Wilderness Conservation Volunteers

Wilderness Conservation Volunteers

India
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Indianwildlifeclub.com (IWC), a Community of Practice (COP)in existence since 2000 has aimed at making wilderness conservation a day to day concern for the common citizen. IWC has networked with NGOs/Government and experts working in wilderness areas and now wish to set up an online Exchange for bringing Volunteers, NGOs/Government Agencies and Funders together. This online exchange will improve effectiveness of on-ground activities taken up by NGOs. IWC will undertake to train Volunteers for suitable NGO/Government Agency Projects and monitor,document and archive the data gathered by Volunteers. The aim is to bring transparency to NGO-Volunteer-Funder interface. By leveraging our online presence IWC seek to make a sustainable contribution in wilderness conservation in India.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

IWC is an evolving online COP–Community of Practice. We engage in sharing Experiences & Knowledge from across the world. We discuss, debate, consult Experts and seek to enlist the common man in the movement for sustainable enjoyment of bounties & beauty of Nature such that each individual contributes her might. As on 13th June 2011, we have 4813 members 4040 of whom are from various states of India. All the states in India are represented on our site. India is the second biggest parliamentary democracy in the world with a growth rate of 8-9% p.a. The demography is skewed towards people under the age of 30. A quick analysis of the age group of our members show a majority in the age group 18-30. The average annual income is around US$ 300-400. Our engagement with this community online is in terms of sourcing content by way of articles, research reports, trip reports and blogs. Most of the content of IWC is user generated. Besides this, we draw experts for our online chats from our user base. The site has been online since 2000. According to 'Alexa stats', "almost all the site's visitors are in India, where it has attained a traffic rank of 34,741. Indianwildlifeclub.com is in the “Wildlife” category of websites. The site has a bounce rate of about 41% (i.e., 41% of visits consist of only one pageview)." In addition we have 639 members in our yahoo group, 725 in IWC flickrgroup, 148 subscribers in youtube and 1818 likes on facebook. Our engagement with the community offline has been mainly through film screenings and photo exhibitions. IndianWildlifeClub.com has produced five documentary films relating to nature and wildlife. Our documentary films have participated and won acclaim in National/International Festivals like Mumbai International Film Festival, 2000, Delhi International Film Festival, 2001, IDPA Awards, Mumbai, 2004, Travel Film Festival, Kerala,2006, Dhan Development Film Festival, Madurai, 2009 and Mediterranean Environment Awards, Turkey, 2009. Most of our Films have been screened by different TV Channels in India, some dubbed in Hindi and other local languages.Some have been acquired by Indira Gandhi National open University (IGNOU) for Environment Education. IWC has done programmes/Campaigns with 1.WWF 2.WPA 3.BNHS 4.Nehru Bal Bhawan 5.Cathay Pacific Airlines 6.Fuji Films and 7.HeeK Children‘s Magazine.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Rapid decline in forest cover is causing a decline in species diversity of the country besides causing man animal conflict. Given the large human population India has, we need to find a balance where, in many areas adjacent to or in protected areas we need to empower and educate people who live in close proximity to wildlife. The passion and resources of NGOs/Government agencies continue to be applied in established ineffective ways. We need to first change our mindset to overcome deep-rooted roadblocks in protecting our wilderness areas. Successful solutions to wilderness crisis elsewhere in the world are not one-shot, immediate result acts. They involve community organization, appropriate technology, transfer of ownership, change in behavior, and long-term maintenance. Integrating these dimensions - one project at a time - is hard, and trying to replicate in other projects is much harder. This difficulty has made our ability to scale the work within our current bureaucratic process impossible. The community of online nature lovers at IWC has reacted positively to a collaborative approach that transparently, and efficiently destroys our roadblocks, empowering us to solve the wilderness crisis. The project targets the community as the prime mover, and drives the conservation efforts of experts, bureaucrats and volunteers to sensitise the community and utilize the power of concern to support and promote conservation measures, which would call for community sacrifice. The emphasis on the community is the innovation.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We propose to offer volunteering solutions, aiming to bridge the gap between potential volunteers and exciting volunteering opportunities around the country by providing active support to conservation initiatives, both governmental and private. Our vision is to create a pan-India network of trained and motivated volunteers who will be instrumental in environment conservation efforts across the country. The programs will be oriented as per the needs of the program intervention and the capacity of the NGO or the organization that engages the volunteers. IWC proposes to organize training and accreditation of Wilderness Volunteers. In order to motivate the volunteers, clear criteria will also be developed to recognize their performance. To help us validate the concept and develop a sustainable program model, we conducted a survey among our nearly 5000 registered users using the questionnaire survey method. Our survey got 273 responses. 78% of NGOS/Government agencies (Total responses 38) and 84% of the potential volunteers (Total responses 233) agreed that the concept will work. The top level anxieties of respondents details which came out in the survey are 1.Transparency between government, Ngo and volunteer (without red tapism, bias) 2.Apex organization to guide, manage and encourage (written contracts, security, orientation, consolidation of knowledge garnered by volunteers, financial accountability) Other major findings are, 62% of the respondent NGOs stated they need volunteers for continuous support work. & 71.1% of them rated “passion” above skill as a requisite quality for volunteers. 84% preferred youngsters in the age group of 18-30. 54% said they would like the sponsorship money to go directly to volunteers others wanted that the money be disbursed through them. 97% of the volunteers rated “nature of work” as the main motivation behind volunteering. 82% volunteers are computer literate and 74% are ready for physical work. 35% are ready to pay for an orientation program while 44% said may be. To our question “Would you be willing to pay to become a volunteer for Government/registered NGOs” 31 % said ‘Yes’. 30% said ‘No’ and 39% said ‘May be’. Based on the above responses, we have formulated the the primary activities as below. 1. Create a technological platform on IWC to select, monitor and connect the Volunteers with the NGOs/Government Departments. Tis will be a web2.0 information exchange. 2. IWC will be the apex organization assisted by national and regional coordinators. IWC will also be the depository of all data gathered by volunteers 3.The ratio of 'paying' to 'sponsored' volunteers will be kept at 30% to 70%.
About You
Organization:
Indianwildlifeclub.com
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Indianwildlifeclub.com

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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Innovation
What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

An intense desire to conserve the beauty and bounties of nature is what persuaded Dr.Susan Sharma to start the first online club for nature lovers in India, IndianWildlifeClub.com(IWC). She studied Physics and holds a Ph.D in Information Systems; pursued a regular job in the banking industry for 22 years. Outside this CV, she has been an avid gardener, loved pets and spent almost all the family holidays in forests watching wild animals. A chance encounter with Subedar Ali, the mahout who was attacked by a tiger, but went back to work after surviving the incident, made her realise the role of the common man in protecting our wildernesss areas. Susan started off as a self-taught documentary film maker on wildlife and nature related issues. Her comfort with information systems led her to look for more intense and continuous engagement with the community of nature lovers. Though India had many conservation organizations, many of them were species driven or talked largely to the converted. To get the large majority involved and create a concept change about saving wildlife and the environment, Internet seemed to be the right medium. That is how IWC was born to share the beauty and bounties of nature through write ups, photos and videos. The site strives to generate income to sustain our online activities and plough back profits, if any, to further the online and offline activities. IWC is a community and is not a lobby group. Regulart feedback from members motivated IWC to formulate Wilderness Conservation Volunteers, a project which leverages the club's online presence.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

This project is about participatory environment conservation, particularly
forests and wildlife. The environmental issues that impact well being of
forests and wildlife are our concern. This project is about the people of India who we believe, are the true owners of its natural heritage. We want to put in place ways in which the community of nature lovers can engage meaningfully, sustainably into conserving forests and wildlife. At present forests and wildlife have become government and select NGO, Individual researcher’s protectorate. Government authorities, NGOs and Researchers want the people out of the forests to protect wildlife while the reality in India is that forests and wildlife cannot be conserved without people’s participation. There are a large number of people in India who are interested in contributing to forest and wildlife conservation but people in general are always at logger heads with the authorities. Tribal people in India have a long history of living on and in forests. Can we think about a future for our forest and wildlife without thinking about the future of these people, is one of the issues we are addressing. In a nutshell we want to bring people, especially the youth of India into forest and wildlife conservation on voluntary basis to make environment, forests and wildlife conservation more transparent and participatory. This we believe, is the only way to protect what is left of our natural heritage. The experiences of the volunteers will be documented in form of reports and these reports will be made available online on our Club website. As our work builds up and reports accumulate we shall categorise, structure them and use this information as a source of revenue. Our online exchange will link existing government schemes with WCV to enhance political, social and economic sustainability.
We will measure our impact using the concept of Social Return on Income
(SROI). Metrics for measuring SROI are being developed by us to fit the
requirement of each project area we involve in. The metrics will cover
measurable environment activities like (Census, data collection, water holes dug etc.) and also qualitative aspects like attitudinal changes among all stake holders, interventions through education etc. These metrics will be directly monitored by IndianWildlifeClub as the primary measures of success of our project. Social, environmental and economic impact of work done by the Govt/NGOs we are associated with will be a secondary measurement of the success of our project.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

101-1,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

1,001-10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

1st year – Pilot phase in India with a target of training 250 volunteers and creating volunteering opportunities for them on regular basis. We also plan to select four NGOs who are already networked with us.
2nd year – Second year of pilot phase in India with a target of training 500 new volunteers and creating volunteering opportunities for them on regular basis. This will be done by networking with schools, colleges, villages around protected areas to identify and train WC volunteers.
3rd year – Third year of pilot phase we will increase our capacity to train and create volunteering opportunities for 500 more volunteers. We will also start networking with South Asian countries for creating similar systems there so an exchange can take place in strategic border areas.

Sustainability
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Local, grassroots projects are the key to solving the wilderness
crisis in India. These diverse efforts involve rural and remote areas
of the country, community ownership, education, change in behavior,
and long-term maintenance and evaluation. Such programs have
historically been hard to scale. While there are many passionate
people working to solve problems locally, we lack a management system
to fund, select, manage, monitor, and share these grassroots, community solutions. IWC offers a platform, process, and human network for funding,
soliciting, selecting, managing, and evaluating wilderness volunteer
projects in India. The vision is to create a participatory decision-making
system to oversee thousands of grassroots wilderness conservation
projects effectively, and transparently. The web 2.0 solution we propose
distributes the work to eliminate bottlenecks and helps people do the work
that they are best at, while eliminating bureaucracy and paperwork. Most
importantly, it reduces competitive behavior and increases cooperation and
knowledge sharing. Our solution also addresses the challenge of scale! By dividing up the work and increasing the number of expert resources at very low cost, IWC can manage thousands of small-scale projects for the long-term: from funding to impact. IWC helps competitors become collaborators; as they work together, learn, and share, we create the impact we desire.

Tell us about your partnerships

We already have collaborations with Academia (Indian Council of Social
Science Research, Indira Gandhi National Open University), NGOs(WWF India, WPA, BNHS etc.) and Government( Ministry of Adult education, Ministry of Environment and Forests). ICSSR has given a project grant of US $ 11,000 to develop IWC as an online environmental portal that will complement formal environmental education. IGNOU has been screening our documentaries and have also empanelled IWC as a content provider for their channel "Gyan Darshan". Collaborations with WWF India, BNHS, WPA etc.have been by way of
extension activities and facilities for, say, screening of our film productions, training in wildlife related activities and sharing of important research findings etc. We also draw from the pool of experts available with them to moderate online chats, write articles for our e magazine, judge the occasional competitions on nature and wildlife we hold online etc. IWC is also an empanelled producer with the Ministry of Adult Education. Forest officials, wildlife experts and zoological experts from the Ministry of environment and Forests as well as State forest departments have extended full co-operation to IWC by allowing access to National Parks and Protected areas and also by sharing their expertise on the website freely.

Explain your selections

The founder has already invested US $15,000 of her savings in setting up
the technological backbone along with robust coding for IndianWildlifeClub.com. We plan to raise seed money from friends and family to start the activities of setting up a web2.0 module at IWC and also recruit the coordinators.
From NGOs with whom we plan to tie up, infrastructure facilities for the volunteers is what we are expecting to get. These will include free/subsidized accommodation for volunteers, arranging local travel etc.

The project will be sent to various businesses in India for consideration
under their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities. The fact that Government Of India is likely to bring in regulation to make CSR giving compulsory for large corporates, is a silver lining. From businesses, we expect to raise the major component of funding which is, stipend to be paid directly to volunteers from rural areas. Businesses will also be requested to help in terms of providing lap-tops with wireless internet connections to volunteers.
The Forest Department at the National Level and regional level is a major partner in drawing up volunteer positions. For work within protected areas they also provide necessary permissions. We also utilise government infrastructure wherever available for training sessions, accommodation in forest huts/guest houses wherever possible for our volunteers.
30% of our volunteers are expected to pay to volunteer. These volunteers are our customers. Also all the volunteers are expected to pay for a week-long training program.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

The project needs strengthening in terms of technology, personnel and
finance in the next three years. Our present team of technical experts needs to spend extra man hours to take up the Project of creating the web 2.0 module for monitoring and consolidating the WCV project work. Upgradation of our servers as well as security systems will also be taken up. Simultaneously we need to appoint 5 WCV Project Coordinators (1 National and 4 regional heads) to identify and profile prospective NGOs/Government Departments. They will also prepare Project Profiles of WCV Projects and inventorize skill sets needed by Volunteers. IWC will place volunteers after necessary orientation-induction training. The WCV Project Coordinators will be full time paid employees who will be equipped to operate from their respective locations and have online connectivity with the Headquarters. We plan to proactively seek donors to fund WCV activities. Major funding is expected from Corporate houses. We are quite confident of getting support of Government departments since our effort involves Public Private Partnership which is encouraged by the Government. In addition about 30 per cent of Indian volunteers are willing to pay for the experience which adds to the sustainability of the concept. Volunteers from South Asia and other nations will also pay for themselves or get sponsorships on their own. At the end of 3rd year we expect to meet 20% of our operational cost from existing activities of IWC, 30% from training activities and the balance from paying volunteers.

Challenges
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.

PRIMARY

Inadequate transparency

SECONDARY

Lack of access to information and networks

TERTIARY

Lack of skills/training

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Inadequate transparency-IWC offers a platform, process, and human
network for funding, soliciting, selecting, managing, and evaluating wilderness volunteer projects in India.
Lack of access to information and networks- The web 2.0 solution we propose distributes the work to eliminate bottlenecks, bureaucracy and paperwork. Most importantly, it reduces competitive behavior and increases cooperation and knowledge sharing.
Lack of skills/training- IWC will utilize all the contacts and networking over the years to get experts in relevant areas to train the selected volunteers for the support work they are to perform for the NGO/Government Department. This training will be arranged at various locations and will be completely hands on and field oriented.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.

PRIMARY

Leveraged technology

SECONDARY

TERTIARY

Grown geographic reach: Multi-country

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

IWC is a live and dynamic exchange which combines people, process, and
technology to help make a sustainable contribution in the conservation of nature and wildlife in India. That said, our first priority is to meet the challenges of implementing an online web 2.0 module geared to meet the requirements of our Wilderness Conservation Volunteer Program. The program has been announced on our home page through a flash banner "Wilderness India needs Indians to work on the ground with NGOs/Government to help conserve our natural resources". Recruiting coordinators to profile NGOs and draw up criteria for volunteers is the next step. Creating a database of potential volunteers from all over the country will be the logical next step followed by organizing training programs.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

We already have collaborations with Academia (Indian Council of Social
Science Research, Indira Gandhi National Open University), NGOs(WWF India, WPA, BNHS etc.) and Government( Ministry of Adult education, Ministry of Environment and Forests). All these collaborations are (except for ICSSR) by way of extension activities and facilities for, say, screening of our film productions, training in wildlife related activities and sharing of important research findings. We also draw from the pool of experts available with them to moderate online chats, write articles for our e magazine, judge the occasional competitions on nature and wildlife we hold online etc. We will continue to draw on these resources for guidance in structuring the project and for training the wilderness volunteers.