CLP is keenly aware of the challenges faced by our alumni during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to lockdowns and other government-imposed restrictions, many of the high-priority conservation projects they lead are on hold. They have also faced the great emotional strain that most—if not all—of us must have felt when considering the risks to our health and that of our loved ones. So, how are we responding?
CLP trainees at our 2018 Conservation Management & Leadership course in Indonesia gather in a circle like this one at the start and end of our course to remember how we are all connected, both during a training and after we all return home. Photo credit: Nguyen Van Truong
The CLP Management Team and Executive Committee are committed to protecting the safety and welfare of our alumni, so we have altered many of our normal plans in response to the pandemic. We have also offered our recent 2020 Team Award-winners a chance to modify their projects or defer their start dates. At the same time, we want to limit how these changes and other regional restrictions impact alumni well-being and professional development.
Our first step in April was to ask the global CLP Alumni Network how we could help. A survey revealed that most respondents were interested in online training and were keen to connect with other alumni. Driven by these insights, CLP is hosting virtual alumni gatherings and offering online learning opportunities, which we describe below.
CLP is hosting virtual reunions for alumni and other participants who met while attending our annual international Conservation Management & Leadership courses. The reunions provide a wonderful opportunity to share conservation news and lockdown experiences as well as reminisce about the course together.
An online alumni training reunion hosted by CLP, which brought together many trainees from the international Conservation Management & Leadership course in Indonesia (2017).
So far, we have hosted three reunions among the 2019, 2018 and 2017 trainee cohorts, with many of the course trainers and CLP staff joining in to meet and greet alumni as well as reconnect with familiar faces.
Many people shared objects that reminded them of the course they attended—of particular note was a beaded bracelet given as a gift by trainee Diana Mosquera to every trainee at the 2019 course in Brazil.
Rafid Shidqi joined the 2018 virtual reunion in Indonesia and later told us, “I’m so glad that CLP hosted a virtual reunion. After two years, it was so refreshing to see many people from my course and inspiring to hear how they are continuing their conservation journeys amid the challenges presented by the pandemic.”
CLP is also hosting virtual check-in meetings focused on alumni wellbeing. Any member of the alumni network can join these calls, offering a chance for them to make new connections and share tips on self-care during lockdown, which has so far included regular exercise, fitting in relaxation time, and stroking a pet cat!
A wellbeing check-in hosted by CLP in June 2020, which brought together alumni from around the world to enable them to form new connections and share self-care tips during lockdown.
Interestingly, some alumni described how lockdown has benefited their work, such as giving them time to plan ahead, write up manuscripts and grant applications, and build connections with more stakeholders.
After the success of these online gatherings, we plan to host more in future, and we’re also scheduling a series of training webinars that will be presented by experts on topics ranging from sustainable financing to conservation evidence.
A new virtual reality?
As restrictions are gradually lifted and the crisis subsides, the CLP team is keen to learn from what we’ve accomplished during the pandemic. It’s likely that international conservation programmes and partnerships will rely more on virtual activities similar to those that have kept the CLP Alumni Network so well-connected and supported over the last three months.
In May 2020, for example, CLP sponsored five alumni to participate in Campo Latino, a virtual collaboration event. We anticipate many more events like these becoming a key part of international conservation training initiatives in the future.
As CLP looks ahead to its first-ever online Conservation Management & Leadership course in September 2020 – when 31 participants will be trained in high-priority topics and make valuable peer-to-peer connections – we are thrilled to be able to continue developing and nurturing the world’s next generation of conservation leaders.
Online learning grants
As an alternative to our normal travel grants, which are temporarily suspended, we are now offering online learning grants. Alumni can use these grants to pay the fees for online courses (up to USD 2,000) that are relevant to their conservation projects and professional development.
In April, we awarded online learning grants to five alumni. One grantee, Upma Manral, has just started the Animal Behaviour: An Introduction online course with the University of Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education to help her understand the behavioural aspects of the human-wildlife interactions she studies.
Another grantee, Maria Nube Szephegyi, has started the Design Thinking course with Platzi, which focuses on the design of innovative solutions.
Describing her experiences so far, Maria said, “For people who come from a scientific background like me, it’s a fantastic way to recover that curiosity and creativity we had before the scientific method. Quite a thing in these times of extreme challenges!”
If, like Upma and Maria, you are part of the CLP Alumni Network and would like to enhance your conservation knowledge and skills, then apply for the next round of online learning grants by the July 30, 2020 deadline.
CLP alumni can find out more about the eligibility criteria and access the application form via CLP’s online network, RootsUp. Those looking to learn online can find various training courses on platforms such as Conservation Careers, Coursera and Udemy, to name just a few.