Lesson Learned

Anabelle Plantilla is executive director of the Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources. The organization manages a special small grants fund at the heart of our investments to help save Critically Endangered species in the Philippines Hotspot.

What is the most important lesson you have learned?

The clearer your priorities are in running a small grants program, the more effective you will be.

Describe how you learned this and whether/how you have adapted your approach or specific project elements as a result.

Even within the threatened species arena, we have had to focus our efforts and resources to achieve what we want with the Threatened Species Program. We were really surprised that we weren’t flooded with proposals when we first announced our Conservation Research Grants. They slowly trickled in, and while having scientific merit, they did not directly address research gaps useful for conservation.

So we came up with a research agenda to prioritize the most urgent studies needed in our selected project sites. Instead of rejecting proposals that don’t fit our criteria outright, we offer recommendations for improvement and a list of possible topics applicants might be interested to work on instead.

In the course of project implementation we realized there’s a shortage of practicing wildlife researchers, and there is a need to build capacity for good research. In the Philippines, conservation research is not a lucrative endeavor – we capitalize on the passion of a handful of individuals, encouraging them to pursue wildlife research. We do this by giving small grants, linking them to experts who can give advice, and offering a field course in research design and scientific writing.

For site conservation action, we have identified NGO partners, usually small organizations staffed by committed individuals, whom we have provided technical assistance in project development. For the remaining project period, we are committed to hand-holding these organizations to ensure sustainability of efforts beyond the Threatened Species Program.

- July 2005