Leadership for Conservation in Africa

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Friday, 03 May 2013
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The Leadership for Conservation in Africa (LCA) was initiated in August 2006 by the South African National Parks (SANParks), Gold Fields Limited and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At that time it was considered innovative, and I still believe it to be an innovative concept with a worthy vision: to positively influence, accelerate or bring about the protection of 20 million hectares of rain forests and selected eco-systems in Sub-Saharan Africa by the year 2020. But sadly, I do not think it is an attainable goal. I draw my conclusion after my own involvement as a board member of the LCA Ghana and being actively involved in that LCA chapter for a year.


The main reason that I think the LCA will not attain its Vision 2020 goal is that although their Gaining ground for the future approach is solid, it will be tripped up constantly because the organisation has not mastered the technique of using collective impact effectively to address the complexity of the context they will be working in.   According to Kania and Kramer, the challenges to making collective impact (as the LCA wants to achieve) lies in the following (amongst others):

  • Difficulty of bringing together people who have never collaborated before
  • The competition and mistrust among funders
  • The perennial obstacles of local politics.

Using only these three challenges one could use the LCA Ghana to demonstrate how not addressing these challenges can result in a floundering organization.


The LCA initiative was initially introduced in Ghana in May 2007 with the support of leaders of numerous businesses in Ghana. In May 2008, it was agreed by representatives of the prospective patrons that a National LCA Chapter should be established in Ghana. Gold Fields Ghana was charged to spearhead the establishment of the National Chapter in collaboration with the Forestry Commission of Ghana and the Ministry of Lands and Forestry. The Chapter was then known as the Ghana Gold Fields LCA Chapter until it was registered in 2011 when it acquired its legal status as a company limited by guarantee. It is now known as the Leadership for Conservation in Africa Ghana (LCA Ghana).

However in hindsight, which of course is always perfect, the strategy in Ghana was faulty. For one business or donor to ‘go it alone’ might be an option because it is so much easier to get things off the ground, but it is not sustainable, particularly when vast amounts of funding is required. This strategy of one business or donor taking the full stage, eroded some trust with companies who were initially interested in coming on board; and three years later concerted efforts was required to not only bring those companies who were initially involved back to the table, but also to make the public (who is a very important stakeholder and funder) aware of the LCA Ghana and its work. What made this re-establishing of trust extremely difficult were also competition and mistrust amongst potential partners and donors, and the obstacle of politics within and amongst already partnering businesses and organizations. Politics within a company and/or organization can destroy months’ of hard work in mere weeks. Internal politics led to the tight-knit working group who made LCA Ghana a fast growing entity, disappearing nearly overnight leaving many initiatives hanging or dying, setting up the LCA Ghana for a slow collapse. And unfortunately the backbone support was missing because of fear of alienating a major donor.

What should be put in place to lead to the success of the LCA (and its various chapters) are the five conditions of collective impact identified by Kania and Kramer:

  • Common agenda – does everyone involved really truly share the 2020 Vision, or is it only about the free publicity and being able to chalk it off as CSR? Not that I think publicity is bad, but I find that sometimes that is the main aim, instead of a secondary, happy bonus result.
  • Shared measurement – does the organization collect data and measure results consistently across all participants on a continuous basis? Do they collect the hard lessons learned and try and improve.
  • Mutually reinforcing activities.
  • Continuous communication.
  • Backbone support – although this might refer to the LCA head office, it also means to me that a chapter should be run as a separate entity, with staff with specific skillsets reporting back to a board.

The LCA last weekend had its annual (although in this case it was eight months later than planned) council meeting. I trust that the strategies devised there are implementable and based on new innovative thinking and that the organization will not continue to base its work on outdated methods. It is of paramount importance that the LCA achieve its Vision 2020 because without it, vast tracts of nature will disappear forever.

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Sunday, 21 July 2013 00:21