A view from the management coal-face

Richard Maloney is a senior scientist with the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DoC). He was instrumental in implementing PPP in New Zealand. Here he shares a few observations on how an outcome happens. For a good account of what PPP is and how it works, see Decision Point #29.

How does something like the Project Prioritisation Protocol move from research to practice? My thoughts are that it always involves a combination of the science/academic support and the managers/ technicians that make the approach happen, and a group of people who can act as ‘translators’ across these roles. Just publishing an academic journal article isn’t enough to get organisations to shift their practices to more cost-effective solutions. All large management agencies who work on threatened species are often balancing many competing and often undescribed needs. Successful implementation of tools developed generically, often need to be tailored to those requirements, or the organisation itself needs time to shift its structure to integrate new thinking. The process of taking great research tools and turning them into even greater management tools can be very challenging indeed.

In New Zealand many people had been thinking about the problem of the over-whelming volume of work and limited resources for threatened species management for many years prior to PPP. There had been investigations of a range of approaches, tracking the literature, developing ideas in group workshops, thinking at a range of scales (actions, species, ecosystems). All of these things contributed to the thinking behind the development approach that Shaun O’Connor and I took in New Zealand.

Based on our experience, I think there are four important components to moving an output (like PPP) to an outcome (an improved policy for conserving threatened species):

  •  A sound and mature statement and understanding of the problem that needs to be solved. (As a researcher – foster relations, embed yourself in management – and even learn management language.)
  •  Robust defendable tools and approaches showing how the problem can be addressed. (Use meaningful case studies, provide support and interfaces to increase engagement.)
  • Champions of those approaches to take out to support users. (Don’t stop after researching, developing and publishing a new tool or approach. Its only the start point for adoption by managers.)
  •  In-house champions who understand the nature of the problem that needs to be solved and who can translate the approach into their own organisation’s structure and culture and make it relevant to their own managers, scientists and field staff. (Find these people and work with them on tool implementation. They will have an in-depth understanding of their own organisation, and a good technical knowledge of the tool relevant to their own managers.)

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