© Conservation International:photo by Will Turner.jpg


Insights for effective, just, and ENDURING conservation



The Challenge

We live on a human dominated planet. Human activities are transforming the land, the oceans, and the atmosphere that sustain life on earth. No place on Earth is beyond our bounds, as expanding markets and new technologies connect even the furthest corners of the globe. Our influence is so profound that scientists say we have entered a new geologic epoch – the Anthropocene – in which humans are the driving force of global change.

Our Mission

CI recognizes the fundamental role that people play in conserving nature, the benefits to society that can flow from these efforts, and the potential social costs of inaction.  This basic (yet profound) insight is not widely appreciated, but it is at the core of our mission:  

Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity.

Our mission is challenging.  We do not strive for conservation by any possible means, nor do we seek development at any cost.  We focus at the intersection of these two spheres, conserving nature for people.  Our efforts chart a path for a sustainable future – through our actions and by catalyzing the actions of others.


To deliver on this challenging mission, social science is essential.  Social science tells us where to work, how to work, and the consequences of our action or inaction. Because conservation is a social process with social implications, social science is central to conservation science and practice. 




Two cross-cutting priorities complement these six thematic work streams. First, we seek to build a social science community of practice, bringing together the global network of CI staff with social science experience and expertise. Second, we place renewed emphasis on social science research ethics.


These six priorities are scientific cornerstones of CI’s geographic strategies. 

Understanding the values of ecosystems allows CI to identify and focus on places with the greatest potential to benefit society – and to ensure that nature’s benefits are considered by government, corporate, and community decisionmakers. Exploring the spatial dynamics of human-nature interactions allows us to understand how local, national, and international processes shape the flow of benefits and how conservation interventions might enhance or direct these flows to enhance human well-being. Knowledge of local livelihood strategies ensures that interventions are tailored to benefit local peoples; effective stakeholder engagement ensures that these interventions are legitimate, just, and informed by those who are affected. Given that impacts of conservation interventions are defined not only by what we conserve, but also by how we conserve, documenting the impacts of conservation interventions allows us to ensure that we deliver on our promises, learn from experience, and are accountable to others. Social Science aims to understand how to catalyze durable conservation at scale to ensure that CI delivers meaningful, lasting results.



Images © Conservation International/photo by Will Turner, ©Benjamin Drummond, ©Art Wolfe


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