“The potential scope of this programme is vast. Together, the world’s protected areas cover an area greater than Africa. Many of the organisations that manage these protected areas face significant challenges relating to business management, which go beyond the scope of staff training. Without a strong organisational foundation, protected areas are unable to effectively manage the rich ecosystems under their stewardship. We are utilising the skills and resources of international businesses to meet this need, and in doing so we are helping businesses to better understand the value of natural capital to their organisation, and the important role of protected areas.”
Ben Jack - Senior Programme Manager, Earth Skills Network, Earthwatch Institute
Mentors and Mentees
At the heart of the Earth Skills Network is the interaction between mentee and mentor. It’s a relationship that often transcends the purely professional to create person connections across cultures.
“Alongside his vast experience and knowledge, I found my mentor’s eagerness to help and take time out from his professional life extremely inspiring and encouraging,”
Mentee from India.
“I have thought about participating in a business planning course at one of Ghana's universities for a long time. Through the generosity of the Earthwatch and Shell partnership, I have undergone a high-impact course in business planning. The skills and knowledge acquired are amazing and I can confidently go back home and lead the development of a business plan for my Site.”
Mentee from Ghana.
Of the protected area staff participating in the programme between 2009 and 2014:
- 98% of protected area staff agreed or strongly agreed that their business mentor helped them to better understand the business planning process, and that their performance in their work would be improved as a result of what they had learned.
- 84% felt that they had improved their site’s network as a result of participation in the programme
- 97% of mentees felt that the protected are they worked for would be better managed as a result of this programme.
Delivering on the Ground
Collaboration between Business Mentors and protected area staff can make a real impact at these sites. New working practices and ways of thinking at protected areas translate into improvements and changes, which enhance management effectiveness. Highlights include:
- $25,000 per year of cost savings were identified at Atsinanana Forest in Madagascar.
- Mentees at Lake Turkana in Kenya ran an "ecotourism tour" to demonstrate to the local community how ecotourism could benefit them.
- Marojejy Forest in Madagascar changed their planning cycle from 1 to 4 years and developed a plan for attracting further funding from research.
- Shirley, a mentee from Malaysia, launched a working group to get another national park gazetted as a UNESCO site, as well as developing a detailed marketing plan.
- Mentees at Atsinanana Forest in Madagascar ran a community forum to find alternative incomes to replace illegal logging. They also secured space in local hotels for the sale of community crafts and products.
- An in-depth stakeholder analysis at Pendjari National Park in Benin helped to support the creation of a new tourist organisation which generated closer links to the Tourism Ministry, local hotels, community groups. This will help the site to generate ecotrousim revenue.
“This program has not only empowered me by improving my capacity as a manager, it has motivated me to take a proactive approach as a key stakeholder in the development and implementation of a business plan as well as improved network to share ideas, challenges and solutions.”
Eduard, Mentee, South Africa
Through participation in the programme Business Mentors also sharpen their own professional competencies and develop a deeper understanding of sustainability.
Of the business mentors participating in the programme:
- 97% said that their performance in their own work would improve as a result of what they learned in the project.
- 100% said that participation in the programme increased their understanding of how protected areas are managed and the challenges they face.
“I think that projects like this which make use of current skills in employees and transfer them to the non-profit sector are a great way of engaging [business] staff with the outside world and opening their eyes to biodiversity preservation issues, whilst also providing an opportunity for long term personal and professional development”
Catherine, Mentor, UK
“There are innumerable challenges that these protected areas face that are comparable to business. Businesses develop silos of information, become mired in processes or complexity and face serious external challenges. My experience is incredibly relevant and I feel I have made, and will continue to make, a difference in this protected area, in the communities of my protected area, and the personal and professional lives of my mentees.”
Neal, Mentor, USA