Guest Columnist: Nancy Fishman
Executive Director, Grand Victoria Foundation
Fragmented. Scattershot. Disjointed. Connected. Cooperative. Collaborative. These are the words that pop when I reflect on the smart solutions that folks are testing, tweaking, or scaling. As a grantmaker, I see lots of great ideas. Understanding what characteristics are in play when solutions stick, gain momentum and have staying power helps us make good investments. I think a solid group of people and organizations who agree on desired results, and coordinate and connect to achieve them provides a sturdy foundational platform for action. But that’s not all! Acknowledgement among collaborators of the give/get proposition of shared work and a healthy tolerance for slogging are important too.
An inspiring example of what I’m describing is Vital Lands Illinois, a statewide network of conservation practitioners and advocates. The network came about in 2008 in response to conservation leaders’ recognition that fragmentation was a big barrier to protecting the health and abundance of natural areas and waterways. Folks expressed frustration that their own lack of coordination was leading to fragmented habitats and an unsustainable ecosystem. Most important, the conservation community was motivated to transform the way they do their work to get better results. Through Vital Lands Illinois, a growing movement is weaving the work of individuals, NGOs, and government agencies to achieve an interconnected, high functioning landscape at a scale that allows habitat, wildlife and people to thrive. Brian Anderson, Director of the Illinois Natural History Survey, captures the imperative in this quote: “Connectivity is the future of conservation – without it, we will not be successful.”