SCB Project Inspires WWF’s Efforts to Help Conservationists Work with Faith Groups

Inspired by a Society for Conservation Biology project, the World Wildlife Fund's Beliefs & Values Programme recently issued guidance to assist conservationists in developing effective partnerships with leaders and members of faith organizations. 

‘Guidance for Conservationists on Working with Faith Groups’ provides an overview of the value of working with faith partners and suggestions for mutually beneficial engagement with them over four stages of a conservation project: 1) Understanding the context, 2) initiating contact, 3) implementing together, and 4) exiting the partnership. The document also includes a framework for assessing the faith context of a conservation project before launching it. ‘Guidance’ can be downloaded here.  

One of the authors of ‘Guidance’ is Chantal Elkin, Head of WWF's Beliefs & Values Programme and a former President of SCB’s Religion & Conservation Biology Working Group, who commented on the need for this document: "The conservation sector is increasingly recognizing how powerful faith actors can be in transforming their beliefs and values around nature care into practical action, and channeling their influence, land and other assets towards conservation. However, because the faiths are relatively new partners in conservation, ‘Guidance’ provides some support for practitioners in working effectively and sensitively with faith communities in ways that value their unique worldviews and relationships with nature.”

The SCB project that inspired this WWF effort was the Best Practices Project conducted by the SCB’s Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group over a three-year period and culminated in issuing Guidelines for Interacting with Faith-Based Leaders and Communities in February 2018.  Jame Schaefer who co-led this project described the WWF’s innovation as "a readable, graphics-enhanced guide for conservation practitioners to follow when interacting with faith leaders and members of their communities. Making it accessible online in an attractive format enhances its usefulness." Contact for details about the Best Practices Project.     

Established in 2019, the Beliefs & Values Programme has been supporting WWF’s offices and the wider conservation sector to engage with religious and spiritual leaders and communities throughout the world. To further bolster this effort, WWF launched the Faith & Nature Hub website that offers case studies, tools, resources and opportunities for connection that can facilitate faith and conservation partnerships. You can visit the Hub and add your stories here. For more information, contact Chantal Elkin.