What's the "Big Idea"?
There’s a pressing case for bringing bold change to conservation and development practice, for throwing off the conventional pressures that for too long have constrained our imaginations, slowed innovation, and bottled up our more creative aspirations. To agitate the best thinking and impulse across our fields, we must be willing to renew and rethink what isn’t working, and to smartly evolve our disciplines into something courageously transcendent of field, brand and benefactor.
To ignite systemic, enduring change at large enough scale, and at a pace commensurate with the challenges rapidly expanding around us, we must conserve and develop. And while our disciplines have flirted with modest partnerships in recent years, calls for our “integration” remain fundamentally cautious and only marginally realized. In too many cases, we continue to develop in ways unmoored to the environment, and conserve without heeding humanity’s call, destining short-term outcomes with long-term costs.
We have a vital obligation to look at what is possible at the deep convergence of our fields, and at the powerful change it can produce and inspire. To not do so – to not aspire to close the gaps between our disciplines and bring our work and designs into greater balance – leaves too much that is too important and too consequential unchallenged. It should be our ambition, and our habit, to unleash creative work from the constraints of conventional expectations demanding our approach match an easy and predictable “identity.” And it should be our practice to engage each other blind to “Discipline,” not in limited and cautious ways, but with healthy challenge to presumptive paradigms. We can do so credibly, respectful of disciplinary expertise and responsible to its teachings, without our perspectives and contributions – or our ambitions – hostage to them.
We have yet to impact to our potential, and yet it’s within our reach. We can reimagine an approach to what we do that unites our disciplines in cause and accountability, elevates the dialogue between us, resists adherence to stale methodologies and metrics, replaces tired terminology, and keeps our focus at once visionary and strategic. Instead of speaking of our “complementarity,” our “linkages,” and our “combined evidence base,” we can lift the conversation between us from one of timidity and tactics to one of unifying vision and common strategy across our fields. We can subjugate concern for “identity” to concern for impact.
In doing so, we can turn over the practical, field-focused insights sitting untapped at the true convergence of our talents, expertise and imagination, insights with the potential to positively transform how we work and what we achieve. No matter our core discipline, we can re-anchor to a vision and a strategy that transcends field and brand, and we can reshape our fields into a singularly impactful, and enduring, practice.
We aspire to do this by launching an appeal for work that is trans-disciplinary, in outlook, in aspiration, and in design.
It’s an idea whose time has come, and one that is a powerful manifestation of our collective obligation to work with a single purpose – to protect and preserve human and wild in balance, in all its forms, no matter our setting or scale, and in a manner and pace in keeping with our challenge.