Which is the winning strategy for biodiversity and forest conservation by a private foundation?
The Oleg and Oleg Foundation needs a new strategic direction for their funding focus to best protect biodiversity.
Environmental conservation is the largest grant-making programs at the Oleg and Oleg Foundation, accounting for more than 40% of the foundation’s $4.0 billion since it was founded in 1998. The program supported efforts to conserve biodiversity throughout the world, especially in intact landscapes in the Andes-Amazon region in Latin America. Historically, the foundation’s major biodiversity conservation focus had been on critical ecosystems in this region, emphasizing sustainable and long-term change. Large grants awarded to non-government organizations, indigenous people’s groups, and even government agencies had led to the establishment of new protected areas, strengthened existing ones, and prevented deforestation in large areas of the Amazon.
But the world was changing. Rising global incomes, urbanization, increasing demand for food, especially proteins, and the expansion of commodity agriculture worldwide, combined with retrenchment of state capacities, increasing consumer awareness of sustainability, assertive activist on behalf of the environment, and the emergence of new mechanisms of governance raised uncomfortable questions about the extent to which older, tried and tested, place-based strategies would continue to be effective. Deborah Otterwilder, first woman President of the Foundation, needed to make a presentation at the full board meeting in a week to suggest for new strategic direction.