Nurture Relationships and Partnerships
Conservation leaders were unanimous: engaging community is essential, and community partnerships begin, and end, with relationships between individuals. Developing the right relationships at the local level is a prerequisite for effective community-based conservation. Behind most inspiring conservation initiatives, you will find strong personal friendships among people with a shared vision and deep trust.
Though an elder, chief, or government official may not be your primary partner (or close friend), their endorsement may also be key to your success. Understand local hierarchies and go through the appropriate channels. Traditional leaders and influential individuals and organizations can serve as your conduit to local, state, provincial, and national government officials. Enlist their support at the onset to avoid problems down the road.
It pays to be direct in all communications. Be humble, tactful, and diplomatic, certainly, but above all, be clear and direct. This saves time, energy, and resources, and, when delivered graciously, directness is respected and can accelerate conservation efforts immensely. Over time, outside partner organizations can become trusted advisors, called upon to deliver difficult messages that are politically uncomfortable for local leaders to air. This role has risks and must be used cautiously and judiciously.