The GEN Alumni Innovation Fund supports our members’ innovative work with one another, and with their global networks of colleagues and organisations. It enables them to apply their knowledge, skills and approaches developed in GEN events in collaborative initiatives of shared learning, as well as convening for 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.
Over the years, the fund has enabled GEN alumni to design and carry out a variety of projects, including supporting their leadership as organisers and resource people in ensuing Global Environments Network events. We are currently actively fundraising to replenish the fund in order to support future collaborations among GEN alumni. If you would like to know more about these projects, please write to us. If you would like to learn about the application process, read this blog post on the fund.
GEN at the Conservation Optimism Summit
With support from the Alumni Innovation Fund, GESA alumni reconvened at the Conservation Optimism Summit in London (April, 2017) to present at a GEN hosted session titled New Generation of Environmental Leaders Embrace Whole Earth Conservation. GEN members from around the world shared their environmental success stories and showcased the diverse countries, disciplines and sectors that GEN represents. The session celebrated solutions, highlighted the central role that people play in conserving biodiversity, ecosystems and cultural landscapes, and provided examples of exciting, avant-garde Whole Earth thinking:
Developing learning materials to strengthen the Tojol-Ab’al language
NACELE 2017 participant Maribel Hernández López developed a language revitalisation undergraduate thesis project with her classmate Diany Mathias at the Intercultural University of Chiapas in Mexico. As they discovered, in the community of Bajucu, Las Margaritas, approximately 50% of the population no longer uses the Tojol-Ab’al language in a fluent manner, and has some degree of ignorance regarding the Tojol-Ab’al names for words. This problem principally affects children and youth: factors include acculturation (globalization, modernization, migration, use of technology and ideological changes), discrimination (difference and lack of interest in strengthening language) and the educational system (lack of support, lack of resources, no materials to promote the original languages). To address these issues and strengthen the Tojol-Ab’al language in Bajucu, their project seeks to identify the causes and consequences of linguistic changes in the community, conduct workshops to raise awareness among children, youth, and parents on the language and cultural identity, develop learning materials with high school students in the community, teach strategies to strengthen the language, and promote the use of traditional plants in the Tojol-Ab’al language. The alumni fund supported the purchase of a projector, microphone, writing and craft supplies for educational activities. Read more about Maribel’s project here.
NACELE 2013 participants, summer academy alumni and workshop attendees collaborate in 2015 and 2017
The success of the North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange in 2013 (see project below) gave rise to collaborations among our growing GEN community in NACELE events held in 2015 and 2017, once again supported by the Alumni Fund. GEN alumni Kaylena Bray (GESA 2013, Seneca), and Darcie Houck (GESA 2012, Mohawk and Ottawa descent) co-organized NACELE 2013 with GDF and Cultural Conservancy staff, and others, while Inanc Tekguc (GESA 2011, Cyprus) co-led videography and photography. NACELE 2013 participants, facilitators and organisers, Priscilla Settee, Melissa Nelson, Tony Skrelunas and Monaeka Flores returned as lead organizer and resource people to the 2015 NACELE on Mohawk traditional territory on the theme, Nourishing Relations: People, Plants and Place. In 2017, resource people Susannah McCandless, Inanc Tekguc, Octaviana Trujillo and Claudia Camacho were joined in Socaaix, on Comcaac territory in Sonora, Mexico by Constanza Monterrubio Solís (GESA 2015, Mexico) and Thor Morales (GESA 2011, Mexico) for the NACELE on the theme, Collaborating in the Face of Change: Strategies for Biocultural Protection and Defense. Additionally, NACELE 2017 was strengthened by the return of attendees of a pre-Congress workshop organised by Global Diversity Foundation prior to the convening of the International Society of Ethnobiology in Montpellier, France in 2012 Congress—Albert Chan Dzul (Yucatec Maya), Anabela Carlón Flores (Yoeme/Yaqui), Efrain Lionel Perales Hoeffer (Comcaac/Seri), and Laura Monti (U.S.)— as participants, workshop collaborators and administrators.
First GEN regional academy
In 2015, the first Latin American Academy of Socio-Environmental Leadership (ALLSA, by its Spanish title, 1a Academia Latinoamericana de Liderazgo Socio-ambiental) was held in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, from 13-22 November. Entitled Transformative Environmental Learning: Our relationships with biocultural landscapes, the academy gathered 35 participants and facilitators from 13 countries in the beautiful natural landscape of Jarabacoa in a co-learning space empowering young socio-environmental leaders to act and inspire. The event was co-organised by four GESA alumni— Ana Elia Ramon Hidalgo (2014, Spain), Antonia Barreau (2012, Chile), Daniel Abreu Mejía (2014, Dominican Republic) and Yolanda López (2014, Mexico)—who were moved by their GESA experience to refine and apply the model in a Latin American context. They received administrative and programmatic support from GEN resource people Susannah McCandless and Carlos del Campo, respectively. The Alumni Fund supported Daniel Abreu’s attendance at a Work that Reconnects training of trainers workshop with Joanna Macy and GEN resource person Emily Ryan, work which he brought to this first ever GEN regional academy. Read Ana Elia’s blog post on ALLSA 2015.
Return of alumni as GESA resource people
Since the first Global Environments Summer Academy in 2011, ensuing summer academies have enjoyed the return of several alums, providing highly successful contributions and generating cross-cohort continuity. The Alumni Fund supported these returning guests: in 2012, Aysen Eren (2011, Turkey) led participants in environmental games that encourage a connection with nature; in 2013, Girma Kelburo Mensuro (2012, Ethiopia) drew on his expertise to facilitate a roundtable on the stewardship of agro-pastoral landscapes, while Marie Wilke (2012, Germany) led an exciting three-part Advocacy, Law and Policy Workshop. In 2014, Vanessa Reid (2013, U.K.) returned to help current participants develop proposals for joint projects, while Daniel Suarez (2013, Canada) presented in the session, Power and Politics in the Context of International Conservation Efforts. Seline Meijer (2014, The Netherlands) joined us at her workplace, the IUCN offices in Gland Switzerland in 2015 to present on Community Knowledge, Practice and Response to Environmental Change. Since his attendance as a participant in 2011, Inanc Tekguc (Cyprus) has used his leadership and audiovisual skills to document subsequent GEN activities, and guide participants through communications workshops in all ensuing summer academies, working with Eda Elif Tibet (2014, Turkey) in the 2015 edition.
North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange 2013
In October 2013, Darcie Houck (GESA 2012, U.S.A.), Kaylena Bray (GESA 2013, U.S.A.), Inanc Tekguc (GESA 2011, Cyprus) and resource people Susannah McCandless and Octaviana Trujillo met in California to co-organise the North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange 2013, their involvement supported by the alumni fund. The workshop, jointly led by Global Diversity Foundation and The Cultural Conservancy under the auspices of the Global Environments Network, also received support from a Switzer Foundation Innovation Grant, The Christensen Fund, and Bioneers. NACELE 2013 convened dynamic Indigenous leaders from around North America to share their work and their communities’ ongoing actions to protect and restore lands, waters and traditional foodways, and through these, culture and sovereignty. The results of the 4-day workshop were presented at a participant-led panel, “From Conflict to Collaboration: Tribal Strategies for Resistance and Restoration” at the Indigenous Forum of the 2013 Bioneers meeting. Read about NACELE 2013.
Grabbing Green Conference, Toronto: Panel: “Ecological Imperialism and its many faces: new insights into the global green grab”
GESA 2012 alums Manoj Misra (Canada), Kasim Tirmizey (Canada), Rishi Bastakoti (Nepal) and resource person Susannah McCandless collaborated to host a panel at the “Grabbing Green: Questioning the Green Economy” Conference hosted by the University of Toronto, May 17-19 2013. The panel examined the global green grab – the large scale appropriation of lands and resources to environmental ends – through the dual lens of ecological imperialism and ‘accumulation by dispossession’. The GESA alumni’s diverse geographical foci and multi-disciplinary approach provided for a compelling panel discussion, which explored possibilities of community resistance in the context of neoliberalism and the roles of policy and advocacy in supporting community aspirations.
Collaborative Participant Observation at the Second Meeting of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-2), Antalya, Turkey
Daniel Suarez (GESA 2013, Canada) and Katja Heubach (GESA 2011, Germany) joined forces in studying the conceptual framework of ecosystem services, central to the current discourse amongst conservationists. This was to learn about its evolution and identify issues of concern as well as opportunities for practitioners – particularly those active in the Global Environments Network – to intervene in the process. At IPBES-2, they carried out a collaborative event ethnography of the meeting itself, leveraging their respective backgrounds and connection through the Global Environments Summer Academy to bolster each other’s research objectives and generate new understandings through information-sharing, structured interactions over the course of the conference, and the preparation of written outputs. Read a blog post by Katja on the experience.
Kaylena Bray (GESA 2013, U.S.A.), Vanessa Reid (GESA 2013, U.K.) and Yuki Yoshida (GESA 2013, Japan) launched a project to connect initiatives that take socio-ecological wellbeing as a central tenet of their development. Beginning with initiatives that focus on food sovereignty, the alums collaborated with resource people Susannah McCandless and Emily Caruso to build a set of case studies on these grassroots wellbeing-centred initiatives, establish an online platform through which to share them, and draft a synthesis of concepts and lessons learned.
Future Farmers, Owerri, Nigeria: Establishing a Community-Run Training Farm at Amiri Community Girls Secondary School
Nigerian activist and radio-DJ Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu (GESA 2012, Nigeria) returned to his organisation, The Smallholders Foundation, with a powerful ally, international lawyer Marie Wilke (GESA 2012, Germany), and a project grant from the Alumni Innovation Fund. Nnamaeka and Marie’s project supported students to help establish a community-run pineapple and catfish farm at the Amiri Community Girl’s Secondary School. Students engage in the day-to-day activities of the training farm and are further empowered to establish their own, small agri-business upon graduation by the micro-credit schemes funded from the farm revenues.