African Conservation Challenge: digital identity to foster trusted community engagement

Ken Banks 4 min read

We’re excited to announce the launch of our latest social purpose initiative – an African Conservation Challenge exploring the use of digital identities to help foster authentic, trusted, dignified online dialogue between communities and other stakeholders engaged in conservation across the Southern Africa region. The Challenge is open to individuals and organisations based anywhere in Africa, and comes with a prize of $15,000.

 

Background

Historically, rural voices have been either missing or largely ignored in much of the debate and decision making around the management of natural resources, particularly wildlife, in Africa. It is widely acknowledged, however, that the involvement of local people is critical to successful conservation outcomes. This Challenge seeks to support the development of an online platform that will engage a variety of stakeholders. These include government officials, conservation leaders, members of the public and, crucially, local communities living close to protected areas or whose land is wildlife habitat, to ensure trusted, respectful, verified and non-confrontational debate on critical issues that affect them, and the policies and programmes of the wider conservation sector.

The overall objective is to help communities take their rightful place as equal partners in policy negotiation, development and implementation processes. We hope to amplify their voices to ensure informed decision-making at national, regional and international levels that reflects the demands and rights of rural people to manage their wildlife. It is believed that an online forum based on the concept of ‘verified identities’ of all participants will help foster authenticity, trust and raise confidence among participants that they are engaging with genuine Southern African community members in their own words, based on their lived realities and experiences as equals at the table.

 

African Conservation Challenge: the details

As part of our Social Purpose Strategy,  Yoti will manage the running of a Conservation Challenge to support the development of a trusted online forum where these critical debates can safely take place. The Challenge will be open to web developers across Africa, and promoted through partners such as AfriLabs, the primary membership organisation for innovation labs in the region. African organisations (or individuals) will be invited to submit a short proposal outlining the proposed functionality and layout of the website.

We appreciate that under normal circumstances any developer would have at least one conversation with their client before firming up a proposal. As a result, entries submitted for this Challenge will be considered preliminary ideas only, and will be judged as such. The final site design and functionality will be determined following discussions between the winning entry, and Resource Africa and Yoti. First and foremost we are looking for interesting, compelling proposals based on the information provided.

In good company

We’re really happy to begin this initiative with the support of some key organisations in Africa.

Kenechukwu C. Chukwu, Member Services Manager of AfriLabs, told us, “This African Conservation Challenge is a great opportunity to support the inclusion of local communities in policy negotiation, development, and other national and regional issues. As a network keen on impacting the African ecosystem, AfriLabs is excited to contribute to, and support, this initiative.”

Additionally, Moreangels Mbizah, Resource Africa Programmes Manager, believes, “For far too long a technology gap has crippled the ability of local communities to participate in public discussion that informs policies that directly affect their lives. This platform will help open up democratic space for respectful and meaningful engagement where rural Africans can express their views, perspectives, and concerns on their own rights, on their own terms.” 

 

Competition next steps

If you would like to take part, please have a read of the African Conservation Challenge overview and submit an entry before the competition closes on the 30th May 2021.

For further background reading, we recommend this excellent Community Engagement Framework by African People & Wildlife  and this very useful paper on Community Engagement in Biodiversity Conservation by Chemonics and Arizona State University.