Global patterns in conservation capacity development

Elliott, Lindsey; Ryan, Melanie and Wyborn, Carina (2018). Global patterns in conservation capacity development. Biological Conservation, 221 pp. 261–269.



Conservation is an interdisciplinary and applied field with a range of careers requiring different skills and abilities. Recent studies have identified ‘miss-matches’ between training available to early-career conservationists with the expectations and demands of the sector (Andrade et al., 2014; Lucas et al., 2017). Given the complexity of contemporary conservation challenges, and trends towards new ways of doing conservation that are more integrative, interactive and inclusive, the necessary ‘capacity’ now extends beyond knowledge of conservation science into a range of other skills and competencies. A diversity of capacity development initiatives are required to ensure that early-career conservationists around the world can seek out the necessary skills and experiences for their desired conservation career. However, at present we lack a global picture of conservation capacity provision and global priorities for capacity development in the conservation sector are unclear. Based on a review of relevant literature we focus on five focal areas of importance to contemporary conservation: policy, practice, collaboration, leadership and interdisciplinarity. Our study compiles and analyses an extensive database of 650 postgraduate-level conservation capacity development initiatives from 54 countries. We find the five focal areas to be highly correlated and postulate that this reflects requirements for foundational skills in communication, interpersonal interaction and boundary crossing. This study reveals substantial regional gaps in the provision of leadership capacity in Oceania, South and Central America, the Caribbean and all Asian regions. It also highlights a general need to strengthen policy-related capacity within conservation initiatives with other foci. These findings could help capacity development institutions, organisations and funders to improve the design and delivery of a comprehensive suite of initiatives to suit the changing needs of contemporary conservation.

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