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Conservation Economies

For centuries, the dominant conservation model has been “fortress conservation”, in which natural spaces are protected by excluding humans — namely local or Indigenous people — who are often blamed for ecological degradation. However, over the last ten years, the scientific discourse has countered this. Research has shown that involving communities in conservation results in far better ecological outcomes – and leaders on the ground agree. Disrupting fortress conservation narratives in support of community-based conservation is now seen as vital to the survival of the planet’s ecosystems – the vital organs to sustain life on earth. Unfortunately, a global consensus on the definition and the core principles of community conservation or “conservation economies” is yet to be achieved. This lack of consensus makes it difficult for key stakeholders, including foundations and large NGOs to support community conservation projects over traditional fortress conservation models.

A Conservation Economy focuses equally on local community leadership, ecological wellbeing, and economic functionality. These “economies” — or systems — operate by linking the intrinsic value of nature to the understanding that sustainable management of resources can provide economic opportunity for Indigenous and rural communities through restorative, conservation-based revenue streams for stakeholders. Indigenous and rural communities are the leaders of Conservation Economies, centering their voices and knowledge for the best ecological and economic outcomes in their local context.

EcoCiv’s programmatic work in Conservation Economies is just beginning! We are planning a workshop and a convening to catalyze a global consensus around the principles of Conservation Economies and identify priority areas for further programmatic work based on key stakeholder input. Preliminary topics include: global paradigm shift towards equitable outcomes, financing conservation economies, effective community engagement, and supportive policy frameworks.

The ultimate goal of this work is to shift the paradigm of conservation towards sustainable, effective, and resilient Conservation Economies.

Stay tuned as we provide more updates on our partners and exciting programmatic work in 2022. In the meantime, read our Conservation Economies Brief and watch our Global Dialogue on Conservation Economies.

Interested in getting involved with EcoCiv’s Conservation Economies work? Please contact Jessie Green at

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