Alumni Innovation Fund to enhance cross learning: application process

Gary Martin, GEN Founder & Executive Director

To support the enthusiasm and further build the expertise of environmental changemakers who participate in GESA, the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF) is establishing an Alumni Innovation Fund. GESA alumni (from both the 2011 and 2012 courses, and from future years) can apply for support to continue their interaction with each other, allowing them to further their creative efforts to embrace advocacy, environmental justice and ethical approaches in their fields and to disseminate the results of their applied research to the general public. This Fund would encourage alumni to work together, and with their global networks of colleagues and organisations, to apply their newly-acquired knowledge and skills in collaborative initiatives of shared learning, convening and progressive thinking and action. An important goal of the Fund is to enhance cross learning among academics and practitioners in the field, bringing science, policy and practice together.

Application Process

The launch of the fund is set for September of this year, with an invitation to all GESA alumni to submit project proposals that tap into the alumni’s collective potential for innovation and action to solve contemporary environmental issues. These concept papers will be shared with the entire GESA alumni group to gather comments and suggestions. Final two-page (1000 word) proposals, with an itemised budget, may then be submitted to GDF, which will have them reviewed by a GESA Innovation Fund grants committee. Some of the grants will be given to individuals undertaking their work outside traditional financial and institutional support structures, and therefore with more significant need of assistance. Preference will be given to applicants that have never received a GESA Innovation grant in the past, and only one proposal could be submitted per person per calendar year.

We are anticipating awarding relatively small grants of €1000 to €3000 per person; for group grants these limits would be multiplied by the number of GESA alumni involved (e.g. a project proposed as a collaboration between two alumni could have a budget range of €2000 to €6000 whereas a project involving four GESA alumni could range from €4000 to €12,000).

Requests may be submitted throughout the year, and the grants committee will seek to make a decision within a month after receiving a final proposal. A short report with photos should be sent to the GDF International Program Director within a month after the funded event or initiative finishes, and a short description of the activity with one image should be uploaded to the Global Environments blog.

Eligible Initiatives

The Innovation Fund would entertain proposals that include creative ideas for tapping the alumni’s collective potential for innovation and action to solve contemporary environmental issues. Eligible initiatives would include:

  1. joint projects that would involve two or more alumni in a collaborative initiative (e.g. joint action research or dissemination of results in the field sites of one or more of the alumni); the focus should be on elements that are not typically supported by academic funding councils or institutions, but are integral to ethical and proactive research approaches. These could include, for example, advance consultations and dialogue with communities to ensure research is designed to serve questions and problems identified by local groups; and returning research results in forms of value to communities such as manuals, video, radio, and other means;
  2. collaboration on applied conservation and sustainable development projects designed and implemented by alumni with support from GESA faculty; this could include participation in the planning and development of a new community-based organization, local initiative or non-governmental organization;
  3. participation in a policy venue (e.g. World Conservation Congress, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Conference of Parties of a multilateral environmental agreement, etc.) to increase alumni’s knowledge and practice of advocacy;
  4. accompanying community representatives from the areas the alumni conduct field research to international meetings (such as the International Society of Ethnobiology, which has an Indigenous Forum and a proactive Code of Ethics);
  5. involvement in a future GESA, that is, returning to Munich in August to interact as a resource person with the new participants as a short-term fellow of the Rachel Carson Center;
  6. formal co-presentation of innovative applied research at academic conferences and professional meetings that facilitate interdisciplinary dialogue and exchange, especially as part of a panel of alumni who would participate in a multidisciplinary session;
  7. organization of a workshop at the Rachel Carson Center to follow up on a specific environmental issue; the workshop should have tangible goals and outputs, such as a collaborative document (jointly written paper, edited volume or policy guidelines); enhancement of a website, video or podcast to disseminate results; design of a research tool or approach to analysing data; or development of curricula and materials for training courses, including future GESAs (and regional academies), high school outreach or community-level capacity-building.

* The concept of the Innovation Fund emerged during GESA 2011. Inspiration and some of the specific wording used above are taken in part from the International Society of Ethnobiology Darrell Posey Fellowship Fund, Switzer Network Innovation Grants program and the Buck Kingman Small Grants Initiative of the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program.

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