The Power of Partnership

Unlocking Nature’s Value Through Collaboration

February 2018

“Does cooperation actually lead to a better environment?”

That’s a central question in the work of Örjan Bodin, a researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. As 2017 draws to a close — a year in which, in many countries, partisan lines hardened and nationalist politicians advocated for a turn inward, away from the global stage — we might ask, “can cooperation lead to a better world?”

First and third photo © Devan King/The Nature Conservancy, © Deng Jia, © Chris Crisman, © Jonathan Grassi, © Ami Vitale, © Kevin Arnold

As a global conservation organization dedicated to improving the future for people and nature, our answer at The Nature Conservancy is a resounding “yes.” The environmental and development problems we confront today don’t fit neatly within national borders — they don’t even fit within discrete sectors. We see this as an opportunity — a chance to forge new partnerships with other institutions, businesses, governments and communities around the world.

Bodin’s research suggests that collaboration alone won’t solve our problems — success hinges on connecting the right actors in the right kind of networks, with organizing help from “trusted coordinators.” Building such networks isn’t easy — but the results can make a powerful difference for people and nature.

Looking back at 2017, amidst persistent challenges there is also cause for hope in how collaborative efforts are creating new opportunities for a better future. In no particular order, here are some of our favorite stories.

Aerial view of Jaguari Reservior, part of Brazil’s Cantareira water system. Photo © Scott Warren

1. Conserving the Landscapes that Supply Our Water

  • Who: Government agencies; utilities; food and beverage companies; farmers, landowners and local communities
  • What: A vehicle to bring water users together to collectively invest in upstream land management and water source protection
  • Why: Healthy source watersheds are vital to the water security of nearly all cities around the world
Volunteers plant trees in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Devan King)

2. Planting Trees for Healthier Cities

  • Who: Medical researchers, city agencies and environmental NGOs
  • What: A 5-year experiment to evaluate the health benefits of urban trees
  • Why: An emerging body of research shows that urban trees are a cost-effective solution to reduce air pollution and support better health for city residents
Conservation Farms and Ranches in Staten Island, California. Photo © Jennifer Davidson/ for The Nature Conservancy

3. Smarter Farming for a Healthier Planet

  • Who: Farmers and landowners; food and commodity companies; soil scientists; policy makers
  • What: Collaborations that advance knowledge of soil science and promote soil health and nutrient management on farms
  • Why: Improved soil management can increase farmers’ yields while also reducing carbon emissions and nutrient runoff
Jordan Mitchell pilots a quad copter drone over a Red Mangrove forest. Photo © Tim Calver/The Nature Conservancy

4. Innovating Our Way to a Sustainable Future

  • Who: Technology companies, venture capitalists, environmental NGOs
  • What: A business accelerator for technology startups focused on sustainability
  • Why: Technological innovation will be crucial for taking sustainability solutions to scale
Clayoquot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Photo © Bryan Evans

5. Nature’s Role in Responding to Climate Change

  • Who: Farmers and land managers; food and commodity companies, timber and wood companies; NGOs; national and sub-national governments; indigenous communities
  • What: New research showing how nature can play a bigger role in fighting climate change
  • Why: Changes in land stewardship can get us more than 1/3 of the way to global climate goals
Members of a turtle tagging project snorkel near Kerehikapa Island. Photo © Tim Calver/The Nature Conservancy

6. Making Smart Investments in Coral Reefs

  • Who: Tourism and travel companies; economic and environmental researchers
  • What: Innovative research combining academic studies with social media data to quantify the tourism value of coral reef — and thus help the industry make more informed investment decisions to support reef management and conservation
  • Why: In addition to generating tens of billions of dollars for the global tourism industry, coral reefs promote healthy fisheries and protect coastal communities
The Black River, near Winyah Bay, South Carolina. Photo © Mac Stone

7. Communities Lead on the Path to Climate Progress

  • Who: National, regional and local communities around the world
  • What: On-the-ground projects to help communities adapt to and mitigate climate change
  • Why: Climate change is one of the greatest threats we face as a planet — but we can make progress through the cumulative efforts of initiatives around the world.

For media inquiries about our global collaborations, contact

Originally posted on The Nature Conservancy’s Global Solutions website, here.

Infographic: The Power of Partnership
Unlocking Nature’s Value Through Collaboration