Empowered to act & here to stay: revealing MAVA’s legacy through our partners’ memories

  By Ilenia Piergallini, Community Manager, MAVA Memories project

Earlier this year, as part of the MAVA Memories project implemented in collaboration with Voices That Count, we asked our community of partners to tell us what working with MAVA meant for them over the years. The result was a wealth of moving stories, meaningful experiences and compelling anecdotes from the last 28 years of work in the conservation sector. The collection of nearly 500 stories have not only brought about powerful feelings but have also helped paint a picture of the legacy MAVA is leaving behind.

Some of these stories tell us about the joint impact achieved in partner’s communities, others about the more personal side and the lasting influence on their development and growth. Several partners also shared pictures of impact, showcasing conservation work into action in MAVA’s focus areas.

The insights from these stories are truly inspiring to us. Over the course of five months, as we gathered more and more stories, we observed the different dimensions of MAVA’s legacy coming to the surface, and like pieces of a jigsaw, everything started to fall into place.

“From a spark of inspiration to a feeling of belonging to a family and community”

In their personal accounts, partners talked about how an inspiring meeting with Luc Hoffmann or another member of the MAVA family was often the springboard for pursuing their own ambitions and passions in the conservation sector with renewed hope. The same passion that drove Luc in 1994 to set up a family foundation for biodiversity conservation has traveled through MAVA’s partners who felt able to work and experiment in a nurturing environment.

A sense of belonging to a family and to a community is in fact a common element throughout the personal stories. Feeling part of a community meant that many partners were able to connect with their peers, meet new actors in their sphere of influence or improve existing relationships with those working on the same issues. The collaboration with MAVA, in particular in the last years through the Outcome Action Plans (OAPs), meant that conservationists were encouraged to join forces and form strong partnerships, for amplified impact on the ground.

“Boosting personal and professional growth”

Many partners reported in their stories that MAVA helped them strengthen their skills, both technical and soft, and acquire new knowledge in their specific sector. Some of them mention a ‘before’ and ‘after’ MAVA in their careers or personal development journey.

According to partners, the MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy and Programme are one example among many through which they were able to improve their career prospects and give a boost to their personal and professional growth. It’s clear from the stories that partners have then spread their wings, venturing out in their sector with confidence, able to capitalise on opportunities with refined skills and a passion driving them. That led to an expansion of their professional network and some of these relationships even turned into long-lasting friendships.

The personal blends into the organisational and vice-versa. Because positive impacts in conservation are driven by organisations that are driven by people.

“Pioneering and supporting experimentation and ambitious new ideas”

Partners tell us that in the same way MAVA nurtured and encouraged its partners, it was also a pioneer in funding new ideas and streams of work until then unexplored. MAVA showed itself as a risk-taker and a funder coming in at the right time with the appropriate resources for allowing newly-born initiatives to flourish. Many of these small initiatives have then developed into becoming organisations with credibility in their sector. This reflects the trust that MAVA put into its partners and this trust enabled them to experiment.

“A sustained support for long-term impact”

Plenty of stories showed us that the collaboration with MAVA has not only enabled initiatives and projects to kick off but has also provided long-term support to many of them because there is no quick win for lasting conservation impact benefiting both people and nature. A sustained support, often in times of need, is what led to a tangible legacy made of iconic sites from Europe to West Africa, increased restored and protected areas and the safeguard of overlooked species.

This environment paved the way for cross-pollination of ideas among partners and cross-sector collaboration among organisations and funders. This was a particular focus of these recent years when MAVA supported its partners to diversify their sources of funding in order for them to be sustainable after its closure.

Where does this leave us?

These stories show us that an important pillar of MAVA’s vision has been fulfilled: the creation of a strong and resilient conservation community, our partners working together for the benefit of people and nature, generation after generation. We are hopeful that future leaders will carry on with MAVA’s mission after its closure with a unified voice, working collaboratively rather than competing over the resources available.

So, what is MAVA’s legacy in the end?

Its most important and precious legacy is… YOU, the people working together with all your heart and talents, years after years, to conserve biodiversity for the benefit of people and nature.

Thanks to all of you from MAVA.

Our commemorative book is due to be published in early 2023 with a chapter on MAVA’s legacy from our partners’ perspective and a collection of powerful stories from the MAVA Memories project. Sadly we could not include all 500 stories in the book. If you are interested in exploring all the stories, you can browse them via this open-access dashboard which lists all the stories anonymously.

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