Innovative design for a sector-wide strategy and policy process for nature conservation in SA.
Collaborative policy design
Nature of SA
The Nature of SA was an 18 month sector-wide partnership to support positive change in our approach to nature conservation. Hinterland helped to facilitate and guide the process in collaboration with the Australian Resilience Centre.
In contrast to the traditional ‘waterfall’ of strategic plan to implementation, we helped structure an iterative process that included prototyping and engaging by doing. Built on the same foundations of resilience and adaptive planning used in conservation work, this created a shared learning structure in the sector that extended beyond the group creating the strategy.
The overall process had four phases: Active listening, Shared Understanding, Engaging by Doing, and Collective Learning and Change (ongoing).
1. Active Listening
In addition to reviewing prior strategies and best practice from around the world, the Strategic Working Group held conversations with more than 400 practitioners across the state. These conversations focused on introducing and tested out new ideas.
2. Shared Understanding
Out of the listening phase, the identified group 9 key areas where a shift in our approach is needed to foster better outcomes. We then brought together 180 leaders from across the state to a forum to introduce, discuss, test, and iterate the shifts.
3. Engaging by doing
By their nature, the shifts are engaged with a global conversation around the edges of our knowledge. They involve new ideas and questions that must be investigated through an iterative process of acting and reflecting, not just talking.
So we ran a prototype grant round (Amongst It, shift #2), hosted leading thinkers (Richard Hobbs, shift #4; Michael Dunlop, shifts #6 and #7), and organised capability-building workshops (Common Cause, shift #9) all as ways to begin to learn more about the shifts in practice.
4. Collective learning and change
The final 'phase' is the ongoing work of collective learning and change, carried out by the hundreds of professionals across the state.
The ideas introduced by the Nature of SA have been and continue to be highly influential in the sector. This can be seen in the new initiatives like Adelaide National Park City and the Nature Festival, shifts in approach by environmental NGOs like Trees For Life and Conservation SA, and changes in conservation approach by groups like Green Adelaide.
The way we designed and conducted the process meant that hundreds of professionals across the sector were able to deeply engage with new ideas and begin to challenge and shift their own practice. This is in spite of an all-too-common story in policy design where a change in government resulted in the project wrapping up at the writing of the final report, rather than moving into an extended implementation phase.
In other policy design processes, this might have meant the Nature of SA would have been a failure. Instead we were able to deeply and clearly influence many strands of conservation work in SA.