Embracing failure in conservation

8th January 2019

Embracing failure in conservation

Everyone likes to talk about success, but for improving the practice of conservation, understanding how and why interventions fail is often more useful than understanding why they succeed.

The aim of this project is to enable CCI partners and their collaborators to better assess, communicate and apply learning from failure. Promoting failure as a crucial step along the road to success.

To do this the project will identify cases of failure from participating organisations, assess the reasons why conservation efforts fail, and bring partners together to discuss how learning from failure can best inform conservation work.

Project Aims

Overall Aim: Conservation practitioners are better able to assess, communicate and apply learning from failure.

To do this the project will:

  • Identify cases of failure from participating organisations
  • Use the cases identified to develop a taxonomy of the reasons conservation efforts fail and to carry out an initial assessment of their relative importance
  • To establish a platform for conservation organisations to present, study and learn from failure, centred around a dedicated “FailCon” event on the topic of embracing failure in conservation.  

Key Activities

  • Project partners each identify a selection of projects, programmes or actions that are considered to have “failed” to some degree and prepare case studies on these using an agreed template for presentation and discussion by the project team
  • Based on the identified case studies, the project team will develop a taxonomy of reasons for failure and assess their relative importance
  • The project will hold a 1-day plenary event, where CCI organisations and collaborators discuss case studies of interventions that have “failed” in one way or another. Providing a risk-free forum to discuss failure and how learning can drive innovation

Conservation Impact

Facilitate more effective implementation of conservation actions, based on an improved understanding of the reasons behind failure and the incorporation of lessons learnt into the design, implementation and communication of conservation action.


  • Published classification of the reasons that conservation projects fail, their relative importance and recommended solutions for avoiding them in future
  • CCI partners present examples of failures from within their organisations and participate in the assessment and FailCon event
  • FailCon event is widely attended and leads to ongoing sharing of failure and lessons learnt between CCI partners and external organisations (including donors)
  • Synthesis report discussing the potential opportunities for sharing information on failures and lessons learnt between organisations

Project Overview

Type: Funded Projects
Theme: Capacity building and leadership
Project code: CCI-05-18-012
Start date: November 1, 2018
Status: Active

Project team

CCI partners Involved


Thumbnail and banner image: Joel Deluxe via Flickr creative commons