MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy

The MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy is 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.

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 so far, 88 people have taken part from 49 organizations 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.

André Hoffmann, MAVA, Fondation pour la Nature

"Effective leadership in the conservation sector is essential if we are to protect biodiversity for the benefit of people and nature. This investment in our partners will build capacity and capability, both for the individuals who take part and for their organizations. We have chosen to work with Common Purpose and Mowgli Mentoring as leaders in their respective fields.”

  Disclaimer: Video was filmed prior to COVID-19 restrictions.

The need

In 2017, having always planned to close in 2022, the MAVA Fondation pour la Nature was considering how it could best support and sustain its partner organizations to thrive, long into the future. 

The Foundation wanted to address some of the key challenges it had observed whilst working with organizations across the conservation movement. These included:

  • The relative lack of progression and opportunity for young professionals working in the sector and the related issue of succession for partner organizations
  • The scarcity of development opportunities for leaders in the sector
  • The increasing importance for leaders in the conservation movement to be able to collaborate with leaders from other backgrounds and sectors to achieve their goals.
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 senior professionals increasingly collaborate with young professionals


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


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


of mentoring relationships continued beyond the Academy Year

Inter-generational working

Central to the Academy is the idea of inter-generational collaboration. It is designed to:

  • Support young professionals to develop and grow – and promote their progression in the sector
  • Encourage senior professionals to create the space for the next generation of leaders to come through
  • Explore generational differences and in so doing foster creativity and generate new ideas that can take the sector forward.

"Throughout my academy year, I have learned to look at the situation from different perspectives, which allowed me to have diversity in my ideas and further understanding of my senior colleagues’ points of view. This resulted in better communication and collaboration among us, which was translated into a successful project proposal including my own ideas and initiatives, in addition to theirs." 

– Jamal Hamzeh, Senior Project Manager, Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL)

Cross-Boundary Leadership

The Academy focuses on developing leaders who can cross boundaries of sector, organization, professional discipline and generation, so they can create a much greater impact. The Academy’s leadership curriculum is underpinned by "Leading Beyond Authority" – Common Purpose thought leadership, which enables people to work with a wider range of stakeholders and produce change beyond their direct circle of control.

"First, on the personal front and even with people outside my day-to-day circle of colleagues, I noticed improved abilities to communicate and interact with others in different situations. I achieved work that I am really proud of With [my colleague on the Academy] Ahmed we came up with a project that won first place at the COP 25."
– Manel Ben Ismail, Association Director, Notre Grand Bleu


Mowgli Mentoring’s accredited approach means that the senior professionals (mentors) can support the young professionals (mentees) in achieving their goals and developing as leaders. The benefits to mentors include improved communication and active listening, relationship building and coaching skills. This is particularly important in promoting inter-generational communication and understanding.

"I didn't know what to expect from mentoring only six months ago, but I'm very happy that I trusted the process, for it helped me detect and develop skills that are very necessary for my professional and personal development."
– Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director, Zero Waste Europe

Building a lasting community

A key objective is to build a community across the MAVA Partner organizations. The Academy has created a space where participants can share ideas and strategies, and support one another's efforts. What’s more, it has enabled participants to build relationships that will last well beyond the end of the Academy itself.

"The overall experience has been very unique for me. I was very pleasantly surprised by the great ease and the naturalness of connecting despite the fact that all the meetings were remote. To me if under such difficult conditions this happened so easily, I think that the potential to connect with and help others in our daily routine life is immense and this can have a huge impact towards bringing change towards sustainability."
– Spyros Kotomatas, Senior Marine Conservation Officer, WWF Greece

Djibril LY, Monitoring Agent, Parc National du Banc d'Arguin

“We often say, "Alone we go faster but together we go further". In my opinion, this quote expresses well the value of mentoring and of the experience of the Academy in general. The meetings and discussions I had with all my young professional comrades are a source of inspiration that can only be capitalized through the positive spirit of a group. Ours fully played its part. Some experiences cannot be told but rather have to be lived. Thank you for everything.”

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.
Thierry Renaud, Director of Impact and Sustainability, MAVA Fondation pour la Nature

"Investing in projects means that you can have an impact for maybe three or even five years. Investing in leadership development for individuals is likely to benefit the sector for many years to come – for as long as 50 years!"

For more information

You can download more details about the Academy here.

If you have further questions or would like to discuss the Academy with us please contact us.

The MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy will close in 2022 and we are not taking any further applications.

Common Purpose is a leadership development organization that specializes in cross-boundary leadership. A not-for-profit, we run programmes in over 100 cities worldwide. Founded in 1989, we have over 100,000 alumni globally. Our leadership development programmes inspire and equip people to work across boundaries. This enables them to solve complex problems in organizations and in society.

Mowgli Mentoring is a specialist mentoring organization which aims to unlock human potential to accelerate economic progress and social change. Our vision is to inspire and enable effective mentoring for entrepreneurs and leaders to better solve local and global challenges. Over the past 13 years, Mowgli Mentoring has run 130+ mentoring programmes accredited by the European Mentoring & Coaching Council in over 17 countries, across the Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

MAVA, Fondation pour la Nature is a family-led, Swiss-based philanthropic foundation with an exclusive focus on the conservation of biodiversity. MAVA is active in four programmes: Mediterranean Basin, Coastal West Africa, Sustainable Economy and Switzerland. With these programmes, it supports around 200 partners for a total annual budget of 70 million CHF. MAVA Foundation is implementing its last strategic cycle 2016-2022, meaning that it will phase out its funding to all partners by 2022.