Creating Opportunities for Community Self-Organization: A Task for Integrated Conservation and Development Initiatives

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"A key question for community-based conservation or integrated conservation and development projects (ICDP) is: What contributes to community self-organization? How does one get people and/or organizations involved in a project, willing to take responsibilities and to act? This paper explores key elements that contribute to community self-organization in the context of community-based conservation and ICDP initiatives. We examined some of the UNDP Equator Initiative cases, some of them finalists for the Equator Prize which recognize efforts in integrating biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. Our data sources included case reports; semistructured interviews with representatives of the 2004 Equator Prize finalists, and some additional ICDP cases. Our analysis shows that key elements contributing to community organization include: a shared vision of a social-environmental problem and motivation to tackle it; leadership (both local leaders and outside agents of change); capacity building; use of local expertise; partnerships (both with government agencies and nongovernmental organizations); and availability of funding and other resources. Many of these elements result from cross-scale interactions (both horizontal and vertical linkages). For instance, partnerships are often established between local communities and supportive organizations at regional, national or international levels. These supportive organizations may provide organizational expertise (e.g., regional development NGOs), training (e.g., regional conservation NGOs), legal support, and funding (e.g., international agencies). Our results indicate that policies aiming to create opportunity for community-based conservation and ICDP initiatives should at first promote and/or strengthen community organization. A possible way to approach such task is through valuing and empowering local institutions and encouraging and facilitating multi-level, cross-scale interactions."



IASC, CBRM, citizen organization, conservation, organizational design