A look back at our 2023 Whitley Awards Week

This year we enjoyed a busy week with the 2023 Whitley Award winners: Shivani, Tulshi, Leonard, Mamy, Yuliana, Albert and Serge. Here’s what happened...

Each spring, we invite our new cohort of Whitley Award winners to London for the Whitley Awards Ceremony. We utilise their visit to the UK by holding networking events with funders, journalists, country Ambassadors and conservation NGOs, introducing them to many new contacts that they could partner with in future.

We also provide media training through our partners at Boffin Media, facilitate networking opportunities and use our in-house PR expertise to pitch exclusive stories about the winners and their work to high profile UK media outlets during their stay (see the results of our PR campaign here).

During the week, we offer support in some of the core skills necessary for successful project delivery, such as monitoring and evaluation, and help winners to effectively communicate their work to an international audience and capitalise on the spotlight that results from their win.

Here’s a look back on events:

Whitley Awards Week

Finalists arrived in London on Sunday evening, joining the team for an initial meet and greet followed by dinner at a nearby pub. This was a great chance to get to know our finalists, hear about their amazing conservation projects and wish them luck for their final interview stage the next day.


On Monday, the 2023 Whitley Award finalists were interviewed by our Judging Panel – the final step to officially being named winners! The Whitley Gold Award winner, Shivani Bhalla, joined the panel and will act as a mentor to the new cohort.

Serge Alexis Kamgang presents his project to the Judging Panel.

That evening, our new winners were introduced to the Friends of WFN – who collectively fund our Gold Award winner each year. Guests enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal prepared by the WFN Friends committee themselves.

By meeting the new winners each year, the Friends have the chance to follow their career stories from the moment they join the WFN family — and hopefully many will go on to become future Gold Award winners themselves!

2023 Gold Award winner Dr Shivani Bhalla meets the Friends of WFN, who collectively fund her Award.

Thank you to our generous host, WFN Trustee and Friends’ Committee Chair, Catherine Faulks.


Media and Communications training can be a game changer for grassroots conversation leaders looking to scale up their projects — which is why, in addition to project funding, Whitley Award winners receive professional media and speech training to help them effectively communicate their work.

On Tuesday, our winners spent the day with Boffin Media, learning how to communicate their projects on radio and television to an international audience.

Winners practised interviews with experienced journalists and discovered how wide-reaching PR and press coverage can help them to capitalise on the media attention following their win.

By enabling our winners to leverage their success, together we can build local pride for projects on-the-ground, help to inspire philanthropic support from new sources and potentially even influence environmental policy on a regional, national and international scale.

Thank you to Sue and Richard from Boffin Media for leading our training day, Inigo Insurance for hosting the training and Earlymarket LLP for supporting this incredibly important and insightful day.

We also enjoyed in some sight-seeing along the River Thames on a clipper boat on our way home.


Ahead of our Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, winners received speech coaching from our partner Caroline Black & Associates in preparation for taking to the stage and speaking on their project and award win.

Winners also watched the short films about their projects made by our partners at ICON Films and narrated by WFN Ambassador Sir David Attenborough

The evening saw the week’s main event; the 30th Whitley Awards ceremony! The special event saw a keynote speech from this year’s Gold Award winner Shivani Bhalla; the screening of a special interview between WFN Founder Edward Whitley and esteemed WFN Ambassador Sir David Attenborough; and a stirring address from WFN Patron HRH The Princess Royal.

WFN Ambassadors Tom Heap and Kate Humble compèred the evening’s proceedings at the Royal Geographical Society in front of an audience of 500 attendees including donors, supporters and country Ambassadors. You can read more about it here or watch again by replaying the evening’s livestream.

A huge thank you to those partners that made the event so special including Mandy Duncan-Smith, Icon Films, Floating Harbour and Sea Change Wine.


Following the celebrations around their award win, winners had the chance to unwind on Thursday and explore the Natural History Museum with the WFN team.

The afternoon provided a great opportunity to introduce winners to journalists for pre-arranged press interviews, while Kenyan winners Leonard Akwany and Shivani Bhalla (and her Ewaso Lions team) visited the Kenya High Commission in London to garner support from their country Ambassador.

WFN's Head of Grants accompanies Shivani and Leonard to their meeting with Kenya's High Commissioner to the UK, Manoah Esipisu EBS
WFN’s Head of Grants accompanies Shivani and Leonard to their meeting with Kenya’s High Commissioner to the UK, Manoah Esipisu EBS

Recognising that collaboration is key to conservation success, on Thursday evening we hosted an NGO event for our winners to present their projects to a wide range of conservation charities — to help reinforce connections and create new contacts. Guests enjoyed Endangered Brewing beer and a wild salad courtesy of our partners Urban Greens.

Our Whitley Award winners had the opportunity to network with conservation NGOs and forge future partnerships

We’d like to thank Friends of WFN committee member Vanessa Kastner for her warm hospitality in hosting our NGO reception.


On Friday morning the winners joined us at WFN’s office, to discuss the logistics of successful project delivery including reporting, monitoring and evaluation.

After signing their contracts they added their project locations to our official winner map!

(From left to right above) Yuliana, Serge, Shivani, Albert, Tulshi, Mamy and Leonard
(From left to right) 2023 Whitley Award Winners Yuliana, Serge, Shivani, Albert, Tulshi, Mamy and Leonard

We ended the week with a farewell lunch for our 2023 winners, which saw the WFN team, Trustees, and Founder Edward Whitley and family reflect on an incredibly eventful and inspiring week.

Finally, WFN’s Acting Director accompanied Yuliana Bedolla to the Embassy of Mexico in London, where she spoke about her work to protect breeding colonies of nocturnal seabirds on the Mexican Pacific Islands — and of course her Whitley Award win!

Yuliana visits Mexico Ambassador Josefa González-Blanco

During their time in the UK, the 2023 Whitley Award winners have no doubt formed bonds that will flourish well beyond the week.

They also join our Winner Network of 200+ peers, with whom they can share future successes, failures and support. Congratulations, all!