30 Years of Impact

WFN’s Impact Assessment Report: Looking back on three decades of awards, profile and training for conservation leaders.

To mark 30 years of grant giving in 2023, we commissioned a new impact assessment (five years on from the last one, published in 2018 for WFN’s 25th anniversary). With this report, we looked to assess the impact of WFN and that of our Award winners and we are excited to share the full results in our recently published Impact Assessment Report.

Our 2023 evaluation consisted of a survey sent to all 195 active WFN alumni as well as a counterfactual snapshot of near winners. It was developed and undertaken by independent consultant Dr Hunter Doughty in collaboration with the WFN team and with the advice of Dame E.J. Milner-Gulland, Tasso Leventis Professor at the University of Oxford. Further analysis of the data was undertaken by WFN staff.

impact of Awards Over Time

  • Awards given to 214 conservation leaders in over 80 countries.
  • 30 BY 30: WFN has raised £30 Million since its founding 30 years ago.
  • 89% of WFN income spent on charitable activity to support winners.

The results of the survey were overwhelmingly positive, and the full report includes a qualitative assessment of winner success, an organisational Theory of Change, a quantitative assessment of winner impact, winner case studies and a counterfactual analysis. It also shows WFN’s history over 30 years and priorities looking ahead to the next 30 years.

Impact on People and Biodiversity

WFN winners are working in over 80 countries, spanning terrestrial, marine and freshwater habitats. They work across 118 taxa, from bees to trees and lions to lionfish and tackle the vast array of anthropogenic threats including unsustainable resource use, mitigating climate change impacts and human encroachment.

At the heart of every project is the duel aim of functioning wildlife populations and habitats alongside thriving local communities. WFN funded projects cover an area of over 725 million hectares. A key focus of WFN’s grant giving has been supporting the scale up of activities, and since receiving a Whitley Award, winners have been able to expand their projects to cover an additional 60 millions hectares.

The winners who participated in the evaluation study reported in their WFN funded projects that:

  • 87% of their project activities have resulted in reduced threats to target ecosystems and wildlife.
  • 44% of wildlife populations in their study sites were either stable or increasing.
  • Creation of 45 million hectares of conservation areas, of which at least 29 million hectares have formal protections.
  • Planted over 15 million trees and 900,000 magroves
  • 201 policies adopted or changed to improve environmental protection as a result of winners’ work.
  • Over 44,000 households and 1.3 million individuals are benefiting from sustainable livelihood schemes as a result of winners’ work.

Winner Network Development

The Winner Network Development (WND) programme facilitates cooperation, training, and knowledge-exchange activities across a network of more than 200 Whitley Award alumni spanning 80 Global South countries. When asked, those who participated in the survey said:

  • 80% said winning a Whitley Award increased access to other conservationists internationally.
  • 75% stated that they gained knowledge, skills, or advice from other members of the Winner Network.

Impact of Winning a Whitley Award

When asked to describe the personal effect winning a Whitley Award had on them, the top four themes were that it:

  • Increased publicity: 100% agreed that winning a Whitley Award increased their profile.
  • Catalysing growth: 99% of respondents felt that winning the Whitley Award enabled them to expand or scale up their conservation work.
  • Enhanced Credibility: 91% feel that winning a Whitley Award had a strongly positive impact.
  • Opening Doors: 92% feel that winning a Whitley Award contributed to receiving other prizes and/or awards.

Additionally, and crucially to the sustainability of their work, 62% said the Award increased access to decision makers in country and 84% said the Award increased access to international donors.

To view the full results, download our Impact Assessment Report.

The charity’s 30th Anniversary provided a fantastic opportunity to reassess the impact of WFN’s winners and to use the results to guide strategic decisions for the coming years.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the review!