Away from that, organisations have come up to protect mother nature, such is Maliasili Initiative, a non-profit organization that supports the growth, development and performance of leading civil society organizations and social entrepreneurs primarily working to advance community‐based natural resource management in Africa.
The company does this by providing its partners with organizational development services combined with technical expertise in the natural resource field and in some instances occasioned with small amounts of core financial support.
Currently Maliasili Initiatives supports seven local organizations and social enterprises in East Africa, all of which are leading innovators in the natural resource field.
Since inception Maliasili has raised over 5 Million Dollars’ worth of funds and has strengthened over 14 strategies bringing a new direction, focus and clarity for its partners.
We sat down with Joy Juma, Portfolio Manager Kenya at Maliasili, who walked us through the company’s operations in Kenya.
As the portfolio manager, Joy is tasked with managing and building relationships with in-country partners with the aim of developing strong local conservation institutions.
“Our mission is to help outstanding African conservation organizations become even better. We find high impact local organizations that put people at the center of conservation. We help them to become stronger by working to identify their problems and find the right solutions. We find organizations that think big, focus on results, and that are connected to their cause and constituents.
Joy also explained that Maliasili believes in effective and long-lasting conservation models focus on three key pillars:
Rights: Strengthening local rights over land and resources
Value: Creating economic incentives for stewardship
Governance: Strengthening decision-making bodies and governance institutions
Maliasili also helps partners identify their organizational challenges and then design a tailored package of support services to help them get there. From strategic planning, to leadership development, to communications strategies, to fundraising, to board development, we adapt our tools and methodologies to meet our partners’ diverse needs.
Here are the interview excerpts:
Conservation is one of the most important social challenges facing humanity today, and particularly in Africa. Globally, we are facing a crisis of the loss of diversity of life on earth, and the health of the ecosystems that sustain people and all other species. In Africa, human livelihoods and national economies are closely intertwined with the health of forests, fisheries, rangelands, and wildlife. We must develop effective conservation models that make people better off and sustain natural resources and processes into the future. Maliasili seeks to support the development and enhance the impact of the best African conservation organizations that are rising to this challenge in innovative and effective ways.
Our team and how we work differentiates Maliasili from other organizations. Our team is defined by: Knowledge: Maliasili is known for its expertise in both OD and CBNRM – our advice, guidance and support is sought after because we have proven skills, confidence in our advice, and knowledge that others want to gain from.
Relationship Management: Maliasili’s work is all about relationships – colleagues, peers, and partners must respect, trust, and feel confident in our team, and relationship management and communications skills are central to this.
Problem solving: Key to Maliasili’s value proposition is that we are good at solving problems. To do so effectively, we must be ‘big picture’ and visionary thinkers, analytic, and able to understand and identify processes and actions required to achieve certain outcomes.
Execution: We are a relatively small team that aims for big impact, thus the way we get our work done matters. Our team must strive to produce high-quality deliverables as efficiently as possible.
Teamwork: Our relationships, interactions, and attitude all matter to who we are as an organization – both internally and externally. We strive for a team where people are supportive and open to learning.
Building our team is the most important and one of the most challenging aspects of our work. Our organization is only as strong as the individuals on it and we strive to find people who share our values, our drive for impact, and our standard for excellence.
Additionally, getting organizations to prioritize investing in their own organizations can be a challenge. People get immersed in day to day work, focused on the urgent, and sometimes sidelining the critical work of building effective organizations.
We are constantly growing our portfolio, each new partner that we bring into our portfolio is a milestone, as is the addition of each new team member who helps us achieve our mission.
We launched a leadership program with The Nature Conservancy, and the success of that program has been amazing. It is inspiring to watch emerging African conservation leaders awaken to their full potential.
We have raised at least $5 million for local African organizations, and we are working with organizations that are delivering conservation outcomes across roughly 20 million hectares in four countries.
While we are a nonprofit organization, we are very much a start up and share the entrepreneurial mindset of the Garage and its members. We are always looking for innovative ways to improve organizations and conservation outcomes. We are particularly interested in developing alternative to unsustainable natural resource utilization as a primary source of livelihoods and seeking new ways to unlock the value of natural resources to provide better benefits to communities.
The challenge as an entrepreneur is to learn and adapt fast enough to survive! A key lesson looking back is that we should have been much more focused, and more ambitious, from the outset. It took us about three years to figure out what we were trying to become, and then perhaps another three to really feel like we had developed a prototype approach that could go to scale. We also didn’t really establish our vision of large-scale transformation until at least 3-4 years in, and only now are we, I think, fully embracing our potential to achieve large-scale change. Now the key challenge is putting in place the money and the talent to deliver.
Be open to new ways of doing things. Look for ways to unlock value chains and create incentives for conservation. Never underestimate the importance of trusted relationships in any business engagement. Try to maintain some balance—this is extremely difficult, but better than burning out and not accomplishing your goals.
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