Focus: Environment

Silk Caye final





Creative Collaboration Training

CAI continues engaging 16 New England Biolabs Foundation grantee organizations based in Ghana working primarily in conservation in the Creative Leadership Certificate training - most recently, focusing on deepening collaboration. 

Field Application Highlights

Conservation Alliance has been grappling with conflict between multiple stakeholders on the boundary between western Ghana and eastern Cote d’Ivoire around issues of mining, migration, unauthorized pesticide use and encroachment. There has been significant blame and division, impacting 42 communities. The Problem Tree/Solution Tree activity engaging local government, policy makers, farmers and village chiefs provided a platform for honest reflection, ownership and dialogue - leading to mutual agreement of how to move forward in addressing the issues.

A Rocha Ghana integrated Art Codes in their campaign to save the Atewa Forest and Accra’s water supply from Bauxite mining, including a video that has sparked high petition engagement supporting the campaign.

“The training provides an atmosphere of practical learning, gives the opportunity to network with other organizations and strategize together toward a common goal, it also helps one to develop skills and how to apply them in the field with communities. You don't just learn but also have fun!” – Portia Bansa, Cultural Heritage Manager, Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organizational Development (CIKOD)



Creative Facilitation & Collaboration Training

33 staff from 19 organizations in Cameroon focusing on conservation, gender equality and youth development, including Nature Care Cameroon, Pan-African Organization for Research and Protection of Violence on Women and Children, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, convened for their second year of training in Creative Facilitation and Collaboration. These organizations are grantees of CAI partner, New England Biolabs Foundation.

Cameroon is challenged by a host of environmental issues - from deforestation, poaching, desertification, poor sanitation and water services to a lack of government support. In this intensive course, our partners learned to master the primary elements of facilitating and designing participatory workshops.

• Participating organizations reported that 1,238 individuals have been impacted by the new approaches and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
• On average, there was a 43% increase in self-reported creative facilitation skills, confidence and understanding.
• 80% of the organizations have replicated the Creative Facilitation training with their entire staff, and some have included volunteers and other ally organizations.

Observed Outcomes
• Youth are more interested and motivated to take charge of their future 
• Fuller engagement of policy leaders in local government
• Breakthrough in sex education to discuss contraception and other family planning topics
• Improved flow of information and productivity among staff 
• Improved communication with animals and volunteers
• More long-term thinking with staff and community
• Increased confidence and capability to work with groups

Project Spotlight: CAMGEW

Before training with CAI, CAMGEW attempted to initiate a top-down forest management plan with their stakeholders, sowing mistrust and hostility, resulting in little participation or buy-in. After the training, they shifted their approach to gathering community needs, concerns and input about proposed initiatives. In their meetings, they are now incorporating traditional song and dance, dialogue-based practices and community appreciation exercises. As a result, they have succeeded in co-drafting a new forest management plan with the community, and have seen improved levels of attendance, trust, communication, motivation and participation.

“The training touched most issues related to my work as a community facilitator. The tools used were so practical and amazing...the training presents and makes use of simple and practical tools that can drive community members to bring about lasting change in society.” - Litika Collins Yenika, Nature Care Cameroon



Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras & El Salvador

NEBF Cohort Creative Collaboration Training

In 2016, CAI provided three follow up skill building clinics for the New England Biolab Foundation cohort of 15 conservation grantee organizations that participated in the Creative Leadership Certificate program to improve collaboration, communication and problem solving and strengthen the ability to design projects and community workshops. 100% of the total 55 participants stated that they will be better able to achieve desired results in their work to advance conservation in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador.

Participating Organizations: FUNDAECO, CONIC, CODISRA, Aprosarstun, FUNDENOR, Cultural Survival, Oxlajuj Ajpop, Asociación Mangle, Fundahmer, Pacific Paso, El Povenir, Amojo, Flora and Fauna International, Entre Volcanes and JPIC.

“This clinic is the high point of my learning, because I had never thought about communication from this perspective. The work made it very clear that instead of criticizing, we must work together.” - Miguel Zepeda, FUNDAHMER

“This learning is significant and practical and has given me new tools to facilitate the processes of change and the methodological capacity to develop facilitation.” - Lester González Mairena The Future



Creative Engagement for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) 

CAI is training 8 member organizations of the Water and Sanitation Network of Nicaragua (RASNIC) and 6 New England Biolabs Foundation grantee organizations in Nicaragua to increase dialogue, awareness and behavior change around water conservation and hygiene. 

A third of rural Nicaraguans lack access to safe water, and water borne illnesses exact a toll on the health of rural families, keeping children out of school and stifling growth. Community engagement and education is the key to achieving water management solutions.

The introductory phase of training in innovative, creative engagement promoting successful WASH practices was launched in Spring of 2017 - targeting communities lacking basic services and receiving little outside assistance in the remote, rural regions of León, Matagalpa and Jinotega.

Among the challenges addressed in training:

  • Consumption of contaminated water in rural communities
  • Lack of hygiene habits, such as hand washing
  • Lack of awareness about water use and conservation
  • Deforestation around water sources

Just a few projects inspired by the training:

  • Radio drama campaign "We Take Care of Our Water"
  • A photography workshop and exhibit engaging a local secondary school and the general population;
  • Recycled art project to raise awareness and change behaviors about recycling, water and endangered species protection.

Following the training, 20 participants facilitated a skill building clinic for a RASNIC Community Management Group (CAP) managing water resources for the rural community of Suni, where they've encountered challenges mobilizing community members to reduce their water usage. The goal of the clinic was to provide the tools to effectively communicate the importance of water conservation. 

The community outreach activities inspired by the trainings is estimated to reach more than 27,000 rural residents.

Coming up: Rolling out the next three Creative Leadership for Social Change courses, supplemented by five CAP skill-building clinics in Leon, Matagalpa and Jinotega!  

"This course supports me directly, because I will take these new tools to work with my community groups and improve the participation of our beneficiaries." 
-Freddy Cantillano, Education Promoter, El Porvenir


The Save Marine Turtles (SmART) Project

In collaboration with Paso Pacifico, CAI is launching a new project to promote the protection of marine turtle nesting in the beach communities of Nicaragua.

The Save Marine Turtles (SmART) project will increase the capacity of community leaders to effectively and inclusively educate and engage communities where priority solitary nesting beaches are located. This capacity building will spark expansive community level change, which will in turn support protection for three unprotected nesting beaches that are home to 11-20 nests for the critically endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle.

Creative Leadership Training will commence in October, with clinics and supported community actions happening in January. Stay tuned for updates on this exciting new pilot project!



Tapping Into Indigenous Wisdom

Indigenous knowledge is the unique, local knowledge held by a culture and often passed through generations by oral and ritual traditions. This rich heritage reflects complex relationships and stewardship strategies with local ecosystems and is one of the greatest resources a community can tap into. The very oral and rural nature of traditional knowledge means it has usually not been captured and stored in a systematic way. Today, there is a grave risk that much of this wisdom is being lost and, along with it, valuable information about how to live in ecological harmony and balance.

In collaboration with our partners in the field, CAI works to facilitate a greater understanding and respect for the role of indigenous wisdom in conservation with NGO staff, educators, students and decision makers through teaching and learning approaches that incorporate locally relevant knowledge and skills.

CAI is collaborating with Ecologic to strengthen the leadership of educators in the rural indigenous Totonicapán región of Guatemala, integrate creative methodologies in the classroom and develop a more holistic education system. 50 leaders and educators from 2 organizations and 18 schools are exploring ways to honor indigenous wisdom and develop inspiring initiatives using traditional ceremony, dance, songs, theater and telenovelas to address domestic violence, reproductive health, and environmental preservation. Participants gain stronger cross-country alliances and valuable tools to promote community conservation with youth and children across the Totonicapán region. Throughout 2017, participants will receive coaching support from CAI staff as they design and replicate what they learned with their teams and students. 

“It was a very active and constructive training to be able to analyze problems and seek solutions. I learned new creative techniques to put them into practice in my classrooms.” - Cleily Nineth Morales García EORM Teacher Tecún Umán, Canton Chiyax, Totonicapán

TIDE Fisher Forum.350

Belize & Guatemala

Gulf of Honduras Creative Conservation Project

Strong local leadership and social cohesion are critical success factors for conservation outcomes.

We've embarked on a multi-year initiative to accelerate critical conservation efforts in the Gulf of Honduras. These marine and coastal ecosystems of Belize and Guatemala support some of the greatest biodiversity on Earth and provide livelihoods for thousands. Vast areas of coral reefs and mangroves have been lost and face continued threats from oil drilling, commercial fishing, tourism and climate change.

The Creative Conservation program supports the management and protection of sixteen ecosystems across Belize and Guatemala by expanding the leadership and engagement capacity of a cohort of six leading conservation organizations. Initiatives include Hicatee, Manatee and Yellow-Headed Parrot awareness, fire management, no-take zone education, fisher collaboration, littering, invasive species control, and coral reef and mangrove protection.

In the Fall of 2016, we completed Phase III of the program - deepening creative strategies and providing support through coaching, facilitation, skill building clinics, and field artist reinforcement for community projects.

This project has culminated in a Creative Conservation open source curriculum to enable conservation organizations to replicate the work.

Creative Conservation Curriculum

VIDEO: Creative Conservation

Project Spotlight: TIDE

TIDE works in the heart of the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor with the primary goal of establishing sustainable resource management of the Port Honduras Marine Reserve and local forests. CAI helped to successfully launch multiple community conservation initiatives, including Hicatee and Yellow-Headed Parrot awareness, fire management, no-take zone education, the Greening TIDE Challenge, a national fisher forum and training teachers in a creative environmental education curriculum.

“Getting fishers to work together has always been one of the toughest challenges...After seeing how useful data could be, and how it depended upon accurate catch reporting, most agreed to increase their commitment to record catches accurately and honestly. The participatory techniques we learned kept fishers engaged in the experience.” - James Foley, TIDE Science Director