Monday 11.15 am to 12.45 pm:

Meet the changemakers of today: An intergenerational discussion of the future of nature in the UK (Panel)

Action for Conservation (AFC) is a UK charity working to empower the next generation of conservation leaders. They believe that effective youth-leaderships is when young people have opportunities to learn from, collaborate with and challenge older generations, who in turn are given opportunities to share their expertise whilst learning from young people. To facilitate this relationship, AFC are hosting an intergenerational panel discussion with six environmental changemakers at different stages in their careers who are leading environmental action in a variety of ways.

The panellists will discuss all the ways in which 2019 has been a momentous year for young people and the conservation sector more broadly, share some of their personal passions, triumphs and challenges, and explore how we can embed the lessons from 2019 into the years to come in order to address the challenges that lie ahead. The session will be an opportunity for young people and those with more years behind them to have an open and honest conversation and build bridges across their generations.

The panellists speaking in this session are:

  • Prof David Macdonald (Chair) – Founding Director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford
  • Lily Macfarlane – Action for Conservation Youth Alumnus, #iwill Ambassador
  • Will Ashley-Cantello – Chief Advisor on Forests, WWF-UK
  • Hana Salih – Action for Conservation Youth Ambassador, youth climate strike organiser
  • Zunaira Malik – Action for Conservation

Failure opportunity: how to be optimistic about fails (Workshop) 

Nobody enjoys failure. It carries an undeniable stigma and is difficult to confront for individuals and organisations. Failure happens across all sectors and organisations, but can be particularly challenging in conservation. Complexity and uncertainty can make failure more likely, while emotional investment by practitioners and organisations can make confronting failure more difficult. However, if the goal of conservation is to be increasingly effective, and we accept that failure offers valuable lessons, confronting failure is a critical and yet undervalued part of conservation science and practice.

This 90-minute interactive workshop seeks to explore failure in conservation. The participants will discuss different types of failure, the power of learning from failure, and how the conservation sector can better manage and cope with failure in the future. In particular, how we can reconcile failure with optimism, as an important part of making conservation more effective. It will create a light-hearted ‘fail safe’ space for catharsis, with a focus on lessons learned, and approaches for psychologically and culturally dealing with failure. This interdisciplinary session will draw in particular from the work of Allison Catalano, a PhD student researching failure at Imperial College London, in particular, how conservation can take lessons from other disciplines with longer histories of managing failure.

An emerging ocean ethic in a new generation of marine citizens (Workshop)

Over recent years, there has been a continuous call for increased public involvement in marine and coastal issues. Alongside this, research has shown that societal connection to the sea is varied and influenced by a range of factors and that the relationship between society and the sea is nuanced and complicated. However, despite this, in recent months we have seen the rise of ‘The Blue Planet Effect’, with levels of public interest in marine issues currently at an all-time high.

Building on research around the themes of ocean literacy, marine citizenship and living an ocean ethic, this interactive workshop session, led by Emma McKinley (Cardiff University), Jim Wharton (Seattle Aquarium) and Holly Griffin (UNEP-WCMC), will examine this relationship with the sea, and consider positive ways in which we can engender a more ocean literate society, with the capacity to make the changes required to address the challenges facing our global seas. Through the lens of ocean optimism, the workshop will focus on interaction with the audience, using dialogue activities and other interactive engagement approaches to examine the following three questions:

  • What does an ocean literate marine citizen with a strong ocean ethic look like?
  • What are the challenges/ barriers preventing people from engaging with marine issues as marine citizens?
  • How can we use ocean optimism to support future opportunities to develop marine citizens?

Live Storytelling: An Old Tool for New Conservation

Scientific outreach is no longer an extracurricular activity for scientists. But disseminating scientific results in a responsible, educational, and entertaining way in the fast-paced and sometimes fickle public fora isn’t an easy task. Storytelling is a craft and takes training practice—but with the right guidance, is accessible to everyone. In particular, live storytelling events are an increasingly popular way for conservationists to communicate their work to a general audience. Programmes like The Moth, Story Collider, and others offer a novel way for the public to access science—and to enjoy it while they do. For conservation scientists, practitioners and advocates, live storytelling provides a powerful tool to spread messages, galvanize support, and effect change.

This one-hour workshop, delivered by Melissa Cronin from the University of California Santa Cruz, is designed to share the best practices of effective storytelling with scientists and conservationists who want to practice creative and engaging live storytelling to communicate their work. The session will begin with a short description of the role of storytelling in scientific and environmental communication and will follow with a description of how live storytelling events work, and what people need to know if they plan to host their own. In the second half of this workshop, participants will break into small groups to share a short two-minute story from their own work, and receive feedback from their partners. Lastly, the group will come together to share our short stories, insights that came of the exercise, and thoughts about how to improve our storytelling efforts. This workshop is a collaborative experience that offers the best (and only) training to improve storytelling skills: telling stories!

Monday 3 pm to 4.30 pm:

The Green List of Species: A high-profile assessment of conservation success stories (Panel)

The field of conservation currently has a standardised way to assess what we want to avoid – extinction (through the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) – but not what we want to achieve – recovery. The IUCN is, therefore, developing a Green List of Species, which will provide a standardized metric for assessing species recovery.

The panellists in this session will discuss how applying the Green List approach has helped (1) understand past conservation impact; (2) highlight conservation dependence; and/or (3) demonstrate potential future recovery for the species they have assessed. This 90-minute panel session will involve a short introductory talk about the Green List followed by 3-4 short presentations from people who have applied the Green List approach. Panellists will discuss the Green List adequately achieves what the approach sets out to do: to provide a consistent means for assessing progress toward a species’ recovery. Following the short presentations, the majority of the session will consist of a moderated discussion between the audience and panellists.

The panellists speaking in this session are:

  • Molly Grace (IUCN SSC Species Conservation Success Task Force) who is the testing coordinator for the Green List;
  • Claudio Soto Azat (Director, Sustainability Research Centre (CIS), Ecosystem Health Laboratory, Universidad Andres Bello, Chile), who led the Green List assessment for Darwin’s frog;
  • Helen Smith (British Arachnological Society – Conservation Officer) and David Heaver (Senior Invertebrate Specialist, Natural England), who led Green List assessments for the Fen Raft Spider and Ladybird Spider;
  • Anna Loy (President, Associazione Teriologica Italiana – Italian Mammal Society; Co-chair IUCN-SSC Otter Specialist Group) is coordinating Green List assessments for multiple otter species;
  • Tom Hart (Research Fellow, University of Oxford; Penguin Watch) is coordinating Green List assessments for penguins and other Antarctic fauna

Are you optimistic? Measuring optimism in conservation (Workshop)

We all know both optimistic and pessimistic people, but how does this affect how conservation works? This 90-minute workshop is delivered by Dr Sarah Papworth of Royal Holloway, University of London, and aims to allow participants to explore optimism from a psychological perspective, including how our own dispositions can affect the way we interact with the world and the decisions we make.

The session will introduce optimism as a psychological construct, outlining different types of optimism and the results of a recent paper which measured the dispositional optimism in conservation professionals. Participants will measure their own level of optimism using an online version of established psychometric test (please bring an internet-enabled device!) and reflect on how this might influence their work.

Bottlenecks to Breakthroughs: Reasons for optimism 

For the first time in the Anthropocene, global demographic and economic trends that have resulted in unprecedented destruction of the environment are now creating the necessary conditions for a possible renaissance of nature. Drawing reasonable inferences from current patterns, 100 years from now the Earth could be inhabited by between six and eight billion people, with very few remaining in extreme poverty, most living in towns and cities, and nearly all participating in a technologically driven, interconnected market economy.  Such a world is cause to be optimistic, not only about future conservation breakthroughs but why our work during the current bottleneck of pressures matters.

This highly interactive workshop is designed to help participants develop their own bottleneck to breakthrough narratives for the countries where they live or work. After a brief introduction to the Bottleneck to Breakthrough theory (BioScience 68:412-426), the presenters will provide materials for participants to review country-specific data on (a) population growth rates, (b) poverty, and (c) urbanization for any country they choose, taking notes on a large poster sized sheet. They will then introduce colleagues to the work on the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs; e.g. O’Neill et al. 2017, Global Environmental Change 42:169–180) and review country-specific data on possible trends from 2020 – 2100, adding on to the art/text/graphical presentation each person develops. In the finale, participants will be invited to share brief, optimistic narratives of how conservation could succeed by 2100 in their chosen country, with reference to the theory and data notes.

This workshop will be led by:

  • Eric W. Sanderson, Senior Conservation Ecologist, Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Joe Walston, Senior Vice President for Field Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society.

Visualising Community Conservation in Nicaragua (Workshop)

How do you create an effective, community-driven action plan that transcends language barriers in an area under constant threat? The Rama and Kriol peoples of Indio Maiz, Nicaragua have faced hurricanes, fires, illegal invasion, persecution and civil conflict in efforts to protect their ancestral lands. Through remarkable determination, they have worked together to create a visual action plan, designed to be simple, but not simplistic, clear and accessible to all community members – regardless of linguistic background, literacy or age. These communities have taken full ownership of their plan, in contrast to conventional plans produced by conservation ‘experts’.

With representatives of the Rama and Kriol people, the first part of the workshop will review the participatory planning process the communities undertook, examine the resulting unique visual action plan, and describe community-led actions to implement it. The second part of the workshop will be a challenge exercise for participants to find ways of presenting complex concepts in clear, imaginative, graphic ways – inspiring them to think differently about making conservation outputs useful, especially when language or literacy is a challenge. Come join us! Especially if you are interested in community conservation, protected area management, visual design, or creative communication.

Speakers in this session are:

  • Princess Beckford, Kriol representative
  •  Lorenzo Humphris, Rama representative
  • Carrie Stengel, Global Wildlife Conservation
  • Christopher Jordan, Global Wildlife Conservation
  • Mike Appleton, Global Wildlife Conservation

Changing the 2020 outcome for nature – policy, advocacy and campaigning (Workshop)

2020 is one of the most important years for the environment in a very long time. Come to this workshop if you would like to be inspired by examples of campaigning and mobilisation, learn more about why 2020 is so important, and develop some skills and ideas for how you could be part of a growing global movement for nature and wildlife that wants to make a big impact in 2020. This workshop will be run by Matt Williams, Youth for Our Planet movement Coordinator.

Tuesday 10.30 am to 12 pm:

Think BIG: An optimistic approach to conservation (Workshop)

Conservation Optimism is, in many ways, about believing we can overcome the challenges of today and that a bright and biodiverse future awaits us. WildTeam is a not-for-profit charity which delivers training in key skills which enable conservationists to develop and deliver projects which have more impact. One of their principles is “Think Big” – a principle which embodies this optimistic approach.

The purpose of the principle is to encourage teams to put aside their limitations and instead begin by determining what needs to be done to achieve maximum conservation impact. From this starting point, the team should be ambitious and creative in developing a strategy which will achieve these aims, freed from the constraints of current skill-sets or funding.

 Applying a Think Big approach can reduce the chances of failing to address key threats to biodiversity targets, which in turn can provide a compelling rationale to decision-makers and donors for fulfilling the requirements of a more ambitious project. In this workshop, participants will be asked to identify their No.1 conservation objective related to their work. Using the ‘hive-mind’, they will then explore workable strategies for achieving these goals. Participants will join forces to take a Think Big optimistic approach to conservation!

How emerging conservation technology is providing optimism in conservation (Panel)

Researchers from around the world are tapping into new technology to develop exciting and innovative tools to tackle small to large scale conservation problems. The panellists will share their experiences developing conservation technology, go into detail about the projects they are currently working on and the issues they are looking to solve. Are you sitting on an idea that you’d like to develop or have skills you think could be valuable to conservation organizations? Learn how you can get involved in the conservation tech community and where you can find resources to develop your own ideas. Most importantly, learn why the utilisation of new technology makes the panellists optimistic about the direction of conservation.

The panellists speaking in this session are:

  • Megan Cromp, Director and Co-Founder of Key Conservation
  • Alex Dehgan, CEO and co-founder of Conservation X Labs
  • Alasdair Davies, Director of Arribada Initiative
  • Sarah Sharif, Founder of Experimental Civics and Founder of Capsule

Cultivating Joy: Finding and Sharing the Joyous Stories of Conservation Work (Workshop)

Together with Rhiannon Gallagher and Jennifer Childs from Parents for the Planet, the group will create a series of posters documenting conservation processes with their full range of joyous moments. This cultivation practice will hone important skills that we can use when the work gets overwhelming. As a group, you will create a common list of processes to work from. Then you will describe moments within each process that represent five kinds of joy: Accomplishment, Creativity, Presence, Connection, and Gratitude. You will learn to understand how these thoughts, feelings and emotions are not things that are, or that you have, but things that you do. That gives everyone more control over their optimism and wellbeing than we might think. The group will learn how to best tell those stories using language that resonates and influences. The workshop will end up with a collective visual poem across multiple posters, a tribute to the complexity and joy of conservation work.

Catastrophe or Transformation? (Workshop) 

This workshop will explore how depth psychology and archetypal understanding can help. Caroline Hickman from the University of Bath will look at how we can talk meaningfully and wil explore the relationship between hope and hopelessness and between optimism and pessimism.

Rediscovered species as flagships for conservation optimism (Panel)

Rediscovered species represent a second chance at preserving some of the unique heritage of our planet as well as a powerful way to connect emotionally with the conservation work being done globally. The stories behind species rediscovery showcase the personal commitment of conservationists worldwide, which against the odds proved right what many thought impossible, making rediscovered species powerful ambassadors for conservation optimism. Yet, species rediscoveries are just a new beginning, as finding one or a few individuals does not guarantee the long-term survival of a species. This panel will thus discuss how species rediscoveries can be best used as tools for communicating conservation optimism.

The panellists speaking in this session are:

  • Robin Moore, photographer and author of the bestseller ‘In Search of Lost Frogs’, and part of Global Wildlife Conservation’s ‘Search for Lost Species’
  • Brian Zimmerman, Zoological Society of London, key contributor to the rediscovery of the Mangarahara cichlid in Madagascar
  • Diogo Veríssimo, founder of the Lost & Found digital storytelling project (, which brings to life the most exciting tales of species rediscovery
  • Jane Laurie (aka Mutiny), painter and street artist working across a variety of scales and mediums, with wildlife always at the heart of everything she produces

Tuesday 2 pm to 3.30 pm:

For optimism to be unleashed, conservation must transform (Panel)

Starting from the positive case of the Ogiek from Mt Elgon, Kenya, where conservation success and community renewal has been a by-product of a community’s deep relation with place, the panel will also explore experiences from the Congo Basin and northern Australia, before moving onto a Q&A and panel discussion. In particular, this session will focus in on how a recovery of connection to place can be the basis for addressing the desperate nature of our eco-social situation.

There has been a huge shift in conservation policy towards rights-based approaches (however much practice may lag on the ground); likewise, there is an ongoing shift from the conventional notion of rights as held by virtue of being human, to recognise the centrality of rights that emerge from our depth of connection to place (UNDRIP). Can we move beyond framing our dilemma in terms of conventional rights and conservation, recognising that these siloed agendas are – in part – an artefact of hierarchical NGO separation from the reality on the ground?

This session focuses on the need for deeper holistic place-based connection vs the abstract (understandable but inadequate) agendas of rights and conservation. Fundamentally, how can we enable our own and fellow communities to have the security to think and act for the long term of future generations in the light of all the generations that have gone before?

The panellists speaking in this session are:

  • Peter Kitelo (Mt Elgon Ogiek, Kenya)
  • Beau Austin (Australia)
  • Samuel Nnah (Cameroon)
  • Justin Kenrick, Forest Peoples Programme (Scotland)

Innovative approaches for reducing by-catch in small-scale fisheries (Workshop)

The ocean provides around 170 million tonnes of fisheries and aquaculture products for human use each year, accounting for 17% of animal protein consumed globally. Unfortunately, this high dependency on fisheries resources creates a threat to marine megafauna – such as turtles, whales, dolphins and sharks – which are frequently caught as non-target catch in global fisheries. There is a need to find innovative solutions for balancing marine conservation objectives with the important role of fisheries in food security and livelihoods.

This 90-minute interactive workshop will explore this issue, bringing in a diversity of voices from researchers and practitioners working at the front-line of these fisheries management challenges in India, Indonesia and Bangladesh. We will open with a series of short presentations to introduce the by-catch problem. This will be followed by a group exercise in which participants will be given real-world fisheries case studies and asked to explore creative solutions for reducing by-catch. Participants will be encouraged to think inter-disciplinarily about novel approaches that explore socio-economic issues, ecological constraints and technical measures. We will wrap up with feedback and conclusions, with a focus on models for success for scaling-up action in 2020 and beyond, and can be applied for similar challenges across different sectors.

Speakers in this session are:

  • Hollie Booth, University of Oxford/WCS
  • Trisha Gupta, Dakshin Foundation
  • Benaya Simeon, WCS Indonesia
  • Vidlia Rosady, Manta Watch
  • Alifa Haque, University of Oxford
  • Tim Davies, MSC

Small but mighty: Small groups can make a difference (Panel) 

This panel session celebrates the role of small budget organisations in achieving big conservation impact and creates space a discussion about how the conservation community can better support such organisations. Sophie Grange-Chamfray, Programme Manager, Synchronicity Earth, will facilitate the panel discussion. Synchronicity Earth is a charitable foundation which specialises in supporting small and effective conservation organisations. Panelists will include:

  • Anna Heath  (Synchronicity Earth)
  • Frédéric Le Manach (BLOOM Association, a small French conservation organisation that achieved significant legislative changes including a ban on deep-sea fishing and electric fishing in the European Union)
  • Valentin Omasombo Wotoko (Mbou Mon Tour, a community-based organisation in the Democratic Republic of Congo that conserves important habitat for bonobos)

Panelists will share their experiences of why small organisations are important in bringing about change and discuss some of the challenges they face. This session will facilitate a panel discussion on how conservation funders can better support small conservation organisations. Synchronicity Earth will reflect on their learning from ten years of supporting such organisations and provide the opportunity for panellists to feedback on what they think funders could do to better support them.

Creating an effective conservation behaviour change programme (Workshop)

Using Chester Zoo’s Sustainable Palm Oil City programme and other case studies as a starting point, this workshop will explore the principles of creating an effective behaviour change programme. Experts from Chester Zoo, Bristol Zoo and Sumatran Orangutan Society will support delegates to learn about behaviour change theory and will be presented with a step by step guide to create a behaviour change programme of their own. Delegates will be invited to discuss their own conservation aims and as a group will work together to formulate the best strategy to deliver an effective behaviour campaign, achieving positive environmental behaviours that have real conservation impact.

7 Storytelling Tips for Conservation Communicators (Workshop)

The session will be an interactive workshop walking through seven essential tips for storytelling that inspires change. Presented at many conferences, and most recently at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt this November, the workshop will walk audience members through time-tested strategies for crafting communication that works to shift knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour around conservation. The 7 tips are presented in a fully interactive manner, with the audience sharing their visceral and emotional reactions to the strategies and project examples that are presented along the way. The workshop will be facilitated by Sean Southey, the award-winning President of PCI.