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 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.

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

The need

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.
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.


"The MAVA Academy gave me these: the capacity to motivate and to empower young professionals; to lead partners beyond authority; to be an influencer and to influence big decision-makers."
- Herculano de Andrade Dinis, Director, Associação Projecto Vitó

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.


"I'm a biologist, an environmental scientist. I wasn't educated to manage people or organizations… for me, becoming a better manager, working more effectively with my staff, my volunteers, my trustees, developing as a person, as a human being, this was the most important part".
- Daphne Mavrogiorgos, Director, ARCHELON

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.


"The organization was going through a transition. And the Academy gave me the tools, and helped me to actually reflect and zoom out…it really helped me to organize this transition in a better way."
- Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director, Zero Waste Europe

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 Academy has given me tools to empower myself and to realize the importance of taking care of stakeholder relationships. For example, while managing the relationship with a private company, I was able to convince them to gift some land to the local municipality for a wetland restoration project on the condition that WWF monitors the project, and that the area is only used for conservation purposes."
- Teresa Gil, Head, Freshwater Programme, WWF España

MAVA Academy Impact Report


Jovan Andevski, Programmes Manager, Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF)

"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."

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.

To find out more about why MAVA believes that leadership development is so important read their blog.

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."

For more information

You can download the Academy Impact Report 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.

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