New research published finds unique CCI Masters in Conservation Leadership to be a success

26th November 2021

A decade after it was set up, research into the impact of the unique CCI Masters in Conservation Leadership published in the Oryx has found the overall impact of alumni increased significantly 5 years after graduation.

The Cambridge Conservation Initiative was instrumental in establishing the unique Masters in Conservation Leadership to address the need for more well-trained leaders who are empowered to catalyse positive change for the natural world. The degree is unique as it is delivered through the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, facilitating extensive practitioner-led and experiential learning.

The Masters was designed from the beginning to address the perceived shortcomings in existing capacity development programmes. Firstly, the course sought to admit students with at least 3 years of professional experience and who would help to address the under-representation of women and those from less developed countries in conservation leadership positions.  The course welcomed its first students in October 2010. Since 2015 the course has been located in the David Attenborough Building, which houses c. 500 staff working across all CCI partner organizations.

The University of Cambridge Conservation Leadership Alumni Network was established to support long term impacts from the course. It has regional groups that meet regularly, an elected global council to provide strategic direction, and has carried out collective activities such as submitting proposals to the CBD post-2020 process.

The evaluation of the impact of the Masters used data from course records, student and alumni perspectives, and interviews with key stakeholders. It found that self-assessed leadership capabilities, career responsibilities and the overall impact of alumni increased significantly 5 years after graduation.

Findings from the evaluation will also help evolve and further improve the programme, including adjustments to the course structure and assessment, long-term support to the alumni network and developing a conservation leadership community of practice.

Conservation leadership capacity development is crucial for the future success of the conservation movement. The Cambridge Masters in Conservation Leadership has demonstrated the value of recruiting experienced and diverse conservationists, focusing on applied issues of leadership and management, and incorporating practitioner-led and experiential learning. Data will continue to be tracked over the next decade.

Read the full research for details of lessons learned and plans for the future: doi.org/10.1017/S00306