By Julien Sémelin, Manager, Mediterranean Basin, MAVA Foundation
Two years ago, when I heard about the closure of MAVA in 2022, I immediately perceived it quite positively. Five years to make a difference, we will have to be innovative and above all very clever in the selection of projects we will finance. The issue of measuring the impact of our projects in 2022 also very quickly arose. It is definitely a key issue in our profession. But in this context, I can assure you that it has taken on a very special dimension. When we know that we will concentrate all our efforts on a limited number of objectives, and that there will be no phase 2 or 3 to compensate for any delays, we will have to organize differently. This time it is without nets.
Thus, we developed our last 2016-2022 strategic cycle on a simple idea. To maximize our impact in 2022, we will select projects that share common objectives. For example: “reduce the impact of fishing on marine biodiversity.” But how to ensure the consistency of the different projects aligned around this objective and above all, how to measure their impact in 2022?
For several years, we have been asking some of our partners to develop their projects by following the Open Standards for the practice of conservation. A methodology that seduced us because it forces the project leader to build his entire approach based on the results he seeks to achieve. It seems obvious, but believe me, it is not always the case. Why not apply this methodology to ourselves? The only problem is that this Open Standards approach has almost never been used at a foundation level. It is therefore necessary to innovate and learn on a rolling basis. But isn’t it also somehow the role of an organization such as ours?
I must admit that the first brainstorming workshops with our partners were not easy. This approach can indeed be destabilizing at the beginning, and it’s enough to drown in complexity. But when one has embarked on a difficult reading, it is sometimes good to come back and read the introduction. This is how I came back across the three key questions of adaptive management: 1) Am I doing the right things? 2) Am I doing them properly? 3) Do I have an impact through what I am doing? These three questions finally became my guiding principle.
Translated at our level, these three questions allow us to structure our journey towards 2022 and especially, to see things more clearly. The first question then becomes: How do we ensure that we are selecting the right projects to achieve our results? By applying the Open Standards, we have developed different Outcome Action Plans. Each project has been assessed based on its contribution to this plan. This has been our main task in 2017.
Then, financing projects is what we have been doing best for years, and to answer the second question: Are these projects being properly implemented? We are already very well equipped, especially with our famous progress reports. “Did this training take place? How many participants? Has this mapping been carried out properly?” For many years, the foundation has developed a well-oiled machinery to follow its projects.
We now have to move forward on the third question: What is the combined impact of our projects? If measuring the impact of a single project is in itself complex, measuring the impact of fifteen projects aligned around an action plan becomes a real challenge. But as the expression goes, during isn’t the journey more important than the destination? Still relying on the Open Standards, we are setting the stage to measure our impact in 2022, but above all, to make a difference in 2022!
Finally, with this context of closure in 2022, we have become more accurate, our partners interact more with each other, they look for synergies and coordinate much more than before. Our approach is also much more integrated with actors outside our usual circle. Several times, partners have come back to me with the same remark: “You are developing a perfect mechanism to coordinate all these projects and you will close in 2022!”. Indeed, but it’s not about us. If we increasing our investment of effort, it is primarily to strengthen our community of partners and ensure these initiatives continue after 2022. And when I see the interest in our experience, I am confident that others will be inspired by our adventure. After all this will also be one of the legacies of MAVA.
If you are not familiar with the Open Standards, I invite you to visit this website.