“Emerging leadership” is when an individual steps into a leadership role in the conservation field with an innovative vision for the future of collaborative conservation and the motivation, passion, and collaborative mindset to work toward that vision.

Conservation is becoming increasingly more collaborative to resolve complex cross-boundary challenges. Investing in emerging leadership, often through mentorship, builds our collective capacity to enact collaborative conservation. However, many organizations lack the ability to make the investment in mentorship, understand mentorship best practices or where to find such information, nor appropriately support emerging leadership. “We are only as strong as the depth of our bench and skill of our team,” and a collaborative approach may be appropriate to fill this capacity gap and lift all boats in the process.

To support conservation practitioners stepping into leadership positions, we are launching the Emerging Leadership Initiative to identify: best practices in mentorship, challenges and opportunities to the recruitment and retention of conservation leaders, established mentorship programs and gaps of such programs that need to be filled.

Our long term goal is to advocate for and share best practices for mentorship, increase awareness of existing mentorship programs, and enhance mentorship opportunities. For our first two years of this Initiative, we will seek out best practices, host a series of focus groups, and develop a Mentorship “Toolkit” to be distributed broadly across our West-wide network. We envision this Toolkit will be beneficial to those outside of our network as well.

Who We Are – The Emerging Leadership Working Group is an ongoing effort of the Western Collaborative Conservation Network (WCCN) with the goal of empowering the next generation of collaborative conservation leaders across the American West. We strive towards a vision of a future in which a broad and inclusive network of diverse leaders are working together with communities to steward Western landscapes. We host an ongoing and dynamic forum that connects emerging leaders with mentors, resources, and peers. As part of the WCCN, the reach of this working group extends across 11 western states and over 560 students and professionals engaged in collaborative conservation (see more here). 

Funding Needs  – To complete a Mentorship Toolkit as the culmination of our efforts, we are requesting funds to support a shared coordinator position working an average of ten hours a week over the next two years to provide the necessary capacity. Securing two years worth of funding will allow the project an appropriate amount of time (with only one 0.25 FTE staff position) to build relationships, conduct research and focus groups, create a mentorship toolkit with outreach materials, distribute these materials widely, and expand our future work.

To support this initiative, we have already received an investment of $3,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (distributed through WCCN), $7,800 from the Kendeda Fund,  and Crowd Conservation has secured $7,800 in match for this shared coordinator position (above and beyond the coordinator’s time working for Crowd Conservation). We are requesting $16,800 to cover the remaining cost over two years for the Emerging Leadership Initiative. 

Interested in supporting our work? Contact Nicole Reese to learn more.