilling the students.

Non-formal environmental education initiatives in Galápagos started in the 1990s. They provided vital opportunities for children and students to experience hands-on and up close the unique aspects of the islands and threats to the ecosystems. Many Galápagos professionals, now in their mid-thirties, manifest great appreciation for those offerings. However, the exponential growth of tourism, population, and conservation challenges in the first two decades of the 21st century diluted the continuity, reach, and impact of some of these initiatives and overshadowed the needs of the community.

COVID-19 challenged us and the world. In Galápagos, it provided time for looking inward and pushed the community to acknowledge the requisite for greater intersectoral articulation and cross-community integration. This window of opportunity was used to tackle sustained and long-term efforts for education and local connection. As a result of participatory public policy efforts during the pandemic: Reactivation Plan, 2030 Regional Plan, and Contextualized Curriculum for Galápagos, we gained new ground in the visibility of the local community and access to natural spaces for well-being, identity, and placed-based learning, bridging formal and non-formal education. We achieved much of this work through virtual meetings and online platforms, which allowed new voices to participate.

From the new school year of May 2021, in person activities slowly resumed. In line with our interest in supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion, we started engaging with students from the rural schools of Santa Cruz island, the indigenous school, the bilingual school, and the special education school. Over the course of six months, 75 students experienced navigating the marine reserve, and being in the uninhabited islands of the National Park, above and below the water.

From near-home observations of nature to inter-island exchanges, sailing activities on the sea to on-board learning labs to reach the outposts of the archipelago teeming with wildlife, the Galápagos Infinito program continues to grow in order to sustain the staggering breadth of meaningful and transformational experiences available for students. Through storytelling, the children enthusiastically share their experiences with friends, family, and teachers, resulting in elevated community appropriation of the program and sense of connection to the unique nature and generosity of the Islands.

Out on the water with the children, saltwater in your hair, seeking shade under the sails, the fulfillment pours in when watching faces come alive when a penguin pokes its head out of the water or a frigate bird flies overhead with its red inflated throat pouch. That I can put my years of experience to the service of the children and the islands in such a way is a gift. A path is revealed for us all to journey towards a greater knowledge of self, home, and protection of the planet.

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As I write these words, I am appreciative of the lessons from the Kinship Fellowship (2017), which I was able to bring into this work, from Mulago’s mission statements to Saul Weisberg’s sharing about the importance of storytelling, Rare’s approach to inspiring and engaging community, John Mason’s social entrepreneurship experiences, adaptive leadership, negotiations, and the importance of a sound financial model to achieve long-term outcomes and goals.

I also wish to pay homage to Roberto Pepolas Lecaro, our friend and co-founder of the Naveducando Foundation, who passed away in 2021. And thank our major partners in 2020-2021: BID, UNESCO, NASA, #NavidadEnElMar.