We are delighted to announce the plenary speakers for the Conservation Optimism Summit 2019!


Alice Bell – Are we approaching a tipping point for public engagement with climate change?

Alice Bell is a co-director at 10:10 Climate Action, working on a range of campaigns from community solar to transport and decarbonised heat. As an academic, Alice specialised in public engagement with science and technology, working at the Science Communication Unit, Imperial College, the Department of Journalism at City, and the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex.

Alice has also written for a range of publications including the Guardian, Times Higher, Research Fortnight and Al Jazeera. She was a regular correspondent for the International Council for Science’s climate policy blog on the run up to the Paris talks, and launched innovation website, How We Get to Next, as its first editor. She is also a trustee of Medact, and sits on the the advisory committee for the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity, University of Surrey.

Alex Dehgan – Hacking Conservation & Development

Alex Dehgan is the CEO of Conservation X Labs, an innovation and technology startup focused on conservation.  Alex is also the Chanler Innovator at Duke University and is a Professor of the Practice at Arizona State University.  Alex most recently served as the Chief Scientist at the U.S. Agency for International Development, with rank of Assistant Administrator.

Alex founded and headed the Office of Science and Technology, and created the vision for and helped launch the Global Development Lab, the Agency’s DARPA for Development, and was part of the founding team of USAID’s Policy Bureau  Prior to USAID, Alex worked in multiple positions at the Dept. of State, including overseas service under the Coalition Provisional Authority, using science to support bilateral diplomacy.

Alex was the founding country director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Afghanistan Program and helped create Afghanistan’s first national park.  Alex is the author of the book, The Snow Leopard Project, which describes the effort.  Alex holds a Ph.D in Evolutionary Biology from The University of Chicago.


Laurie Parma

A neuropsychologist by training, Laurie strives to bring the science of well-being to the workplace. Her ultimate aim is to align people, purpose and planet, to create a fulfilment-centred future of work. In particular, she addresses the challenge to thrive in a world of perpetual transformation, change and urgency, which is particularly acute in conservation. She asks the hard question of reaching organisational performance and delivering on the bottom line with agility but without coming at the expense of people and planet.
After 3 years of academic research, she founded LifeCloud to facilitate workplace well-being initiatives and strategies. LifeCloud also supports organisations through culture change and design to achieve and sustain long-term impact. She focuses on the cognitive skills, emotional intelligence and leadership approaches required to enable people to find freedom and to perform at their best.
Laurie’s approach is rooted in the science of well-being and human behaviour which she researched for three years at the University of Cambridge. Leading projects ranging from policy to environmental psychology, Laurie develops a systemic vision for global and sustainable well-being. 

Robin Moore – The Art of Surprise: Engineering the Unexpected to Engage and Inspire

Robin Moore is Senior Director of Digital Content with Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and a Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Robin got his PhD in biodiversity conservation from the University of Kent before swapping calipers for camera and using photography and visual storytelling for conservation.

In 2010 Robin spearheaded the innovative ‘Search for Lost Frogs’ which dispatched teams to find some of the world’s missing amphibians. The campaign resulted in 15 rediscoveries, culminated in the critically acclaimed ‘In Search of Lost Frogs’, and formed the inspiration for GWC’s successful ‘Search for Lost Species’.

Robin uses visual storytelling to challenge prevailing narratives and offer new and hopeful ones. In Jamaica he helped local partners overturn the government’s decision to develop the country’s largest protected area and in Bolivia his team partnered with Match.com to help save the world’s loneliest frog.

Robin Moore
Brisetha Hendricks

Brisetha Hendricks – What is CBNRM anyway: Sharing Namibia’s story as told by a community voice

Brisetha Hendricks hails from the north-west of Namibia, where she currently lives and works. She is the vice-chairperson of the Uibasen Twyfelfontein Conservancy and also serves as the chair of the sub-regional conservancy association known as the Southern Kunene Conservancies Association.
Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) has always played a profound role in conservation and it is a model that has impacted many lives. As a young person promoting the values of this model, it is her belief that its sustainability lies in more people understanding it. She made her debut international appearance as a panellist on the subject at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in October of 2018.
Brisetha has been an activist for the better part of her adult life and has taken on numerous leadership roles in varying areas specifically in her local community in Khorixas. With her work in communal conservancies, she seeks indulgence and recognition of the life stories she represents. Ultimately her mission is to empower these communities and to amplify their voices.

The plenaries will be chaired by: 

Jessica Sweidan

Jessica Sweidan has been an active philanthropist for the last 20 years. Her journey began almost straight out of university, when she formed a partnership with Adam Sweidan, to create The Synchronicity Foundation. The Synchronicity Foundation has worked with over 70 projects in nearly 40 countries. In 2007, the environment became a priority: it underscored most themes that they were addressing, and upon close examination, found it to be a severely under-funded, and under-supported sector.

Exploring how to have a greater impact within the conservation realm – and recognising that biodiversity loss was the least well appreciated and most poorly addressed of all – they launched Synchronicity Earth in November 2009. Jessica plays an active role at Synchronicity Earth, developing its profile, networks and events. Jessica is also an IUCN Patron of Nature, helping to raise the visibility of global conservation needs worldwide.