What’s happening in the NGO family?

Everybody seems to be talking about NGOs this week – last week government was shouting at them!

Greenpeace is 40 this week .

WWF is 50 this week.

The late, great, Sir Peter Scott who founded the Wildfowl Trust, now Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and had a lot to do with setting up the WWF – including designing its panda logo – would have been 102 this week.

Peter Marren thinks that there is a need for a new voice for nature in the UK and in an accompanying piece Mike McCarthy documents the grumblings of a few grumpy old environmentalists.  My grumpy contribution wasn’t, I feel, quite as grumpy as that of Jonathon Porritt but you can make up your own mind,

In fact, my contribution was cut short, no complaints, as what I sent the Independent was as follows ” Nature conservation in England has lost some powerful voices since the coalition government came to power.  Independent watch-dogs have been abolished and statutory agencies silenced and their budgets cut.  The conservation NGOs are wildlife’s best hope but don’t always speak with one voice, and that makes it easier for government to ignore wildlife’s needs.  If this were industry, you’d probably be looking at a few mergers and acquisitions to make stronger entities.  In the NGO world, a more coherent approach to lobbying government on behalf of nature is certainly needed.“.

And I did point out that the joint statement by the RSPB, Plantlife, Buglife and Butterfly Conservation was an interesting and potentially important example of joint working before the newspapers began their craze of talking about NGOs.

I’d be surprised if we don’t see a few letters in the Independent over the next few days on this topic.

It’s important, it’s interesting and I’ll blog about it on Monday. But for now can you suggest what mergers, serious or amusing, you might like to see involving environmental NGOs?

 

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15 Replies to “What’s happening in the NGO family?”

  1. Hi Mark,

    Serious merger: WWT & RSPB

    Interesting merger: National Trust & RSPB

    Big Society merger: RSPB & Natural England

    Flippant merger: RSPB & Songbird Survival

    Keep up the good work.

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    1. James - welcome and thank you! I'm surprised you didn't suggest RSPB and Bumblebee Conservation Trust - birds and the bees.

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  2. This is a tricky one Mark. Basically I think mergers are not a good idea for two main reasons, firstly I think it would be inevitable that the overall level of funding for nature conservation would drop as people/ organisations would only pay a single membership instead of maybe two and grants would correspondingly be trimed. Secondly each NGO has slightly different aims which would not be easy to reconcile and would likely cause confusion in the eyes of the public. What I think maybe much more feasible is perhaps for a small umbrella body, no more than say half a dozen well qualified persons, to be established which could speak with one voice for a number of the NGO conservation organisations when needed. Also and most importantly, this umbrella body would establish ways and means of working together more effectively on conservation issues both in the UK and especially abroad. I think this route is much more preferable than mergers.

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  3. Buglife and Bat Conservation - Cricket Bats.

    Butterfly Conservation and Songbird Survival - Butternut Tosh

    WWT and WWF - WTF?

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    1. BTO and WWT - BBOWT

      Marine Conservation Society, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Marinelife and Songbird Survival - All at Sea

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      1. BBOWT already exists Mark: Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust. The Wildlife Trusts already act jointly by affiliation

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  4. Mark - not a merger, but merged action. I wrote this about 6 months ago in response to a discussion within Wildlife & Countryside Link bemoaning the fact they couldn't get people's attention for green issues. At the time the sole response was a telling off for clogging peoples inboxes by sending it to 'all' :

    We've got an emotional issue - forest sales - and the Government's attention - the Forestry Panel.

    How about:

    RSPB wants more heathland. Carbon & deforestation are serious vulnerabilities. Woodland Trust wants more woodland. Confor is concerned about the loss of conifer volume, so why not some mixed woods ? With cross sectoral support those new woods could be much bigger, especially if they breathed life into the carbon code. WT wants its woods closer to people - Ramblers could build a new access agenda based on the rapidly extending peri-urban network of wilder land, led by FC, RSPB & WT. And perhaps an early example could set a planning precedent by attaching a large area of wilder woodland/habitat/ open access to a housing development ? NT ?

    Actions may speak louder than words in a policy free, dogma driven brave new world.

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  5. Mark, You say "The conservation NGOs are wildlife’s best hope but don’t always speak with one voice" ..... If this were industry, you’d probably be looking at a few mergers and acquisitions to make stronger entities."

    I have always welcomed the way that these organisations work together but have had concerns about how they then split apart to publicise their efforts afterwards. Clearly a marketing and PR approach. To be fair the average member of the public doesn't see the joint working but they do see the stand alone publicity, or, as in the case of the forests, the lack of a joint response.

    "If this were Industry". Surely it is. These are not just small groups doing a bit of conservation work. These are businesses with the stated aim of producing a better environment. Some of these are getting on a bit, some have changed for the better, some have kept up with the times and perhaps others could do with looking at moving forward. If a business can improve its profile and market share by a judicial merger or two then I am sure that Conservation Organisations could do likewise. It might make the public and politicians aware of what influence these organisations have and could have in the future.

    This could help the RSPB move away from some people's perception that they only look after birds on reserves. It could help the BTO deal with the "I will go and do the occasional survey but don't really have to join them" and it would help the Woodland Trust deal with the "I am not really sure what they do" attitude. All opinions I have heard recently when out and about.

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  6. Have there been many joint campaigns in the past between environment NGOs? If yes how successful were they?

    If there were mergers one would presume there would be streamlining (like in industry), would this mean less jobs? This might not mean less campaigning, conservation work or effort but surely less manpower might not be beneficial.
    I agree with Alan that combining organisations which have clear distinct focuses might reduce funds and that an umbrella body might be better. Are there any such umbrella bodies currently?
    On general issues, such as planning or climate change, surely most wildife/conservation organisations could agree on a general stance, maybe a few key aims, which they could present to the GREENEST GOVERNMENT EVER. Surely, such a government would support these aims? Maybe not...
    Another thing to think about is whether mergers would result in less media coverage of issues. Currently when an environment story is covered the media get the RSPB, Friends of the Earth, Natural England, Forestry Commission, WWF, wildlife trust etc opinion of the story. If they only went to the one, central organisation, that's only one quote. Good for a clear message, maybe not good for column inches.

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  7. WWF and the Forestry Commission - Tiger Woods

    Wolf Conservation Trust and Songbird Survival - The Dogs' Bollocks

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