WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards


Catch up on all the latest news, blogs and FAQs about the Conservation Innovation Awards here


It’s what you’ve all been waiting for – the Conservation Innovation Awards are taking place tonight!

Thank you so much to everyone who submitted big, bold ideas to change the game for New Zealand’s nature. We received a record number of 47 entries this year, and choosing the winners was very challenging. Check out this highlights reel featuring all the 2017 entries.

Winners will be announced at the award ceremony tonight. We can’t wait! You can join in the fun on Twitter and Facebook – we’ll even be live-streaming some of the action, so no-one has to miss out.

In the meantime, check out this amazing video featuring 2016 award winners talking about how their innovations have been taken to the next level. It leaves only one question – what’s next for 2017?

Don’t forget to keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook for updates, and we will be getting in touch soon with more information about the winners.

Kia ora folks, as you know the 2017 Conservation Innovation Awards has now closed. We had lots of great entries and 35 finalists made it past the milestones.

The finalists' ideas are currently being assessed and winners will be announced at the Awards ceremony on 22 November.

In the meantime, excitement and interest in the 2017 Awards is increasing and there has been fabulous media support for our finalists

Check out some of these great media stories:

WALL-E 2.0 – Robot cleaner conservation award finalist (NZ Herald/Kapiti News, Oct 25) and Kapiti News (25 Oct 2017).

TADS (Thermal Animal Detection Systems) – Thermal-imaging camera could be the next big thing in pest control (NZ Herald/Kapiti News, Oct 18). This  story also ran in the Dominion Post Wellington (17 Oct 2017), Dominion Post Wellington (19 Oct 2017), Taranaki Daily News (19 Oct 2017), Timaru Herald (19 Oct 2017), Waikato Times (19 Oct 2017), Manawatu Standard (19 Oct 2017) & Upper Hutt Leader (25 Oct 2017).

Make Every School a Forest School – Whanganui proposal to ‘make every school a forest school’ finalist in Conservation Innovation Awards (River City Press 19 Oct 2017), Whanganui forest education project finalist for WWF award (NZ Herald, 25 Oct), River City Press (19 Oct 2017) & Wanganui Chronicle (25 Oct 2017).

Māori Carbon Farming Cooperative – Coast carbon faming initiative a finalist in innovation awards (Gisborne Herald, Oct 18), Opotiki News (24 Oct 2017) & Whakatane Beacon (25 Oct 2017).

Te Rarawa Noho Taiao: Growing the next generation of Iwi environmental leaders - Northern Advocate (19 Oct 2017), Marae enterprrise sowing a seed for the environment (The Northland Age, 2 Nov 2017) & Northland Age (2 Nov 2017).

The Baleen Filter – Preventing Plastic Microfibres from entering our oceans- The Breeze (Oct 8) & Radio NZ National Wellington (16 Oct 2017 3:04 PM).

Hihi Feeders "Capture, Identify, Advocate: Bringing Species back from the Brink" – Anderson's pitch to save the hihi (NZ Herald, 14 Oct), Wanganui Chronicle (14 Oct 2017) & River City Press (12 Oct 2017).

Supermarket for Surplus Food to Reduce NZ's Food Wastage – Dominion Post Wellington (17 Oct 2017).

Tend your Planet/War On Weeds - blogappsheet (25 Oct 2017).

If you know of any other news about the 2017 finalists, please let me know as we’re regularly sharing CIA news on Facebook and Twitter. It would be excellent if you can please share these social media posts with the #tag #ConservationInnovation.

Louisa McKerrow lmckerrow@wwf.org.nz

We discovered that our colleagues at WWF in the US are runing a crowsourcing challenge as well and thought some of you would have innovative ideas to share with them.

The WWF US Forest team is running a targeted 30-day crowdsourcing challenge  asking the crowd (that's you) to identify ways or messaging to leverage finance, how it can be accessed, and how this would help sustain a global alternative energy program. 

A prize of US$5000 is up for grabs by the winning individual or team. Enter here before 7 November to be in the running.

Ideas will be voted on by the crowd throughout the challenge and a committee of forest and energy experts will make the final selection of the idea that is the most financially and technically feasible.

How to get involved

There are lots of ways that you can get involved with the community. Whether you have ideas of your own you'd like to post, or if you'd just like to vote or comment on ideas posted by other users.

Check out the Forest Finance Challenge website to find out more.

Let's show them some kiwi innovation!

Today, 35 finalists have been announced for WWF-New Zealand’s 2017 Conservation Innovation Awards, including from Far North, Auckland, Raglan, Hamilton, East Coast, Waikanae, Martinborough, Palmerston North, Wanganui, Wellington, Upper Hutt, Dunedin, Nelson and Christchurch.

There were 47 entries logged from Kiwis across the country. Winners will be announced at the Awards ceremony in Wellington on 22 November.

Meet your 2017 Conservation Innovation Awards Finalists (listed per region):

  1. Hannah Smith Auckland Ur-bins (Urban Rat compost Bins) 
  2. Leigh Nicholson, Auckland Hanging Gardens of New Zealand - The new wonder of the modern world
  3. Andrew Lee, Auckland Restoration Drone for Polluted Waterways
  4. Michael Fielding, Auckland The Urban Rat Project
  5. Steven MacLeod, Auckland A data collective allowing communities to collaborate and share knowledge, leading to better community engagement and more Tui
  6. Sam Lindsay, Auckland Permanent Forest Bond - A Better Way to Finance Permanent Forest in Aotearoa
  7. Dan Ducker, Auckland, Tend your Planet/War On Weeds
  8. Paul White, Far North Te Rarawa Noho Taiao: Growing the next generation of Iwi environmental leaders
  9. Nigel Binks, Hamilton Investigating the weird, wonderful and sometimes freaky biodiversity of the Waikato: Engaging community, iwi and schools in biodiversity science
  10. Kevin Bain, Hamilton One self-resetting trap that kills both Possums and Rats
  11. Ecologist BW, Hamilton Autonomous Weed Eaters
  12. Jennifer Mcguire, Raglan Kiwi Trailblazers
  13. Maha Fier, Waikanae WALL-E 2.0
  14. Joanne Jackson, Martinborough Swimming with e-coli
  15. Chris Muller, Palmerston North The Drone Ranger – an aerial wildlife tracking system
  16. Allan Anderson, Wanganui Hihi Feeders - "Capture, Identify, Advocate: Bringing Species back from the Brink"
  17. Jack O'Carroll, Palmerston North The KOTAHI project
  18. Dani Lebo, Whanganui Make Every School a Forest School
  19. James Prier, Wellington Compost and catch, spreading the predator free movement  
  20. Abby Robertson, Wellington Supermarket for Surplus Food to Reduce NZ's Food Wastage
  21. Gerald Dickinson, Ngaio, Wellington Thermal Imaging to unmask what is in my backyard
  22. Marty Taylor, Wellington Te Wānanga Papa Taiao Pāuaua / Earthcare Enterprise Academies
  23. Pavel Plotinnov, Wellington Ultimate Domestic growing machine
  24. Chris Fink, Wellington Rooftop biodiversity hotspots
  25. Jordan Munn, Upper Hutt, TADS (Thermal Animal Detection Systems)
  26. Manu Caddie, New Zealand Māori Carbon Farming Cooperative
  27. Shannon Weaver, Dunedin Restoring the oceans abundance using seawater electrolysis- a marine conservation initiative
  28. Nathalie Wierdak, Dunedin Guardians of Zealandia
  29. Gemma McGrath, Otago Fluke & Flipper: Enhancing the Hector's Dolphin Sightings App
  30. Jeremy Stead Nelson The Baleen Filter – Preventing Plastic Microfibres from entering our oceans
  31. Christine Cleveland, Nelson Eco-Zoning
  32. Daniel Cutmore, Christchurch D.I.Y SmartGarden
  33. Kirsty Brennan, Christchurch STREAMED – A community-based online water clarity monitoring tool
  34. Grantryan New Zealand (Cacophony project Collaborative high tech solutions to make predator elimination thousands of times more efficient
  35. Squawk Squad Squawk Squad

Congratulations to all the 2017 Awards finalists! 

The Conservation Innovation Awards will reward innovative environmental game-changers. Designed to help innovators fast-track their ideas to development, the Awards cover three categories – Engaging young people and communities, Predator Free New Zealand 2050, and an Open Category. A prize package of $25,000 will be awarded to each category winner. 

The 2017 Awards are supported by The Tindall Foundation, Department of Conservation, Callaghan Innovation, Predator Free 2050 Ltd and New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge.

Hurry up folks– 4 days to go!

Posted by Louisa McKerrow (Admin) Oct 11, 2017

We’ve been so impressed by the quality and variety of the ideas that are being submitted.

You can get involved and help choose which ones pass to the next level and be eligible to win $25k! Check out some of the ideas that still need your votes to pass to the next level.

Te Wānanga Papa Taiao Pāuaua / Earthcare Enterprise Academies

Squawk Squad

The KOTAHI project

HIHI FEEDERS - "Capture, Identify, Advocate: Bringing Species back from the Brink"


Ultimate Domestic growing machine


Check out all the bright ideas for conservation here.

We need your feedback to help find and refine the next game-changers for the environment.

What do you think of these ideas?

Compost and catch, spreading the predator free movement

Collaborative high tech solutions to make predator elimination thousands of times more efficient

Restoration Drone for Polluted Waterways

The Drone Ranger – an aerial wildlife tracking system

Anywhere, anytime DNA diagnostics for conservation



Are they really new and unique, do you know of anyone working on something similar, how could they refine their ideas to increase the impact? Are they real game-changers for the environment?

Get voting, and share your opinions, comments and suggestions.

If you’ve got a bright idea - there are just 4 days left to enter the Conservation Innovation Awards! So get your ideas up - your entry needs time to gain feedback and pass the milestones (by midnight, Sunday 15 Ocotber) to be eligible.

Ideas pass milestones by winning enough votes and feedback from the Conservation Innovation community to refine ideas. They can then pass to the next stage and be considered by our judges. Not sure how milestones work? Read all about it here on our How to Meet Milestones blog.

Nga mihi, Louisa

We're excited to have so many great ideas submitted in the 2017 Conservation Innovation Awards CIA!

As of today, 17 entries have been logged from across the country, including Dunedin, Nelson, Auckland, Raglan, Kerikeri, Hamilton, Martinborough, Wellington and Waikanae. And we are welcoming many more entries.

Each idea entered now has to pass milestones before midnight Sunday October 15 to be eligible for final judging by our expert panel. As part of the milestones, ideas need to win 30 votes from the Conservation Innovation Community 

We don't want a great idea to get missed because not enough people saw it and voted for it!

So folks, we encourage everyone in the WWF Conservation Innovation community to join in by commenting and voting on these ideas. We want to tap into your knowledge of community conservation and hear what YOU think will work as the next bright new ideas for nature!

And yes, it’s completely achievable to attract 30 votes. Recommended read is from 2015 entrant Paul Stanley Ward - How to win votes and influence conservation innovation who said “if we are a community project that couldn’t rustle 30 votes, then it’s not a great starting point for consideration is it?”

About Milestones
The Awards has 4 milestones that ideas must pass:
• submitted
• support
• originality
• refine

An idea needs 30 votes to pass the support and originality milestones.

To pass milestone 4 (refine), idea authors are asked: "You have great support for your idea already – people think it is viable and original. Have you received any comments or seen any other ideas here that have made you think differently about your idea? What could you improve? Who could you collaborate with?"

How to get ideas through to the judging panel
For entrants
1. Read the Application Guidelines to make sure your idea fits with the purpose and criteria of the awards.

2. The judges will be assessing each idea based solely on: 
- information submitted online to the Conservation Innovation Awards 
- comments on your idea in the Conservation Innovation Hub.

3. Make sure your submission is clear and focused:
- be specific in naming the issue you want to solve
- and how your idea will benefit front-line community conservation.

4. To generate support and pass the voting milestones for your Conservation Innovation Awards idea - a great way to do this is by using social media.
You can do this with the social media Share function on your entry page, adding the recommended #tag and tagging WWF-New Zealand.
Our recommended #tag is #ConservationInnovation
If you Tweet about your entry, please tag @WWFNewZealand
If you Facebook post about your entry, please tag @wwfnewzealand
(WWF-New Zealand is re-sharing/re-Tweeting posts throughout the Awards)
For more details: Making social media work for your #ConservationInnovation idea

For Community

1. Click here to find out How to comment and vote on ideas

2. Check out ideas

3. If you can see an idea really taking off, give it your vote. The idea needs to be, in your opinion, a viable solution to the stated problem. Is this a problem you have experienced? Can you see this solution working for you? Then give it your vote!

4. Is this idea taking a new approach? Have you seen this somewhere before - or is there a similar idea in this challenge? Use the comments function to find out if the idea authors have done their homework! If you think the idea is truly original – give it your vote!

Let’s support the 2017 game-changers for innovation!


Vespula wasps are having a devastating impact on NZ environment, people and economy.

The Nelson Mail and Stuff yesterday launched Wasp Wipeout, a community-led conservation project that aims to significantly reduce German and common wasp populations in the Nelson-Tasman region this summer.

Wasp Wipeout was a 2016 WWF Conservation Innovation Awards (CIA) finalist and Vespex® was a 2015 WWF CIA winner. Read on for project introduction by Victoria Guild, Nelson Regional editor...

Anyone who has encountered a wasp knows how nasty the insects can be: they attack baby birds in their nests and fledging native bats, remove a huge amount of food sources from the ecosystem, as well as having awful stings.

This summer, Nelson Mail is mobilising the whole community to significantly reduce German and common wasp populations in our popular conservation, recreation and urban areas.

The battle plan is to use the extremely effective wasp bait Vespex (developed right here in Nelson) and place bait stations across the region.
To do this, Nelson Mail is leading a crowdfunding campaign to get more bait stations out across the region. The more we can raise, the more bait stations we can put out and the greater chance we have of solving Nelson's wasp problem.
German and common wasps
These wasps are introduced invaders that feed on our honeydew-rich beech forests, fledgling bats and native baby birds. The three national parks surrounding the Nelson region are prime breeding grounds for the wasps.
What is Vespex?
Vespex is a low toxicity, protein based bait that's laid in bait stations in late January and February, when wasps change to a protein-based diet. It's safe for bees and pets. Find out more at: www.merchento.com
Who else is involved?
The Nelson Mail is coordinating with groups such as the Department of Conservation, the Tasman Environmental Trust, Nelson City Council, Tasman District Council and pest control groups, to work collaboratively to knock back the wasp populations. We'll be publishing stories discussing the wasp problem and the difference we can make.
Five businesses have already committed $9500 to the project. If you'd like to join them, you can do so here.
Join the battle
If you'd like to do it yourself by organising your community, or neighbourhood, to bait in your area then you'll need an approved user to buy the bait and a couple of volunteers to put out the stations. One small bucket can cover 50 homes. All the details on how to DIY are here at www.merchento.com/vespex

Imagine visiting a national park, going for a bike ride, or holding a picnic or bbq at one of our popular outdoor spots without having to worry about pesky wasps ruining your day!

Join the battle and register your interest here.

For more information, check out: 

Why are we getting involved in wasp control?

Mini-documentary looking at the impacts of wasps

Wasp Wipeout: A community-led project reclaim our outdoors from pests

Wasp Wipeout: Frequently asked questions

Many thanks everyone for your support of the Conservation Innovation Hub this year. Did you know we now have 2088 supporter profiles, with nearly 600 new supporters this year!

And it’s been a great year for entries – 41! Our 2016 entries attracted an impressive 742 Likes and 446 comments. Entries came in from across the country including – Rotorua, Martinborough, Upper Hutt, Wellington, Auckland,  Nelson City, Motueka, Golden Bay, Paekakairki, Marlborough Sounds, Te Puke, Katikati, Stewart Island, Christchurch, Thames, and Lake Hawea. Many thanks to everyone who submitted an entry.

There were 20 finalists for the 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards. Well done to:

The winning ideas for WWF’s 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards will be announced tomorrow. The Kiwi innovators behind these winning ideas will each be awarded a $25,000 grant to recognise their contribution to innovation in conservation.

Stay tuned for the results...

You can read about the 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards here:









An interesting idea worth talking about…

Craig Allan, from the Dollhouse Construction Company, is exploring partnership opportunities within New Zealand in the form of developing and or manufacturing components essential to the construction of the building houses out of recycled plastic.

The Dollhouse Construction Company’s Plastixhomes entry is not eligible for the WWF-New Zealand Conservation Innovation Awards, as an ideas submitter must be a resident or citizen of New Zealand or that group or entity must be either registered in New Zealand or carrying out business in New Zealand.

However, the Conservation Innovation Hub is all about inspiring, generating, and developing new ideas, so please read on to learn more about Craig’s idea…

“Hi my name is Craig Allan, from the Dollhouse Construction Company. I am a 53-year-old man from South Africa, currently living in Waihi, New Zealand. For a long period of time, I’ve had this idea which I believe will rid most of the world of the excess plastic by building houses out of recycled plastic. I went onto this WWF site with my idea, because I studied wildlife conservation and game ranging in South Africa. My passion is wildlife and the conservation of it.

I am looking for a partner from New Zealand who wants to do something about the excess waste plastic problem which affects oceans and wildlife.

Plastic waste could be sourced from community-based collection stations and sea waste. This idea is new and unique – it has not been done before. This idea could benefit world wide communities by means of waste collection and eliminating housing problems.

I have this idea of building houses out of recycled plastic. All the framework and trusses can be constructed out of plastic. A fire retardant is added to the plastic to make the building more fire resistant. In the case of a fire, the plastic will slowly melt and parts that have melted can be replaced as they are needed. Wood – on the other hand – can rot and decay.

In my design, all the framing is extruded in waste plastic to the standard sizes of building. Standard 3x2,4x2,6x2 beams are extruded for lintels. The good thing is that plastic doesn’t expand and contract as much as wood. Plastic can be cut and fitted together like wood.

Two litre soda bottles - that are a total menace to the environment - are filled with excess plastic wrappers and bags, and fitted to the inside panels of the walls for insulation purposes. These are also sprayed with fire retardant material so it will not burn. Once the frames and panels are in place, the walls can be jib borded as per usual. Another option is to jib the interior and extrude weather board for the outside.

If you are interested in hearing more and seeing the drawings, please contact me.  I am looking for a partner who is from New Zealand who want to do something about the excess waste plastic problem to clean up our oceans through building houses with extruded recycled plastic. This project needs investment for development, awareness, and start up capital for machinery and collection.

My email is robcraigallan@gmail.com


Have You Heard About GIFT?

Posted by Louisa McKerrow (Admin) Oct 10, 2016

The Gulf Innovation Fund Together (GIFT) is a new fund initiated by Foundation North to inspire and support innovation to improve the mauri of the Hauraki Gulf. 

They are looking to find and work with people who have an idea that they would like to test, develop or prototype that has the potential to significantly improve a key environmental issue facing the Hauraki Gulf.

Ideas that are a strong fit with the principles of GIFT:

  • Are innovative (the idea will apply a new approach to an existing problem or have the ability to accelerate impact)
  • Will specifically benefit the Hauraki Gulf
  • Address a key environmental issue facing the Hauraki Gulf (please refer to the State of our Gulf Report 2014)
  • Use a holistic paradigm

To help with your idea development there are great resources on the GIFT website.

October & November Workshops

They are running a number of workshop sessions where people can share their ideas, network and find out more about GIFT.

The workshops will be run as a collaborative process with opportunities for networking, feedback and support.

To register for a workshop: http://www.giftofthegulf.org.nz/labs/

Thursday 20th October.10am-2pm at Foundation North (50 Ponsonby Road, Auckland).

Focus: Education/Technology/Communication solutions that engage the community to resolve the environmental issues facing the Hauraki Gulf

From their recent workshops and through social media channels, the GIFT team has heard a lot of ideas about how to engage the community to resolve the complex environmental issues facing the Hauraki Gulf.

They are interested in connecting with people who have ideas and experience to affect change by engaging the community through environmental education, new technologies or media campaigns.

If you have a new idea or would like to work together to increase the impact of current programmes, the GIFT team would love to see you there.

Friday 11th November. 10am - 2pm at Foundation North (50 Ponsonby Road, Auckland).

Focus: General ‘Share your Idea’ session

This session is for anyone who has an innovative idea to improve the mauri of the Hauraki Gulf.

For more information on GIFT:

W: www.giftofthegulf.org.nz

F: Gulf Innovation Fund Together

T: @HaurakiGIFT

Do you have an idea that could be a game changer for New Zealand's voluntary conservation army, and our precious wildlife?

Would you like $25,000 to take you to the next level and get your brilliant idea out into the world?

If you want to be the next great kiwi innovator get your ideas ready now …. the WWF 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards are NOW OPEN!

Detected a great idea for nature meme

WWF is rewarding fresh ideas that will help front-line conservation volunteers to protect New Zealand’s special places and wildlife.The third annual Conservation Innovation Awards will be open for entries from 26 September to 14 October 2016.

We want to hear about any gadgets, tools or innovative projects that you’ve developed to make tackling conservation obstacles, like eradicating invasive pests and saving native species, a little easier.

Last year’s winners were a wasp-killing bait, an iwi-led restoration project and a new-generation lizard monitoring system. 

Be inspired by the success stories of previous winners on the WWF New Zealand website.

“The WWF Conservation Innovation Awards has allowed me to buy the hardware I needed to develop Trap Minder. Without it, I would still be pitching it, not developing it.” 2014 winner Gian Badraun.

We’ve created a crowdsourcing website that allows people to get feedback and refine their ideas over a three-week period. So if you have an idea, enter today to take advantage of the power of the crowd and see what the future of conservation might look like!

If you are involved in community conservation in New Zealand, we want to hear from you too. As well as new ideas we want to generate conversation and feedback from the people on the front-line of conservation. Please visit our online Conservation Innovation Hub and let us know how the innovative ideas submitted could help your project.

"The Conservation Innovation Awards are a great way of sharing ideas for conservation around New Zealand and building a community of conservation innovators." 2014 runner up Rachel Fewster, Auckland University

Please share this message with your networks and print out a poster for your workplace. We want to get everyone talking about conservation innovation!


Any queries message Community Conservation Coordinator, Becky Wilson, through the Conservation Innovation Hub or email at rwilson@wwf.org.nz

How might we best spur new ideas for nature?

It's been a pleasure to be part of this year's Conservation Innovation Awards since the day it launched. I've watched the momentum build, the ideas flow and the conversations spark. Most importantly, I've heard stories of people who wouldn't normally speak up and throw their hat in the ring, do just that.


I've spent the last two and a half years running Design & Innovation Challenges and supporting emerging projects & ventures to improve youth wellbeing in Aotearoa, and I've seen a variety of online platforms which try to do the same for different causes. My last 8 years has been spent on a mixture of volunteer management for environmental restoration with CVNZ & Raleigh International, social enterprise development with Enspiral, technology ventures such as Bucky Box, and community building for a social lab called Lifehack.


When I heard WWF were planning to use Crowdicity, I was excited to see what it would bring forth. In a previous year I'd applied for the Conservation Innovation Award, but the process just seemed very stale - fill in an application form, wait for a panel to pick their favourite, and then receive a notification whether or not you'd won. It felt like it was missing the interesting trends of crowd participation, collaboration and discourse.


This year has been a different feast all together. 


How it began

When I saw that the applications were open to everyone, I was excited. It broke down the "people will steal your idea" culture which is stifling innovative ideas from ever getting off the ground (it's OK, no one will steal your idea, people), and promoted the very things which will help shape those ideas and let them loose in the world - Social Capital and Critical Thinking.


So I jumped in early - I think there were about 3 other ideas at the time. I posted my first idea for Visual Reporting for Restoration Groups which I've been brewing for the best part of 3 years - having blended my personal & professional experience as a volunteer and volunteer manager, engaged others in research, explored social enterprise business models, and prototyped to gain feedback. From my experience building projects and ventures, I know it's wise to try lots of little things to help shape the idea over time, rather than building something based on a lot of assumptions and little evidence - so whilst I've been building my skills and capacity in other projects, I've been developing Volunteer Impact quietly in the background, building a crowd of interested people.


It was to these people I posted a blog post and a call out on Facebook about my first idea - Visual Reporting:

Facebook Post about Volunteer Impact


I was amazed by the feedback and very quickly my idea was propelled to the 'People's Support' milestone, comments began to flow, and then I hit the 'Originality' milestone a day or so later. I was delighted that the idea caught the imaginations of people, but the real reason I wanted to enter the innovation challenge (as well as the prize money) was the vital new connections to be made and the critical thought which comes from people who know the sector better than I.


Whilst my idea has been honed over countless discussions, surveys, observation and ethnographic methods, it sits in the context of the wider Conservation & Restoration movement, and it's intrinsically based on grassroots organisers. I wanted to reach more of them and see what they had to say.


Buoyed by the first idea's success, I launched the second big feature idea which people have been telling me they're keen to have as part of Volunteer Impact: Photopoint Monitoring.

Hero Image of Photopoint Monitoring by Volunteer Impact


Critical thinking began to flow

The application process has limited characters to try to keep us concise, and on point. This is helpful to give a snapshot of the idea, but not so helpful to let people dig into the detail - this is where the Comment threads were invaluable.


The first few comments allowed me to explain some of the claims I made - such as huge reductions in admin time, and increases in funding and volunteer engagement. Some people chipped in with other things they'd seen which might have a similar vein - such as graphic design tools, or apps. The next layer of comments down were the most useful ones however - they challenged me to build on my idea and hone it further into something which would create value for restoration groups and their stakeholders. They were characterised by people sharing links to existing processes and frameworks for reporting which were time consuming and largely paper-based, or built on clunky old technologies which were in need of an update.


Soon enough Volunteer Impact was across the line with some refinements, and into the pool of Finalists for judging!


Connections began to form

Through the process of these awards, I've received several great connections through the comments, through social media, and some requests on LinkedIn too! Whilst these are in the early stages, it's heartening to see that people are keen to connect, as well as suggest other projects in the awards which it would make sense to speak further with about integrations and collaboration - it makes perfect sense for services such as Volunteer Impact to team up with research teams where possible, as well as other complementary products & services.


There are several ideas which are mutually supporting such as Trap.NZ, CatchIT and my Volunteer Impact which people had a tendency to want to encourage to merge. Yet exactly what we need in the sector is diversity of ideas and approaches which are nimble and compatible - this is strength and resilience. I was led to muse about it on the CatchIT comment thread:

Conservation Innovation comment thread


Through the process I've also decided to explore Citizen Science as a dimension for Volunteer Impact's future, and booked a date in the diary with Kimberley Collins who has a fair bit of experience in this topic, to do a mini hackfest to get an NZ Citizen Science directory off the ground!


Where to from here?

I see there's two main parts to this question; my project, and the WWF Conservation Innovation Awards.


For Volunteer Impact

Volunteer Impact banner

I'm committed to seeing this project come to fruition as I now feel excellently positioned to lead and execute on the idea. 3 years ago when I first proposed it, I felt like I didn't quite have the capability to execute, but having spent the intervening time immersed in the world of design, innovation & social entreprenurship, I feel like I have the capability to bring this to life. I do hold out hope that the judges will pick out my idea as one with promise, as the money will enable me to build a tight little team of designers and developers to refine and bring the project to more restoration groups. That said, if we don't win, we will still do the same, just over a longer period of time (likely a year or two, instead of a few months). Our aim is to build a sustainable social enterprise focused on leveraging technology to enable and empower the environmental sector and the volunteers who flow through it.


You can follow our journey on our blog, sign up for information on our website, or spark up a conversation with us on Twitter.


For WWF 

Conservation Innovation Awards


It feels like this has been an exciting forray into running an open innovation challenge for WWF. Having investigated a range of models from around the world, I think there's a lot of exciting places that WWF could go from here - such as looking at setting up a more permanent environmental innovation lab (based on social lab design or programmes like Smart Energy Challenge), or running more face to face events, meetups and opportunities for people to engage meaningfully with the problems and possible solutions.


Personally, I'd like to see WWF and other innovation challenge conveners use their sector-wide relationships and insight to help to identify and focus more collaborative energy toward key areas which need addressing. This might look like naming a couple of key challenges - such as Zero Predators, increase Youth Volunteering, or Citizen Science hardware - and running engagement programmes based around these. It may also mean dropping the "idea first" style of innovation challenge, and moving to a model where ideas are co-created by participants of the challenge - something we've found extremely empowering in our work with Lifehack.


Whatever happens, let's keep our eye on the prize - thriving and flourishing biodiversity in Aotearoa!


Picture this – you’re sitting in front of the TV when an alert pops up on screen; there’s been an incursion at one of the predator traps you’re monitoring. Instead of pulling on your boots and jacket you quickly swipe to pause Coronation Street and prepare to launch a drone. Later, as you settle back down, another alert pops up; the incursion is now dealt with. Sounds like science fiction? It could be closer than you might think.

In 2014 WWF launched New Zealand’s first ever Conservation Innovation Awards, with the tagline of finding ‘new ideas for nature’. The product category and $25,000 were awarded to TrapMinder, the brainchild of inventor Gian Badraun. TrapMinder is an automated trap monitoring system that could one day feature drones to remotely control predators in isolated locations, saving countless hours of leg work.


New Zealand conservation is currently at a turning point. Despite our best efforts nine out of 10 kiwi chicks born in the wild will not survive. This decline is not unique to kiwi. New Zealand species are among the most endangered in the world.  With our Department of Conservation woefully underfunded, the scale of the challenge is escalating. Voluntary groups are being asked to do more, yet funding and other support is not keeping pace. If we are to turn this around, we must work smarter; we need to innovate.

New Zealanders are known for doing just that. One such famous innovator was Timaru’s Colin Murdoch, a prolific inventor who produced over 40 patents before he died in 2008. 

Colin’s most important invention was the disposable hypodermic syringe, a revolution in healthcare. But he also had a passion for conservation, and while working to control wild goat and deer populations, he had the idea that the animals would be easier to handle if a dose of tranquillizer could be administered from a distance. The result was the tranquillizer dart, now a vital tool in wildlife conservation around the world.

Image of tranquilized rhino attended by wildlife conservation staff    

Colin’s ideas were not developed in isolation; he knew that for ideas to blossom, they must first be fostered through collaboration.

WWF’s 2015 Conservation Innovation Awards will seek to harness this very spirit of working together in the search for our next Gian Badraun or Colin Murdoch. For the first time, inventors, conservationists, inquiring minds and ideas people will be able to propose, critique and refine ideas in real time through this online ideas platform. It’s a 21st century way to answer our most pressing conservation problems, and might just be one small step towards a drone you can launch from the couch.

Get involved in the Conservation Innovation Awards – post your new idea for nature, or comment and vote to help others improve theirs.

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