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The Science Impact Project

Kareiva, Peter; Lalasz, Bob 11/21/2011

With the world’s population exceeding 7 billion — and demands for food, water, energy and minerals growing even faster — it is clear conservation has to step up its game. If we are smart, there is no reason we cannot meet our resource needs; but if we thoughtlessly exploit our natural capital without regard to impacts, we will squander any chance at insuring better lives for our children.

Science has a big role to play in this campaign to win. And that means the Conservancy’s scientists need help learning how to have even greater impact. So Science at The Nature Conservancy is pleased to announce the Science Impact Project, a program to train a new cadre of scientific thought leaders at TNC — scientists who regularly think, write and speak in high profile venues about global conservation issues, and who will help the Conservancy formulate scaled and innovative solutions to those issues.

The Science Impact Project: What is It?
The Science Impact Project (previously known informally as the “X-Men and Women Project”) is a systematic, three-year effort to enable select TNC scientists to maximize the impact of the Conservancy’s work in a world in which conservation is too often an afterthought.  The program includes:

  • Developing a “big idea” that has considerable impact on conservation paradigms and/or practice;
  • Developing a strategic research agenda pegged to the big idea;
  • Presentation training;
  • Donor and policy communications training;
  • Media and social media training.

At the end of the training, participants will have:

  • A TED-style talk that they can customize for a variety of audiences;
  • The tools and poise to fundraise from high-level donors and to communicate with a wide variety of policymakers;
  • The tools and confidence to give effective interviews to the media;
  • A research plan around the big idea;
  • A book proposal, article/essay for general audience, or fundraising proposal based on the big idea.

In addition, participants will be asked to address tasks pegged to the Global Challenges-Global Solutions framework — particularly around External Affairs priorities.

As we experiment with this program and develop its curriculum, we will look for ways to bring a scaled-down version to regional and field programs that seek to similarly enhance the impact of their scientists. If the program is as effective as we hope it will be, we will be calling for nominations and suggestions for a third cohort (see below for the first two).

This Program?
The Nature Conservancy is the world's premier applied conservation science organization —- but very few people recognize that, in large part because we lack scientific thought leaders who can write, speak and lead on globally significant questions beyond their fields. Developing such thought leaders will advance the Conservancy’s mission by:

  • Increasing our ability to raise money from potential donors who are interested in funding science but who are looking for signs of our scientific credibility.
  • Making clear and public some of the Conservancy’s competitive advantages — namely, our scientific heft, vision and credibility.
  • Positioning the Conservancy to better drive public conversation in media and elsewhere.
  • Increasing our visibility and access to venues with key policymaker and opinion-shaper audiences — from Davos to Aspen Ideas.
  • Making it easier to achieve the robust ambitions of our Global Challenges-Global Solutions framework.

Participants will be chosen from across the organization with the support of their supervisors. Participants will be selected to span the Global Challenges-Global Solutions framework that is guiding TNC’s work going forward. Project participants are selected for the content and gravitas they bring to the table. Participants must already have a substantial body of published research that shows great promise.

Each cohort will undergo two intensive training sessions per fiscal year, building skills essential to thought leaders through development of particular research projects. Participants will then be expected to refine these projects between sessions and to commit to an enhanced role in fundraising for the Conservancy that also respects the time they need to implement their work plans.

Science Communications and selected science staff will support participants throughout the process. We will develop customized goals and skill-building plans for each participant. We will mentor participants through regular and frequent check-ins. We will also generate opportunities for participants to write, speak, blog and communicate with donors. In addition, we will create a philanthropy resource pack about each participant, to be hosted on the philanthropy intranet site and which will include their bios, CVs, key messages, innovations and specialties, target audiences, and potential for fundraising trips and other philanthropic engagement.

Participants have already been chosen for the first two of three cohorts. They are:

Team 1: Vera Agostini; Silvia Benitez; Joe Fargione; Evan Girvetz; Judy Haner; Jon Hoekstra; Rob McDonald; Lizzie Mcleod; Jen Molnar; Jeff Opperman; Stephanie Wear.

Team 2: Mike Beck; James Fitzsimons; Eddie Game; Joe Kiesecker; Jensen Montambault; Scott Morrison; Mark Spalding; Sheila Walsh; Joni Ward; Supin Wongbusarakum.

If you have questions about the Science Impact Project, please contact Peter Kareiva or Bob Lalasz.

Image credit:  kiriyama3/Flickr.