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Training for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Brazil

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TNC and CSF staff gathered in São Paulo for the course. Photo credit: Marion Le Failler

In July 2016, Antonio Werneck, TNC Brazil’s Executive Director, attended CSF’s international Economic Tools for Conservation course at the University of California (UC) Berkeley. After experiencing our two week course, Antonio reflected, “there is a huge gap in training of environmentalists and economists and business people. This ‘canyon’ must be bridged if social-environmental variables are to be fully included in the decision making process. CSF provides a bridge for environmental professionals to engage in higher quality dialogue and help produce better informed discussions and decisions.”

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Antonio Werneck and others working at the 2016 international Economic Tools for Conservation course at UC Berkeley. Photo credit: Niki Gribi

With the goal of “bridging the gap” and building the capacity of his staff to use economic tools, Antonio began to work with us to develop a course tailored for TNC staff. This past August, just over one year later, CSF conducted a five-day training on Economic Tools & Communication Strategies for Conservation, in São Paulo, Brazil. Twenty-four members of the TNC staff attended the course. Many came from Brazil, and others from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and the UK. The participants work in all different sectors of the NGO, from program coordination to marketing to finance. Our objective for the course was to provide senior staff of TNC with an understanding of basic economic concepts and key tools for financial and economic assessment of projects. We also set out to teach participants how to tailor communications strategically to different audiences, in order to achieve maximum impact on decision-making processes, and receive the best possible response from all stakeholders involved in environmental issues.

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CSF’s Kim Bonine leads an exercise during the course. Photo credit: Marion Le Failler

Prof. David Johnson from the University of Wisconsin-Madison spent the first two days of the course covering basic microeconomics models, and what they can show us about human behavior. This foundation was built upon through explorations of how economic forces drive environmental problems, how market failures and externalities are related to property rights, and through an experimental game in which participants simulated market activity and reached an equilibrium price.

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Participants playing the Potato Game, buying and selling potatoes to better understand market forces. Photo credit: Niki Gribi

CSF Training Director, Kim Bonine, then taught two days of Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA), including topics such as ecosystem services, valuation, and payment for environmental services (PES) schemes. Kim highlighted many examples in which integrated economic-environmental CBA influenced decisions and contributed to positive conservation outcomes. Participants also got a chance to put their knowledge into practice through a series of hands-on exercises. CSF Staff members Niki Gribi, Marion Le Failler and Pedro Garsparinetti presented the results of our work in the Tapajós River basin. These presentations generated lively discussions, as TNC is actively working in the region and many people in the room were familiar with the Tapajós River and the dam projects proposed there.

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Pedro Gasparinetti, CSF-Brazil’s interim Executive Director, presenting about the Tapajós study. Photo credit: Niki Gribi

The final day of the course focused on strategic communication. Participants formed groups and conducted a CBA of a fictitious case, and then presented their results to different stakeholder groups such as a local community, the government, the media, or a development bank. CSF staff role played as the stakeholders to give the exercise a realistic feel. After the presentations, Kim offered specific feedback to each group, and gave several communications frameworks to help with tailoring messages to different audiences.

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Participants working on their cost-benefit analysis case study. Photo credit: Niki Gribi

Participants had this to say about their experience at the course:

“This course will help me make my case to businesses, by adding that economic element whatever I am saying will not only touch their hearts, but their pockets too.” - Anonymous Participant

“I will have a more in-depth understand of the economic and financial analysis published by TNC and its partners, which will help me communicate our points of view more effectively.” - Peri Dias, PR & Media Manager, Brazil

“This course provides information that encourages sustainable development in an appropriate way.” - Alejandro Hernandez, Program Director, Mexico

“TNC needs to communicate to a huge audience, and be able to understand other groups' interests, and the economic aspect is important and cannot be ignored.” - Anonymous Participant

“My repertory is wide now, like a type of menu where it's possible to change and adapt to each specific situation, only now with more muscle in the economic view. I am more prepared to discuss and create dialogue, and work together with the private sector and governments.” - Samuel Barreto, Water Program Manager, Brazil

We would like to thank The Nature Conservancy for partnering with us, all the participants for their dedication, intellect, and stamina, and a special thanks to Antonio Werneck for his determination to make this course a reality.

Projects or courses this news item is about: 
Economic Tools & Communication Strategies for Conservation
Projects or courses this news item is about: 
Economic Tools for Conservation - 2016 International Course