The MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy

Common Purpose / 6 min read

An inter-generational leadership programme that strengthens the ability of experienced and emerging leaders to collaborate across generations, sectors and divides to produce solutions to our environmental challenges.

A group of people walking down a trail outdoors

The Academy is a leadership development programme for professionals from the Partner organizations of the MAVA Fondation pour la Nature. It combines the experience of senior professionals with the energy of young professionals so that they are equipped and inspired produce bolder, more creative, and innovative environmental action. It launched in 2018 and 176 people have taken part from 26 countries across MAVA's regions – West Africa, the Mediterranean Basin and Switzerland. It has been run in both English and French, using both a blended approach (face-to-face and online), and in response to COVID-19, completely online.


Video cover

In 2016, the MAVA Foundation began to consider how it could ensure its conservation partners might continue to thrive once its funding came to an end in 2022.

Among the many challenges facing partners, MAVA identified a number of specific needs relating to leadership development, including to:

  • Empower young professionals working in conservation through the provision of leadership development opportunities that unleash potential and enable progression into leadership roles
  • Strengthen personal and organizational resilience by creating networks for young talent, and enhancing the abilities of senior managers to enable young professionals to grow personally and professionally
  • Support leaders in conservation to bridge sectoral, generational, geographic, cultural and professional divides, and engage and collaborate effectively with others, whether they be colleagues, funders, companies, citizens, or political leaders, in achieving their goals
  • Reinforce connections between partners to enable them to support one another after MAVA's closure
  • draw on differences in people, experiences and perspectives 

Pommelien da Silva Cosme
Morocco Programme Director, Global Diversity Foundation
"The Academy encouraged me to reflect on my current leadership challenges through exchanges with both junior and senior professionals. It has made me feel motivated, hopeful and more capable to actually become the leader I hope to be one day!"

The impact


of young professionals are more confident in approaching senior professionals with their own projects and initiatives


of senior professionals are better able to support young professionals in achieving their individual goals


are more willing to explore opportunities for collaboration outside of their sector

Key outcomes

Personal impact

Both senior and young professionals who took part in the Academy have reported greater self-confidence and resilience. We anticipated this would be the impact on young professionals but were surprised to see a similar effect on senior professionals too. The powerful combination of mentoring, coaching, and self-reflection, as well as exposure to inspiring speakers, and the thought leadership of ‘Leading Beyond Authority’, encouraged participants to be more ambitious and believe in their ability to bring about positive change.

Stronger relationships and more effective teams

One of the changes that we have seen amongst Academy participants is a recognition of the need to develop the people in their teams rather than simply to focus on the task at hand. By doing this, they have built teams that are both more effective and more resilient. The Academy continued running through the COVID-19 pandemic and many of the participants have reported that its more human-centred approach enabled them to come through this very challenging time more easily.

Shifts in organizational strategy and culture

The intergenerational nature of the Academy is unique. By bringing together young and senior professionals in the same programme, it was possible to create a dialogue between the generations. This produced positive changes – new initiatives and strategy, and shifts in organizational culture. Young professionals took more initiative, and senior professionals made space for younger colleagues to participate in decision-making. Senior colleagues dedicated more time to the development of their younger colleagues.

Cross-sector partnerships

The Academy gave the participants the opportunity to hear the perspectives of leaders from many different backgrounds and sectors. This, along with their increased understanding of 'Leading Beyond Authority', led to changes in their approach to cross sector partnerships. They reported greater confidence, and ability, to work effectively with leaders from other sectors to bring about positive changes. This shift in approach has produced partnerships with tangible benefits for nature.

The foundation perspective

MAVA have seen enormous benefits from its four year journey of investing in leadership, including:

  • Achieving MAVA's goals – many of the people who participated in the leadership development programmes have taken on more prominent leadership roles.
  • Becoming a better funder – working together with organizations on the development of their staff has given MAVA an insight into their needs and challenges.
  • Supporting Partner's aims – individuals are re-inspired as a result of leadership development and more dedicated to doing their best to achieve their organizational mission.
  • Building a sense of community – gathering cohorts of leaders from MAVA’s Partner organizations has brought the community together.
  • Promoting a vision of leadership – MAVA wanted its Partners to work more effectively across sectors – a vision that was developed over many years of working with a wide range of actors.

André Hoffmann
President, MAVA Fondation pour la Nature
"Leaders in the conservation and sustainability sectors are at the vanguard of tackling today’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. The need for leadership development that helps them pioneer and deliver the solutions we need is only growing."
Jovan Andevski
Programmes Manager, Vulture Conservation Foundation
"Without the MAVA Academy, the Wildlife Crime Academy still would have happened with this magnitude but not with these results. I wouldn’t have achieved the engagement with the participants and this is essential to what we are trying to achieve."

More information

If you have further questions of would like to discuss the Academy with us, please get in touch.


Explore how we support organizations to thrive

Want to discuss solutions for your business? 


By pressing the 'submit' button, you are agreeing to our data privacy terms

Related stories