Our peer-led programme of learning helps build connections among Latin America-based Whitley Award winners
As part of our Winner Network Development programme (WND), in August, we held our second in-person Regional Winner Training.
The agenda was designed to meet the needs of our growing network of past Whitley Award winners by facilitating in situ peer-led learning opportunities for alumni working within the same geographical region.
This time taking place at IPÊ in Brazil, the training week gave 13 past winners the chance to meet with other conservation leaders who have faced similar challenges and share knowledge in a supportive environment, with a view to develop solutions and foster collaboration.
Learning from others
The goal of these annual training weeks is to maximise the conservation impact of individuals at this critical moment in the battle to save biodiversity through fostering a thriving, active and supportive network of Whitley Award recipients.
By holding this training in-person, participants were given the opportunity to meet and learn from one another directly, forging long-term alumni connections and collaboration prospects.
Many of those in attendance carry 20 or more years of experience in their field and brought with them an enthusiasm for consolidating their knowledge of best practices developed over this time.
Creating a safe space for peer-to-peer exchange, the week facilitated the sharing of successes, and lessons learnt; helping conservationists to feel supported in their next steps and empowered to pivot to solutions known to work.
2022 Whitley Award winner Micaela Camino works with Indigenous communities in northern Argentina, supporting communities to defend their human rights and conserve Argentina’s Dry Chaco. She highlighted the value need for such a programme:
“I have been working as a conservationist for over ten years, leading groups and projects successfully. However, working in a highly isolated region with limited professional presence often puts me in a solitary position, with few opportunities to learn from or exchange knowledge with peers or trainers outside the scientific scope.”
Meeting winner needs
The Winner Network Development (WND) programme has grown into one of our key areas of focus. Rooted in the importance of listening and responding to winners’ needs and supporting south-south collaboration, the goal is to strengthen capacity across the Global South to ensure that conservation leaders on-the-ground have the necessary tools and efficacy to tackle challenges first-hand.
With a view to strengthening participants’ capacity to lead NGOs, the week’s schedule was centred on developing technical and operational skills through peer-to-peer learning, network building and idea sharing, based upon participants stated needs and own experiences.
The week commenced with an introduction to IPÊ – Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (Institute for Ecological Research) from Co-Founders Suzana Padua and Claudio Padua (1999 Whitley Award winner), who also led sessions on NGO Management and Operations and Stakeholder Engagement.
Other workshops included:
- Nature positive livelihoods presented by Xime Velez-Liendo (2017 Whitley Award winner);
- Measuring conservation impacts led by Rosamira Guillen (2015 Whitley Award winner);
- Dealing with pressure in leadership roles delivered by Rachel Graham (2011 Whitley Award);
- A introduction to PARTNERS Principles – a programme for community led conservation, funded by the 2022 WFN Gold Award – delivered by Micaela Camino (2022 Whitley Award). Micaela received PARTNERS Principles training from 2022 Gold Award winner Charudutt Mishra last year.
WFN’s own Head of Partnerships, Georgie White led a session on Sustainable fundraising.
Alongside the classroom-based learning, the schedule included time for excursions, networking and downtime, to allow conversations to flourish outside of the structured environment and in more organic territory.
2005 Whitley Award winner Nicole Auil Gomez, who works in Belize to strengthen the recovery of the Antillean Manatee population, shares how this kind of opportunity can be a refreshing and motivating change. 60% of the attendees were women.
“Personally, as a woman and mother of 3, my work-life balance is a lot different now than it was in 2007 when I received my WFN award. I manage a mixed team and strive to inspire as well as stoke creative approaches from team members, and provide and support opportunities for their capacity building and learning. I don’t often get to prioritize these types of opportunities for myself.”
Central and South American countries are some of the most biodiverse places on Earth, yet they face extreme and urgent challenges around deforestation, extraction and destruction of habitats – both terrestrial and marine.
Contributors to our Latin America Regional Winner Training programme spanned three decades of alumni cohorts, creating an eclectic and invaluable range of experience under pinned by thematic synergy and solidarity in their work.
As the week progressed, the budding connections and friendships between winners were evident to see, setting the foundations for one of the fundamental goals of the Winner Network Development Programme: to promote South-South collaboration to maximise conservation impact.
2011 Whitley Award winner Rachel Graham, Founder and Executive Director of MarAlliance, who work in Belize to protect sharks through community outreach and participatory research, said of the programme:
“What an incredible week with amazing people. A new and powerful network was born. I am always recharged when I meet peers who are attempting to grow and meet similar challenges, as this helps us grow a supportive network of conservationists.”
We’re grateful to all our attendees for making our first Latin America Regional Winner Training such a success, by committing their time to learning, sharing local knowledge and reviewing best practices in the name of conservation.
2008 Whitley Award winner, Marleny Rosales Meda, whose work covers sustainable forest use for indigenous Maya-Q’eqchi’ communities in Lachuá, Guatemala, left us with the statement:
“Thank you WFN for promoting these valuable spaces to unite, enrich and strengthen the Whitley Alumni family and our network’s programs to protect life and co-create sustainable livelihoods.”
As we begin to process and reflect on the learning and steer we gained from our attending winners, we look forward to integrating what we’ve learned into our future approaches and are excited to build upon the success of the initiative, which began in Africa last year.
Next year, we will be taking our regional training programme to our winners in Asia, as we work on our collective mission to support courageous changemakers leading in local solutions to the global biodiversity and climate crises.
We would like to express our sincere thanks to our friends and long terms partners, Claudio and Suzana Padua of IPÊ – Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas for their support in hosting our first Regional Winner Training to take place in Latin America.
Claudio and Suzana were presented with a special award in recognition of three decades of partnership at our 30th Anniversary #PartnersForPlanet Award Ceremony earlier in the year, and once again their partnership and support has proved invaluable.
We would like to thank Hempel Foundation for their generous support in enabling this year’s Winner Network training to take place — we know that the impact of the training will continue to ripple outwards as attendees share their learnings with their own teams.
As 2010 Whitley Award winner Angela Maldonado shared:
“I live isolated in the Colombian Amazon. Capacity building and exchange with other colleagues is challenging, owing to communication limitations – such as poor internet connection – and transport limitations. I would like to replicate the information from the training in Spanish to my team, which includes four indigenous members.”
Learn more about the Winner Network Development programme.