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MAVA Foundation Guest Blog

Excerpt from “The OAP-approach: the quest for impact at scale”

Read the full blog on our partner’s page: MAVA Foundation Blog
The FOS Europe Team (2018), (from left to right) Vladimir Milushev, Nico Boenisch, Daniela Aschenbrenner and Ilke Tilders
The FOS Europe Team (2018), (from left to right) Vladimir Milushev, Nico Boenisch, Daniela Aschenbrenner and Ilke Tilders

For us at FOS Europe, it has been a wonderful and enriching experience to be part of this transformation process. Our role is to provide support in the realm of adaptive management, using the CMP Open Standards. We work hard to build the capacity, processes and tools needed by partners to adaptively plan, measure, and improve their OAPs, making them more responsive to contextual changes and more effective in their response. One of the core challenges in this process has been to get discussions focused on that nasty question that keeps us awake at night; the question of impact. A nasty question indeed,  because achieving real change is often hard and painfully slow (see also Julien Semelin’s blog: The question of our impact in 2022). Given that the conservation work is top urgent, we can’t afford to not discuss the effectiveness of our work. We have to understand whether, for example, our awareness-raising campaign is leading to behavioural change. Or if the research in which we have invested is actually leading to better management, changing the way in which natural resources are used. What if we are wrong? What if the change is not happening?

Continue reading: MAVA Foundation Blog

By Ilke Tilders,  FOS


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Investing in strategic planning

What is the optimal investment in strategic planning?  At what point does increasing sophisticated planning have diminishing returns or even become counter-productive? Nick Salafsky considers these questions in a recent review for Biological Conservation:  

One of the more interesting meta-questions in conservation practice concerns the strategic value of strategic planning and other systematic decision support exercises. Specifically, what is the return on investment in different levels of effort in strategic planning? Fig. 1 shows a rough curve I developed in which the X-Axis is investment in strategic planning around a given decision and the Y-Axis is some measure of whether the decision was “correct” (e.g., if insufficient hindsight the decision makers are given a do-over, what is the probability that they make the same decision?).

Model of return on investment in strategic planning

Figure 1. Model of return on investment in strategic planning

The Y-intercept here (Point A) is greater than zero since there is some chance that the decision maker would get the right answer just by luck. I suspect that there is then a steep part of the curve (between Points A & B) where a minimal investment in strategic planning will greatly improve the probability of a correct decision. In my experience, this investment lies in framing the conceptual underpinnings of the decision being made. Do the decision-makers have a shared understanding of the situation and context of the decision? Have they agreed upon clear goals? And do they have a common theory of change about how each decision option will lead to these desired goals? Much of the power here comes from developing shared mental models across key stakeholders that enables the team of decision makers to harness the “wisdom of the crowd.” Then there is a flatter part of the curve (between Points B & C) where there is still positive, but diminishing returns to expending additional effort on strategic planning. This phase of investment generally involves trying to more precisely and quantitatively compare trade-offs between different options. It often involves handling the problem over to specialized quantitative researchers who then report back to the primary decision makers. The curve then starts to dip south (between Points C & D) when additional planning may just start to confuse the situation. Finally, the curve at somepoint plummets to the X-Axis at Point E, representing the cases when planning paralysis sets in and no decision is ever reached.

— Nick Salafsky. Strategically Investing In Strategic Planning: A review of: Kent D. Messer and William L. Allen, III The Science of Strategic Conservation: Protecting More with Less, 2018, Cambridge University Press; Cambridge UK. ISBN: 978-1-107-19193-8.

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