You might be wondering how conservation groups and leaders have been faring and how they have been doing their work during a pandemic. 


Throughout December, we shared 4 stories of groups working on environmental issues that have found ways to reach their goals in creative and adaptive ways. They continue to make an impact throughout their states, watersheds, and communities.

2020 has changed the way environmental leaders work and connect with each other. We are excited to share stories of those who exemplify this positive change. Please continue to support ICL as we work together to create healthy environments and communities.

[accordion-wrap][accordion title=”Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay”]The first story we’d like to share is that of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s 15th Annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum. This watershed-wide event engages over 400 local clean water restoration and protection practitioners. Forum organizers were shaken this year as they could no longer meet in person to connect and network at their typical location in West Virginia.

Facing the challenge of moving the conference online, the meeting organizers asked ICL to help find new and engaging ways to convene this group virtually. Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay Senior Program Manager, Jenny McGarvey, spotted ICL as a great fit to provide expertise on developing meaningful and engaging remote sessions.

As the Chesapeake Watershed Forum drew near, our Senior Associates, Joy Jackson and Sarah Clark, supported presenters through an online training for everyone and tailored office hours for each session that presenters could use to share their plans and get feedback. Trainings focused on strategies and tools for interacting with audiences in a virtual setting. Forum organizers were especially delighted with the focus on purpose, thoughtful content delivery, and meaningful audience engagement that ICL provided. And many presenters shared how much they learned and how better prepared they felt this year going into the conference.

As McGarvey observed, “I think the amount of work and time that went in to preparing our presenters for the forum this year made some of the best-polished forum content that I’ve seen in the 5 years that I’ve participated in the forum… And I think a lot of that had to do with the time and thoughtfulness that Sarah and Joy put in to preparing our presenters leading up to the event.”

As this example demonstrates, ICL’s expertise impacts the ability to learn, engage, and create meaningful connections remotely. While ICL continues to adapt to meet evolving needs, it seems environmental leaders depend on us now, more than ever.[/accordion][accordion title=”Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments “]The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE) tackles environmental health threats, equity, and environmental justice issues in communities across the country. They also offer a year-long fellowship program. This cohort program gives nurses first-hand experience with a community-based organization and a learning network of fellows and mentors within ANHE.

The pandemic struck a big blow to ANHE and the fellows. It meant they could no longer conclude the fellowship with a large convening in Houston. Because their bonds and direct learning is core to the fellowship learning process, this was so unfortunate. Katie Huffling, Executive Director, described the process this way:

“We had to pivot pretty fast. We had already done all the prep work for a 3-day in person meeting and now needed to quickly make it into something virtual that could have the same power as that in person meeting. That’s how we connected with ICL.

ICL quickly jumped in, helping us craft an amazing couple of days together that were really interactive, fun, and transformative. Both Joy and Sarah were expert facilitators with really great ideas to engage the fellows and mentors. They knew how to create that space we needed for the fellows to be comfortable in this newer virtual setting and still be able to connect with one another. They made sure we were having conversations. The experience ICL brought, which enabled fellows to make those connections, was critical.”

The partnership between ANHE and ICL stoked deeper thought and cross-learning. The result – a virtual, multi-day conference that gave fellows and mentors the ability to deeply share and learn from one another. Despite being geographically dispersed, fellows were able to successfully conclude a powerful year of learning.

As the pandemic and the need to work virtually continues, groups need to innovate and have the highest impact possible. ICL’s expertise and partnership can continue to make a huge difference in 2021.[/accordion][accordion title=” Illinois Monarch Project “]The Illinois Monarch Project began collaborative efforts in 2018 to conserve monarch habitat and ensure the survival of the state insect. As part of a regional effort, the Illinois Monarch Project undertook a statewide goal of planting 150,000,000 stems of milkweed by 2038.

This year, four agencies within the state were set to convene at a summit and sign a state-wide action plan to kick-off the work. No longer able to launch the summit in person, the Illinois Monarch Project partnered with ICL to solve this new challenge. Acting as a strategic advisor, ICL worked with Iris Caldwell, Project Coordinator, and Ann Holtrop, Chief of the Division of Natural Heritage with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. To pivot, the team set out to design an engaging virtual summit that would lead to action. Iris and Ann shared their experience:

“ICL was instrumental in helping Illinois Monarch Project shift gears and transition to a virtual summit series in 2020 to launch the implementation phase of the Illinois Monarch Action Plan. We wanted the virtual summit to be more than a standard webinar series since the success of our work relies on building connections and engagement with new stakeholders.

With ICL’s expertise and guidance, we were able to very intentionally design a series of highly interactive events where attendees met new people, traded ideas and stories, and created a framework to advance the objectives and strategies of the action plan. One attendee even remarked that the breakout sessions were more engaging and effective than what they’ve experienced at in-person events.”

With an expectation of 50 attendees, two Monarch Summit events have each had over 100 registrations! The ongoing partnership between the Illinois Monarch Project and ICL exemplifies the impact ICL can have when we are able to build relationships and provide continued advice and guidance. [/accordion][accordion title=”Institute for Conservation Leadership”]ICL has been fully supporting the critical work of uplifting health, equity, and the environment since the world changed in March. We hope you have been inspired by the stories of innovation and adaptation that those we support have shared with you this December.

While we’ve been supporting others, we’ve also had our own story of challenge at ICL during 2020. Most traumatic for us was that we lost our office when our co-working space abruptly closed in March.

This huge loss caused us to pull together, test ways to connect staff and consultants, find methods for paying bills and storing data, and discover new tools for collaborating. Our team pivoted quickly, completed an unplanned move, and still found ways to support each other and those we serve. While there is still much to work through in the coming year, we need your help to be able to innovate, collaborate and meet our mission in the coming year.

We invite you to support ICL to deepen and continue our work with so many leaders. [/accordion][/accordion-wrap]