“The potential scope of this programme is vast. Together, the world’s protected areas cover an area greater than Africa. Many of the organisations that manage these protected areas face significant challenges relating to business management. Without a strong organisational foundation, protected areas are unable to effectively manage the rich ecosystems under their stewardship. We are utilising the skills and resources of international businesses to meet this need, and in doing so we are helping businesses to better understand the value of natural resources to their organisation, and the important role of protected areas.”
Stacey Baggaley, Senior Programme Manager, Earthwatch Europe
Mentors and mentees
At the heart of the Earth Skills Network is the interaction between mentee and mentor. It’s a relationship that often transcends the purely professional to create personal connections across cultures.
Over the past eight years, Earthwatch has trained 52 Business Mentors who have partnered with 51 protected area organisations. This equates to 148 protected area staff who have received business skills training and mentoring.
“My mentor took time to review my proposal and made very vital inputs. Beyond the residential training, he is in frequent contact with me personally and the team, following up on what I am doing personally and with the other team members, reviewing and making inputs on activities being done at the park.”
Samuel Kojo Annan-Riverson, 2016 protected area representative, Ghana
Delivering on the ground
Collaboration between Business Mentors and protected area staff can make a real impact at these sites. New working practices and ways of thinking at protected areas translate into improvements and changes which enhance management effectiveness. Highlights include:
- $25,000 per year of cost savings were identified at Atsinanana Forest in Madagascar.
- Protected area representatives at Atsinanana Forest in Madagascar ran a community forum to find alternative incomes to replace illegal logging. They also secured space in local hotels for the sale of community crafts and products.
- Shirley, a protected area representative from Malaysia, worked to get another national park gazetted as a UNESCO site, and also developed a detailed marketing plan.
- An in-depth stakeholder analysis at Pendjari National Park in Benin helped to support the creation of a new tourist organisation which generated closer links to the Tourism Ministry, local hotels and community groups. This will help the site to generate ecotourism revenue.
- Daniel, a protected area representative from Cape Verde, established a new ecotourism NGO using the business planning process as a baseline for determining organisational objectives and actions.
- Siyabonga used the skills developed from ESN to establish a network of 21 marine protected areas in South Africa. This has made a significant contribution to the protected area estate of the country.
- Protected area representatives at Tai National Park worked together to produce a business plan for the site. This was the first plan of its type to be produced by employees of the park rather than consultants.
- Isaiah from Northern Rangelands Trust in Kenya is promoting micro-enterprise in local communities and is working to establish a multi-cultural centre.
- Blue Ventures revised its organisational structure to allow for more effective management of its sites in Madagascar.
“The insights gained from the training will improve my approach to PA management. I will be able to more holistically address the challenges facing the site where I work through improved stakeholder engagement and financial planning. The experiences shared with other PA managers from different participating countries improved my understanding of the big picture”
Michael Nang’Alelwa, 2015 protected area representative, Zambia
“A wonderful experience of mutual learning and sharing. Great exposure to the complex problems that face protected areas.”
Yu-lan Hsu, 2016 Business Mentor, Singapore
“A life-changing experience! It's great to see how much everyone benefits from this programme on all levels, working hard and having fun.”
Sjoerd Ribberink, 2016 Business Mentor, Netherlands
“There are innumerable challenges that these protected areas face that are comparable to business. Businesses develop silos of information, become mired in processes or complexity, and face serious external challenges. My experience is incredibly relevant and I feel I have made, and will continue to make, a difference in this protected area, in the communities of my protected area, and the personal and professional lives of my mentees.”
Neal Stephenson, 2014 Business Mentor, USA
“In my role, I deal with government as well as not-for-profit organisations. This experience has allowed me to submerge myself in their world, learn about their challenges and constraints in depth, and be able to identify common ground as well as areas for collaboration.”
Maria Palomar, 2015 Business Mentor, Singapore