In our Christmas Newsletter, Tim announced our intention to launch a new initiative “Evolving Conservation Leaders” at the start of 2021. This helps us bring to life the first two aims of our strategy: unlocking the potential of young conservationists and connecting like-minded conservationists across borders.
Between Autumn 2019 and 2020 over 60 early-career conservationists participated in our online “Becoming A Conservation Leader” programme, which introduces the concept of inside-out leadership and helps individuals recognise their potential as a leader. Over the twelve weeks of the programme we get to know our participants through weekly typed discussions on the learning materials in a private Facebook group and through zoom meetings at key points in the programme. Some participants will also contact us for help and advice via email or phone call. Through these connections we get a feel for the personalities we are working with and some participants soon begin to stand out from the crowd as having a natural affinity for leadership and the potential to create meaningful and tangible change in nature conservation. Of these first 60 participants in our Becoming A Conservation Leader Programme we felt seventeen people had this spark and we are delighted that they all accepted our invitation to join the group.
Evolving Conservation Leaders launched with… you guessed it a bang on-trend covid-safe zoom call for the whole group! This was followed by one-to-one chats with each member to find out how we can best help them with their professional development and what they hope to get out of their new network of like minded conservationists. Each member of the group has been assigned a mentor based on their aspirations and skills development they would like to address (our team of mentors is made up of OLF’s Trustees, our Founder Tim, and myself) with sessions taking place on a schedule to suit the mentee. As well as the mentoring programme, participants have had the opportunity to take part in a life planning workshop organised and delivered by Barry Dore, and an online Q and A session with the renowned Roy Dennis, chaired by Tim. We have plans underway for futher workshops over the coming months, including a session on imposter syndrome and confidence. The group also have their own Facebook group where they can share there thoughts, experiences and useful information with their peers.
The current group have laid strong foundations upon which we can build a network of empowered conservationists and we look forward to welcoming new members from our current and forthcoming cohorts of Becoming A Conservation Leader – which we have 23 people participating in as I write, including the lovely Naffie Sarr from The Gambia who you may be familiar with as one of our “stars of the future”.
I am very grateful to Kat and Bethan (members of Evolving Conservation Leaders) for allowing me to share the feedback below with you all, which I think speaks volumes of the impact our initiatives are having. We couldn’t do this without the ongoing support of our Friends of the Foundation and we can’t thank you enough for helping us to achieve what we do for our participants.
Whilst working in Mauritius in 2019 I saw an advert for the 12 week ‘Becoming a Conservation Leader’ course that the Osprey Leadership Foundation runs and being in a role that required leadership skills I thought it was a perfect match. I have always suffered from imposter syndrome and I think being part of the course and now moving onto ‘Evolving Conservation Leaders’ has really taught me that I am definitely not the only one. Being able to talk to like minded people, share experiences and gain insight into how to best develop my leadership skills has been so valuable especially at this point in my career.
I always thought that leaders existed at the top of organisations or managed lots of people but I now know that this isn’t the case, anyone can be a leader and that the leader I envisioned isn’t the leader I should be. I don’t need to be the person that controls everything that happens in a project minute by minute, but I should aim to be a leader with great communication skills, that encourages and inspires others to develop their own skills and ensure team work is at the heart of any project. Leadership within conservation projects is so important especially in this day and age, as if we don’t work together now there is no ‘Planet B’.
I am so happy I have been able to develop my understanding of leadership over the last two years, and I am so excited to use these skills in the future career in order to make a difference in the biodiversity conservation world even if it is small.
Kat Saleiko (Becoming A Conservation Leader participant 2020/ current member of Evolving Conservation Leaders)
After graduating with a Masters in Wildlife Conservation I relocated to Tanzania to join a chimpanzee research and conservation project, during which I discovered my enthusiasm for conservation leadership. Fast forward a few years and I am now enrolled as a PhD student and part of OLF’s Evolving Conservation Leaders programme. My interactions with OLF are invaluable to me, allowing me to continue developing myself as a leader alongside my studies.
Through OLF I receive regularly one-to-one mentoring sessions, currently focused on developing a life plan which will help me progress my career within conservation leadership. I am a great believer that the world has endless opportunities, and these sessions are forming structured goals to help me seize all the opportunities I can, in turn maximising my ability to give back to wildlife conservation. Additionally, I have been taught about specific leadership skills, through both group sessions and assigned tasks. This educational element has not only helped me develop key traits of a good leader but also allowed me to explore the type of leader I wish to become. Being able to learn and develop different aspects of leadership is an amazing opportunity, equipping me with unique but much needed skills to enter work in the conservation sector. On top of all this, OLF provides me with an inspiring community of like-minded individuals, creating a supportive environment where I can grow simultaneously as a leader and a conservationist.
Thanks to OLF, I’ll be graduating my PhD with many of the tools and skills that academia can’t teach me, ready to go out and make a real-world difference: protecting wildlife and inspiring people.