By Simon Mériaux, Organisational Development Manager & Head of Learning, MAVA Foundation

After 28 years of funding nature conservation projects, the MAVA Foundation is closing down. While MAVA has allocated more than one billion Swiss francs, through 1,500 projects carried out by more than 500 partners, it is now essential to take a step back, reflect on its experience as a funder, and gather lessons learnt to be shared with others in the philanthropic and conservation community.

As each MAVA staff is increasingly thinking about his or her new professional life, capitalising on the foundation’s experience is akin to moving house: it is necessary to sort things out, throw away the superfluous, put items away in boxes, label them… to keep only what is essential to share. For more than a year now, MAVA staff have been working to capture the lessons of their daily practice in selecting and accompanying projects, building partnerships, supporting individuals and organisations etc.

For those who wish to do so, it is a matter of working individually or collectively to extract specific lessons from the foundation’s experience, to formulate them, to support them with solid arguments and to share them in the form of blogs, articles or syntheses so that these lessons learnt can be of benefit to the greatest number. Below is a presentation of the main learning products that you can find on the MAVA Learning page.

The booklet Be an Octopus presents the general approach to engagement that MAVA adopted as a donor for the benefit of its partners towards more impact on the ground. Indeed, the role of the foundation is not limited to financial support: like an octopus, it has different arms which are as many levers for an efficient and adapted support to its partners. Collaboration through balanced partnerships, organisational support, coaching of individuals and strengthening of links between nature conservation actors have characterised MAVA’s 28 years of experience. The booklet draws lessons that are useful for all donors who wish to engage beyond project funding. MAVA collective publication with the support of BookSprints, in English

The booklet Strategic Partnerships – MAVA’s approach to scaling up conservation impact details the collective approach initiated and built over the past few years. The collaboration of the foundation’s partners through common objectives appears to be a way to achieve more impact in the field and to access funding after the end of MAVA. MAVA collective publication with the support of BookSprints, in English

Thanks to the large number of projects funded over the course of its existence, MAVA has a wealth of information on what conservation activities and approaches work, and which are less effective. The Conservation Learning Initiative presents the findings of the analytical work carried out by Foundations of Success and Conservation Evidence on the themes of capacity building, partnerships and alliances, research and monitoring, and flexible funding. Collective website by Conservation Evidence, Foundations of Success and MAVA, in English

A project is never a smooth ride and a collective approach such as that of strategic partnerships can involve new problems in project implementation. The blog Not if but how – troubleshooting in projects looks at the role of the donor in solving the problems that are bound to arise during project implementation. Blog by Luís Costa, Manager at MAVA, in English and French AVA collective publication with the support of BookSprints, in English

This original approach to strategic partnerships was also accompanied by a final adaptation of the decision-making mechanism for project funding. As described in the booklet Learning to Let Go – Decision-Making for Foundations, the evolution of the foundation was accompanied by a new distribution of decision-making power based on trust with partners and on the autonomy of staff within the foundation. MAVA collective publication, in English

The evolution of MAVA as an organisation has been marked by a major step: its merger with another ‘sister’ foundation. Based on the testimonies of partners and other stakeholders involved in the process, the booklet Merging for Impact: Radically rethinking how we deliver impact looks at the benefits, but also at the prerequisites and challenges of such merger. MAVA collective publication, in English and French

In its lifetime, the MAVA Foundation has also felt the need to reaffirm and formalise the values that have underpinned its commitment since its creation. The blog Using core values to honour the founder’s vision without creating a mausoleum looks back at this structuring and inspiring process. Blog by Lynda Mansson, Director General at MAVA, in English and French

In view of the end of its funding in 2022, the MAVA Foundation has reinforced its organisational support towards some of its partners. The booklet Tips of the Triangle – Exploring three-way partnerships for Organisational Development details how a three-way partnership between the partner, an external consultant and a donor can be particularly effective in strengthening that partner and a great learning process for all. Joint publication by MAVA and Stone-Soup Consulting

As an illustration of the diversity of Organisational Development (OD) partnerships, the blog A fruitful OD partnership! Our retrospective of the long collaboration between MedPAN and MAVA looks back at an OD support that has matured over the years and underlines the need for a coherent approach between the different funding supports provided. Collective blog by Marie Romani (MedPAN), Simon Mériaux (MAVA Manager) and Julien Semelin (ex-MAVA), in English and French

In addition to strengthening organisations, the MAVA Foundation has been engaged in setting up a much-appreciated mechanism to support the leadership capacities of young and not-so-young individuals working in nature conservation. Based on the MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy impact report, the blog Why investing in leadership development matters details the rationale and results of the intergenerational approach (between junior and senior staff from different organisations) that has led to personal, professional… and organisational changes. Collective blog between Common Purpose, Mowgli Mentoring, MAVA and Academy alumni, in English and French

Leadership support is an example of capacity building that partner organisations should be able to offer to their staff in order for them to thrive in achieving their mission. However, this is only possible if these organisations have the financial means for this type of support… and therefore if donors fund these activities. The booklet Care for Those Who Take Care for the Planet: Grant-making for staff development looks at the non-financial valorisation of employees as an influencing factor in the impact and stability of teams, and at the appropriate means of funding. MAVA collective publication, in English