Páramo in the western zone of Parque Nacional Llanganates in Ecuador’s Tungurahua Province. © Erika Nortemann

Working Group:
Faith and Conservation

Conservation organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of addressing human well-being outcomes, and similarly, faith groups are making more explicit links between environmental health and social justice. Partnerships between these groups have immense potential to improve social and ecological outcomes, yet significant barriers exist. Given the scale and magnitude of threats facing the environment and the world’s most vulnerable people, and the connection between environmental degradation and human suffering, such partnerships are an important way to jointly tackle the world’s most pressing global social and ecological challenges.

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Developing a Systematic Approach to Faith and Conservation Partnerships

Ultimately, conservation success depends upon changing human values and behavior. Religions are sources and validators of moral values for many people around the world. Despite the potential of partnerships between faith and conservation groups, often they do not actively engage each other, and when they do, efforts to do so are ad hoc and partnerships may wane over time. A more systematic approach is needed building on shared environmental and social agendas to develop effective partnerships, support and sustain dialogue aimed at finding common ground, and to establish supporting mechanisms to maintain partnerships.

The Challenge

Recognizing Common Ground & Shared Goals

Building and sustaining partnerships between faith and conservation groups requires an appreciation for the diversity of motivations and approaches guiding environmental and social values and action, shared objectives, and application of best practices for engagement.

Challenges to engagement include: 1) discomfort engaging in dialogue due to differing worldviews, traditions, and terminology; 2) need for clarity on what motivates different faith and conservation groups and how they operate; 3) lack of guidance on how to initiate, sustain, and measure the effectiveness of such partnerships; and 4) lack of knowledge sharing across projects and programs.

In the absence of such knowledge and guidance, existing partnerships may fail, may not inform future efforts (i.e., risk repeating mistakes, miss opportunities to replicate success), or may not benefit from the strengths and experiences that each provides. Additionally, valuable opportunities to join forces may be missed that could result in greater social and ecological impacts than could be achieved independently.

Community church and cemetery overlooking The Nature Conservancy's Cranesville Swamp Preserve in West Virginia. © Kent Mason

The Inquiry

Bringing Faith and Conservation Together in Lasting Partnerships

For the first time, the Faiths and Conservation Working Group is convening faith and environmental leaders from around the world, including those who have designed and implemented faith-based programs in partnership with secular organizations, as well as those involved in academic research and projects linking religion and conservation.

The Working Group will:

  • Review existing and previous faith/conservation collaborative projects to articulate barriers to working together, factors supporting partnership success and sustainability, and distillation of best practices
  • Explore, analyze, and recommend what guidance and tools are needed to develop and maintain successful and lasting partnerships between conservation and faith groups
  • Develop a handbook for conservation organizations and faith groups to inspire new and support existing partnerships and reinforce collective efforts
  • Develop a shared research agenda that addresses existing needs to facilitate greater understanding and collaboration between faith and conservation groups
  • Identify pilot projects to test and apply best practices

The ultimate goal of the Working Group is to develop and sustain a global network of faith and conservation leaders who share experiences, goals, and approaches to advance further partnerships and projects.

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The Team

Faith and Conservation