MAVA Memories stories

Below is a glimpse of the stories we have received from our partners via the MAVA Memories project.

We hope they inspire you as much as they do us!


∇ #zerowastecities

At Zero Waste Europe we have been playing with the idea of a network of European zero waste municipalities since almost 15 years. In the beginning nobody believed about the change we could create if we managed to develop the right tools and train the local groups to follow up with the local authorities to commit to change their resource management.
But after lots of work from many people in our network we managed to put together a proposal that interested MAVA and the work since then has taken off big time. MAVA didn’t only finance part of this project but also brought other funders to help cover what was needed and in total local groups in 13 European countries started working to turn municipalities zero waste. Three years later we have managed to develop the most robust zero waste certification system for cities in the planet and the project is being so successful that we struggle to keep up with the interest from new cities from across the continent. From Riga to Barcelona and from Ljubljana to Brussels almost 500 municipalities of all sizes and geographies have embarked in the journey to reduce waste and preserve resources for future generations.
This would not have been possible if MAVA would have not believed that despite our crazy ambition we had a plan to make it happen, and we did.
This is only one piece of support that MAVA provided our organisation with, another key one has been the MAVA Academy in which eight people from our team have participated. For all this the MAVA legacy is enshrined in the history and hopefully the DNA of Zero Waste Europe. Thanks MAVA for believing in us!
Joan Marc SIMON (Sustainable Economy), Zero Waste Europe, Round I

∇ Shaping Switzerland’s Freshwater Policy: A Success Story over 20 Years

Today we know that freshwater biodiversity has globally declined by 84% since 1970. And we also know that this dramatic development is also taking place in Switzerland. But 20 years ago, neither Swiss politicians nor the public were aware of the problem. For us at WWF Switzerland it was extremely difficult to make our voices heard, calling for a more sustainable water management to improve the ecological quality of the freshwater habitats and to sustainably reduce water risks. Hardly any donor saw the need and those who did were not willing to fund political activities. But action on the policy level was urgently needed. Fortunately, the MAVA Foundation understood the need for freshwater action already at that early stage and was not afraid to also support the policy approaches needed to achieve change. The support from MAVA for the freshwater programme of WWF Switzerland started with the project “Rhone vivant” in 2004. The strategic guidance and funding from MAVA enabled us to get strongly involved as a stakeholder in the development of the plans to “revive” the river Rhone by the national and cantonal authorities. Over time, our collaboration with MAVA extended to other more general freshwater projects, always with a strong policy aspect. In 2014, MAVA agreed to take the support of the freshwater work of WWF Switzerland to a new level. Instead of supporting separate freshwater projects, MAVA agreed to fund a holistic freshwater programme, agreeing on specific goals but giving WWF a lot of freedom to develop, implement and adapt activities, based on current needs and political developments. This huge programme support, which is ongoing till end of 2022, enabled WWF Switzerland to become a credible and well-respected player in the field of freshwater protection in Switzerland, be it in field projects, on a policy level or in negotiations with hydropower operators. WWF was also able to take the leading role within the Swiss environmental NGO community in the field of freshwater. A “Water Alliance” has been established to streamline the NGO activities and thus to amplify our impact. The intensive collaboration between the MAVA Foundation and WWF Switzerland over the last almost 20 years has certainly had a strong influence on freshwater policy and its implementation in Switzerland. It has enabled WWF Switzerland and other NGO partners to successfully advocate for freshwater biodiversity at all levels and with the necessary weight. Thanks to MAVA, we have been able to largely stop the degradation of freshwater habitats. And the NGO community in Switzerland is now well positioned to continue the fight for sustainable freshwater systems, which benefit people and nature.
Walter WAGNER (Switzerland/Alps), WWF Switzerland, Round I

∇ Planting seeds that others will harvest

The MAVA Foundation is unique- characterized by the impressive technical and interpersonal skills of the MAVA team. MAVA has been a powerful catalyst- using its resources to both support actions on the ground and to instill confidence in other actors to rally around and focus on specific issues.
The establishment of the BioGuinea Foundation conservation trust fund provides an example. When the BioGuinea Foundation was just getting off the ground, it was a contribution from the MAVA Foundation that gave other supporters the confidence to invest and help the Foundation become what it is today.
MAVA has been a dream partner. Some adjectives? Flexible, brave, innovative, inspirational and collegial. Bravo! and thanks for everything. Please take some time to kvell…
Paul SIEGEL (West Africa), BioGuinea Foundation, Round II

∇ The importance of awareness

With the support of MAVA (FIBA), the NGO Biosfera, started the fight against seabird hunting in the Marine Reserve of Raso islet in Cape Verde. At that time, a specific community from a neighboring island traveled to the islet every year, where thousands of the endemic Cape Verde Shearwater were slaughtered. We started a big awareness campaign on this island (Santo Antão island) where we visited all high schools and communities. During the campaign, and in one of the classrooms of a local high school, a young student who was the daughter of the head of the shearwater hunters team (we didn’t know that at the time), listened to our lecture and was shocked by the images. She continued to study, became a biologist, and today is the head coordinator for studies and conservation of seabirds at our NGO, having already published several scientific articles. A success story that shows us how important awareness campaigns are, especially those aimed at young people, who are really the future of this planet. We have to thank MAVA for believing and supporting.
Tommy MELO, (West Africa), Biosfera, Round II

∇ A lasting legacy

MAVA’s legacy is evident in so many ways in Prespa, in its vitally important biodiversity and ecosystems and across the whole lakes basin, which is shared by Greece, North Macedonia and Albania. The area suffered intensely from wars, from the translocation of people, and from environmental degradation in during the 20th century, but now, and precisely because of the incredible contribution and support from MAVA, after an era of conflict and turbulent changes in the wider environment the area is stable and thriving. The fact that MAVA supported long-term conservation here for so many years has resulted in a situation where all the environmental and socio-economic actors are co-operating together on the basis of environmental values, either at the local level, through a Local Action Group or the now long-established Wetland Management Committee, or at the transboundary level through the PrespaNet NGO network, the co-operation of mayors and protected area managers from the three countries, and through the operation of the trailblazing Agreement on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Prespa Park Area.
This is a story in which we started from, not even from scratch, but with a socioecological system that had essentially been demolished; it was in ruins because of wars and this had a direct impact on the remarkable biodiversity found here. For decades we have been working to reconstitute this system, so that people here are following and managing the situation in order to ensure resilience in the future. MAVA’s continuous efforts not only made this possible by underpinning the process, but also succeeded in attracting and involving international interest in an area that is ultimately of global significance. All of these efforts brought the disparate parts of the system back together over time and now we see the long-term legacy of this work all around us. MAVA’s support enabled all of this life-changing work and with the establishment of the visionary Prespa Ohrid Nature Trust to continue its work in the area has also allowed a secure basis for the future to be built; it’s a towering legacy and a testimony to the vision, dynamism and compassion of all those involved with the foundation.

Society for the Protection of Prespa, Myrsini Malakou

∇ Une extraordinaire aventure humaine

Une extraordinaire aventure humaine! Une immense générosité au service de la réconciliation entre les humains et la nature, un engagement sans faille mû par la passion et visant l’impact. Voilà ce qui me vient à l’esprit à l’évocation de l’histoire de la Fondation MAVA.

J’ai eu le privilège d’arriver à la Tour du Valat en 1994, année de création de la Fondation MAVA, et d’y travailler depuis en relation étroite avec Luc et André Hoffmann, les deux présidents successifs de la fondation MAVA -et de la Tour du Valat-, et plus largement la famille Hoffmann, ainsi que celles et ceux qui ont fait la Fondation MAVA, Lynda, Paule, Thierry, Luis et bien d’autres…

Dès le début, j’ai été frappé par l’étonnante dynamique de la Fondation MAVA. Une vision puissante bien que peu formalisée dans ses premières années, une capacité à catalyser les bonnes énergies, la volonté de construire et de faire perdurer une véritable communauté d’action capable d’engager des changements profonds. Si on ajoute à cela beaucoup d’écoute et d’attention aux autres, une véritable chaleur humaine et une démarche aussi peu procédurière et administrative que possible, voilà les principaux ingrédients qui à mes yeux ont fait le succès de cette organisation unique.

Je suis persuadé que – comme pour la plupart des initiatives lancées par Luc Hoffmann – ce n’est qu’au fil du temps que nous pourrons prendre la réelle mesure de l’impact de la Fondation MAVA. Certes, on peut d’ores et déjà mesurer les volumes financiers considérables mobilisés depuis 1994, le nombre croissant de partenaires de la MAVA, la diversité et la pertinence des initiatives alliant génération et partage de connaissances, actions de terrain, plaidoyer et action politique, les multiples succès enregistrés en Méditerranée, en Afrique de l’Ouest, dans l’arc alpin ou ailleurs sur la planète. Mais je suis certain qu’au fil des ans l’héritage de la MAVA apparaîtra de façon toujours plus tangible, que l’onde générée par son action catalytique va s’amplifier et s’élargir. Que cette communauté de femmes et d’hommes toujours plus nombreuse va engager des changements profonds et transformateurs.

L’annonce de la cessation d’activité de la MAVA, alors que les enjeux de la relation des Hommes à la Nature sont toujours plus critiques, a plongé beaucoup de ses bénéficiaires dans le doute et la perplexité. Pour ma part, une fois la surprise et l’inquiétude passées, j’y vois un moment de vérité extrêmement intéressant. L’alternative était simple : ou bien les nombreux bénéficiaires de la générosité de la fondation MAVA entrent en compétition pour des financements plus rares et donc plus convoités, ou bien ils renforcent les synergies, les alliances entre eux pour augmenter l’impact de leurs actions et leur attractivité pour de nouveaux bailleurs. Et très clairement, la dynamique de ces dernières années en témoigne, tous ont pleinement joué la carte de la collaboration, ont misé sur l’intelligence collective, sur la perpétuation de l’héritage de la MAVA et l’amplification de cette communauté engagée pour réconcilier les humains et la nature.

Fondation Tour du Valat , Jean Jalbert

∇ #ensemble #oiseaux #hommes #BirdLifePartnership

J’ai rejoint l’ONG BirdLife International, en tant que chef de bureau Afrique de l’Ouest, en septembre 2021, pour la dernière année de mise en œuvre des projets MAVA. Mon expérience quant à l’héritage de MAVA, est notamment celle d’une transition vers un programme autonome de BirdLife en Afrique de l’Ouest, évaluant et capitalisant sur les produits des interventions passés, les leçons apprises, pour mieux construire l’avenir.
Avec un large spectre de travaux pour la conservation des Oiseaux et des Hommes en Afrique de l’Ouest, MAVA a financé la phase critique de lancement de grandes et belles initiatives régionales. Ces approches promues par la MAVA sont maintenant intégrées dans l’action de BirdLife. La stratégie de BirdLife, en cours de finalisation au niveau global, s’appuie sur la richesse du partenariat – en Afrique de l’Ouest, avec l’appui de la MAVA, évoluant de 1 à 6 partenaires ou affiliés, sur 6 pays d’intervention. Ces six partenaires sont tous considérés comme des experts dans leurs pays respectifs et disposent d’accords de collaboration avec les autorités nationales pour soutenir la surveillance des espèces, la gestion des zones humides ou les activités d’éducation environnementale. La notion de partenariat ne se limite pas à une question intrinsèque de BirdLife, elle s’étale à d’autres horizons – le « Groupement de Dakar » va donner vie à un consortium d’organisation organisé autour de La Maison de la Conservation, et s’ouvre à bien d’autres organisation sur des sujets spécifiques ; unifiant les efforts, informés. De fait, la stratégie de BirdLife s’appuie aussi sur la science – les données issues des projets « Alcyon » ou « Coastal Migratory Birds » et autres initiatives postérieures ont menés à des analyses uniques et constructrices, orientant les politiques régionales, nationales et locales. La stratégie s’appuie sur les piliers que sont la conservation des espèces –par exemple les oiseaux marins et oiseaux migrateurs, la conservation des sites – par exemple la conservation des littoraux et zones humides, les systèmes – par exemple par le renforcement des mesures de mitigation quant aux prises accidentelles, commerciales ou artisanales, la société – par l’engagement des communautés, du niveau local au niveau global.
En s’appuyant sur ces conclusions, ayant rejoint le bureau Régional de BirdLife qui bénéficie d’un soutien de base de la MAVA, j’ai pour rôle d’accompagner la transition vers une initiative autonome. L’appui de base et l’accompagnement continue, et la bienveillance de la MAVA, nous a permis et nous permet de développer un pipeline intéressant de projets pour donner suite aux plans d’action de la MAVA ; et l’élargir plus largement dans la région, travaillant ensemble – gouvernements, société civile, académie, communautés locales, pour des impacts à l’échelle, solide et permanent.

BirdLife International , Jean-Baptiste Deffontaines

∇ #circular economy, innovation, trust, ecosystembuilding, impact

Thanks to the Mava Foundation’s belief in circular economy, it has succeeded in making a significant contribution to putting the topic on Switzerlands agenda and helping it to achieve outreach, scale and long-lasting impact that will survive the foundations termination. Thanks to my long-lasting collaboration with MAVA, I have been able to realise a large number of activities and it is difficult for me to imagine where ecos and I personally would be today without this continuous support and trust.
For me, the “Circular Cities Switzerland” initiative was the beginning of the joint journey – at a time when circular economy was not even a buzz word. Together with Circle Economy from Holland, we were able to sensitise the five largest cities in Switzerland and their stakeholders, develop strategies and help shape concrete projects. This road was not without obstacles and not always a straight line, but thanks to Mavas flexibility, the basic idea has been successfully implanted and concrete projects have been implemented. It is also directly attributable to the initiative that the capital of Switzerland is now drafting an implementation-oriented circular economy master plan. Above that, it is also thanks to Mava’s persistence, that a national movement called “Circular Economy Switzerland” has emerged from a series of individual projects. We are very proud to run the office of this. Mava also did pioneering work by making the establishment of Prozirkula – the competence centre for circular public procurement – possible in the first place. The idea for Prozirkula was born on a napkin. Today, Prozirkula is an independent company, founded by Rytec and ecos, and aims to gradually transform the market towards a circular economy by means of demand pressure from the public sector. The portfolio already includes renowned clients and the findings from the projects are continuously processed and disseminated to enable as many organisations as possible to benefit.
For me, a consistent and long-term picture of the foundation has emerged over the years. It hurts and I will miss the Foundation and its people. At the same time, thanks to the wise set up of the projects, Mavas ideas and initiatives will continue to flourish and have a long-term impact. THANK YOU MAVA!

ecos , Marco Grossmann

∇ #Taking risks, creating impact

MAVA has been a risk taker and a first mover allowing for the creation of new avenues to impacts. MAVA was the first supporter of the Green Digital Finance Alliance (GDFA), a not for profit with the mandate to scale green finance with fintech and digital technologies. Digital technologies hold the potential to innovate the financial system in ways that empowers every citizen to become green asset owners, something which is all too often only accessible to larger institutional investors. A transformation which will not happen automatically, but only if it is guided. MAVA enabled the GDFA to become a market catalyst to unlock the change.

I had personally the experience to head up the GDFA during its first years of operation. During the initial years of operation regulators, policy makers and financial service institutions were sceptical towards our mandate of leveraging digital technologies to green the financial system. We worked to document how it is possible to guide digital technologies to green the financial system in inclusive ways. After years of mapping innovations and proving potentials now policy makers, regulators and financial institutions are themselves beginning to experiment with green digital approaches to a greener and more inclusive financial system.

GDFA is now perceived as the go-to-platform on insights and approaches to green digital finance. It is no longer a side story, but a respected market catalyst. Now more donors support the mission and vision of the GDFA, but to begin with MAVA was the only philanthropic funder who was willing to take risk in order to create new types of impacts.

Green Digital Finance Alliance , Marianne Haahr