You work with toilets, whales, and snails…what is the common thread?

The common thread in all of CREE’s work is that: (a) it is an idea or approach conceived by a person living and working within the community and (b) it is an idea that will simultaneously protect the environment and help to alleviate poverty constraints through enhancing human welfare. CREE believes all the ideas in its leadership portfolio are great ones, though they may not be tied neatly together by focal landscapes or groups of wildlife, such as big cats or marine mammals. We therefore ask donors for a little patience to first understand our model and its aims before analyzing the in country focus of work.

Why should funders care?

CREE’s approach and vision is an excellent option for foundations that need to have an exit strategy after their funding expires since support is never permanent. If a foundation provides CREE with an initial investment of say, $20,000, and this helps to spurn entrepreneur led activity that brings in more funders, markets the idea, and delivers on outcomes, then the impact is greater than the project cycle. We believe the face of conservation in the coming century will be innovative leaders from Africa, Asia, and Latin America shaping their own destinies and taking full advantage of a connected and networked high tech world.

Who supports CREE’s model?

Most importantly, the communities themselves! But CREE’s innovative strategy has also been recognized and supported by such prestigious institutions as the MacArthur Foundation, Google, International Coral Reef Action Network, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Royal Caribbean’s Ocean Fund, and Ocean Park Conservation Foundation. We have been publicized throughout online media and on radio by National Public Radio’s Worldview.

How is CREE qualified to evaluate the scientists it mentors and supports?

CREE Staff and Board have over 100 years of combined experience working for small and large non-profits globally. This includes work directly with foundations as well as bilateral AID agencies on projects to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. CREE’s network has been shaped by experiences with institutions including but not limited to: United Nations Environment Programme, World Education, World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Global Ocean Commission, Sea Web, Defenders of Wildlife, World Conservation Union, and Banyan Global. CREE’s Founder is Faculty at George Washington University’s Elliott Graduate School, where he teaches a course on Rural Development, Human Rights, and Biodiversity. He also a member of the IUCN’s Commission on Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy.

Detailed information on CREE’s network of leaders can be found here. Information on CREE’s Founder, Advisors and Board can be found here.

Are there other environmental leaders CREE would consider supporting?

Yes, CREE is always looking to grow its network with global talent. Environmental leaders CREE supports go through an extensive vetting process which involves multiple interviews with CREE’s Founder, Board of Directors and potentially Scientific Advisory Committee, as well as site visits when appropriate. Commitment to mentoring and connecting a scientist is not taken lightly, as CREE’s support network involves established experts in the field of sustainable development who have very limited time. Therefore, CREE wants to ensure that the leader has ample dedication and a permanent commitment to natural resource conservation in his/her home community before selecting a CREE leader. Any company, individual, or foundation can channel support directly to an existing CREE leader. They only need to specify where to direct funds with CREE staff.

To nominate a new leader for CREE to consider, contact and request a CREE Leader Nomination Form. Due to CREE’s engagement model, we are only looking to support leaders born and raised in the country and communities they are working in. Expats who have permanently relocated will not be considered.

Are the leaders or local institution more important?

Local institutions don’t spring up out of anywhere, especially in the locations CREE works. This is why CREE starts with the local leader, who often works permanently at the institution he/she creates. However, once the leader has created the institution, CREE’s long-term goal is support for the institution and we help to bring in other individuals to support the institution besides the leader. These individuals will strategically support him/her with expertise the leader does not have. CREE draws on the richness found within the field of Organizational Development to make sure a strong locally-based institution is created. This includes helping the leader create and update the mission statement, institute strategic planning and evaluation when needed, capture engaging descriptions of their programs and impact, establish and market an online presence, enlist support from a Board of Directors or other advisory body, establish financial tracking mechanisms that are sound, define job responsibilities, etc. 

Do you ever discontinue support?

CREE’s mentorship relationships are long-term. However, sometimes life circumstances necessitate CREE to put its support for a leader on hold or pull out if it is no longer needed. This was the case with our Guyana and Tanzania projects, due to promising opportunities in the leaders’ lives. Past support and impact on these cases are detailed below.

  • Michele Kalamandeen (Guyana)

    Shell Beach, a relatively remote stretch of 90 mile long beach, is located in the Northwestern Region of Guyana, South America. It is the only place is Guyana where four of the world’s seven endangered species of marine turtles, leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), green (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), come to lay their eggs. For over 100 years, these turtles have been hunted by the Warrau, Arawaks and Carib Amerindian communities surrounding the Shell Beach area. This harvest has increased over the years due to a combination of socio-economic factors, a lack of awareness among local hunters, and cases of accidental drowning in commercial fishing nets. In order to conserve these endangered species, harvesters require viable alternative income options and exposure to sustained education and awareness activities and training. As such, CREE worked with local scientist Michelle Kalamandeen to support the creation of a local women’s cooperative (Moruca Embroidery) offering sale of sea turtle arts and crafts as an income alternative to poaching turtles. CREE supported micro-enterprise growth and marketing, as well as provision of needed equipment for the business such as sewing machine and art materials. Support is now on hold until Michele finishes her PhD in England.

  • Bernard Kissui (Tanzania)

    The Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, (the Maasai steppe), of Tanzania hosts some of the most spectacular carnivore populations on the planet; including lions, hyenas, and leopards. The African lion, emblematic of this ecosystem, is perhaps the most threatened of any other lion population in Tanzania due to retaliatory killings by herders (Kissui, 2007). Yet the Maasai people who share the landscape with this magnificent predator often bear the majority of the costs for its conservation. Foremost among these is predation on cattle, the very foundation of Maasai livelihoods, culture, and status, further exacerbating poverty and hardships in the villages of the steppe. While Maasai pastoralists suffer livestock losses due to predation from lions and other carnivores including hyenas and leopards, lions are the most vulnerable to retaliatory killing by pastoralists. CREE supported Tanzania scientist Bernard Kissui in developing and implementing lion proof acacia thorn bomas, providing funding and installation support for the structures as well as provision of medical supplies the community requested. Eventually Bernard was able to grow his program so well that he linked up with a larger non-profit, so CREE discontinued support.