■ Marie Romani, Executive Secretary, MedPAN, network of Marine Protected Area managers in the Mediterranean
■ Simon Mériaux, Organisation Development Manager, MAVA Foundation
■ Julien Semelin, former Manager, Mediterranean programme, MAVA Foundation

Marie, Simon, and Julien worked together on the organisational support provided by MAVA to MedPAN between 2016 and 2022. In this collaborative effort, Marie was the Executive Secretary of MedPAN. At MAVA, Julien was Manager of the action plan in which MedPAN was involved and Simon was the Organisational Development Manager.

The network of Marine Protected Area managers in the Mediterranean (MedPAN) and MAVA have been working together since 2011. MAVA’s funding towards MedPAN has covered specific activities but has also been a significant part of their operating budget, amounting to up to 50% of the network’s overall budget. MAVA’s confirmation in 2016 that it would cease all grant-making by the end of 2022 therefore constituted a serious challenge for MedPAN’s future.

Here’s a look back over the OD collaboration between MedPAN and MAVA.

Marie Romani : In 2016, our challenge was to find new donors interested in supporting a network such as MedPAN, as MAVA had been doing. Understanding a network – its issues, objectives, mechanics, and needs – is not always easy.

Simon Mériaux : It is often easier to find funding for activities than for operations. Supporting a network of actors can put off some donors who are looking for a direct and rapid impact. It was with this funding challenge in mind that we discussed initial organisational support for MedPAN.

Marie Romani : We oriented this first OD support dually – on the one hand, MedPAN’s action plan and, on the other hand, its financial strategy. For the new action plan (2019-2023 and beyond), we encouraged active participation by members and partners alike to revise and enhance this action plan based on MedPAN’s inherent strengths, yet which could evolve to meet the new challenges of Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean and internationally.

Simon Mériaux : The financial strategy development was a collaborative effort, with the participation of network members and partners.

Julien Semelin : As a funding partner, and one who understands both the network’s context of intervention and the landscape of the participants, our role in the elaboration of these two strategic documents was to facilitate a constructive approach.

Marie Romani : To put it plainly, MAVA gave us the financial means to organise working groups involving members and partners, but also to hire external expertise vital to the successful completion of this task. The MedPAN Secretariat and Board of Directors really benefitted from this Change Management (Generative Coaching). We were also guided by an expert on MPAs as well as an expert on the Theory of Change. The whole process was interactive and supported by a large panel of members and partners. As a result, the relationship between the Secretariat and the Board of Directors has been strengthened and we have created a relevant, foundational, and clear document that can be evaluated and revised over time.

Regarding financial strategy, we have produced a solid analysis with comparative short, medium, and long-term approaches and a system for prioritising future funding avenues.

Simon Mériaux : These two documents mark the end of our first OD support…

Marie Romani : That’s right. With this base, MedPAN was able to start thinking about the next step and how to implement the financial strategy. We had many discussions with MAVA as to how we should properly coordinate new OD support and the funding of projects by the foundation.

Julien Semelin : Indeed, we wanted real coherency within MAVA to properly coordinate both project funding and organisational support for MedPAN. It was a question of juggling two seemingly contradictory objectives – namely, continuing to support MedPAN’s marine biodiversity conservation activities in the Mediterranean, while providing the Secretariat with the means to continue its mission after our closing. A concerted approach as the key to success!

Marie Romani : From our discussions, it became clear that renewed support from MAVA, along with the provision of a pool of experts, would allow for the inception of an action plan to target, approach, and convince new donors to support MedPAN, the establishment of a reserve fund, and, finally, the creation of a new website to showcase the network. It also helped us to develop a ‘transition plan’ detailing the challenges to meet in terms of financial sustainability, organisation of the Secretariat team, and governance.

Simon Mériaux : The aim was to provide MedPAN with the appropriate tools (a business plan, a list of priority donors, an ethical fundraising charter, concept notes presenting MedPAN’s areas of work, etc.) and the means to implement effective fundraising.

Marie Romani : We benefitted from additional human resources to help the Secretariat during this period of transition. External expertise also enabled us to address issues such as establishing specific projects, studying the evolution of governance and the Secretariat, evaluating the feasibility of a trust fund, and more.

This OD support instigated a new dynamic and thought process on MedPAN’s financing over the long-term as we adapted our project approach and diversified our fundraising.

Simon Mériaux : With good results!

Marie Romani : Exactly! MedPAN now benefits from the support of new public and private donors with good prospects for the sustainability of this support. These donors include the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the Sigrid Rausing Trust, and the European LIFE NGO Operating Grant.

Changes still underway include reinforcing the Secretariat and deliberations on the governance of MedPAN as well as a future trust fund.

Simon Mériaux : So, we have adapted our support to meet the changing needs of MedPAN.

Marie Romani : Absolutely! The OD has been a flexible and easy-to-use financing tool with a light reporting system and an evolving focus that could be modified along the way to meet the emerging needs of our organisation.

The MedPAN team and Board of Directors’ ongoing dialogue with MAVA (OD and programme) has been very fruitful. Additionally, we have benefitted from the OD support experience that MAVA has accumulated with many other partners!

Julien Semelin : One of the factors of our success appears to stem from the fact that we started this transition well in advance, almost six years before the end of MAVA funding. We have seen that in order to initiate change, it takes time for decisions to be accepted and translated into concrete actions. What other lessons have you learned from this collaboration?

Marie Romani : The financing of organisational aspects encourages a close relationship between the beneficiary and the donor because central questions concerning the beneficiary organisation’s evolution must be addressed. Dialogue and mutual understanding of the issues are essential to constructive collaboration.

The added value of organisational support, as compared to more traditional operational or project support, is that it encourages insight, addresses problematics, and responds to emerging needs and challenges central to the organisation.

Today, MedPAN is well-equipped and perfectly positioned to co-construct funding strategies for priority actions to be implemented for the benefit of MPAs in the Mediterranean, hand in hand with all its partners and public and private donors.