WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

Gathering votes
Gathering votes

Volunteer Impact - Impact Reporting For Community Conservation Groups!

Imagine a system which allowed you to track the activities, impact and changes in your conservation project over time, without the pain of spreadsheets.


Our idea is to help environmental conservation & restoration projects capture the impact of their work through simple data input and automated, intelligent visual reports, to increase engagement with volunteers and increase the amount of funding coming in. 


On the other side, we also want to make gathering these reports much more painless for Funders; decreasing the amount of time they need to spend on admin, and increasing the amount of money that can flow to the flaxroots.

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

We're focused on getting more energy flowing into community-led conservation, to reverse biodiversity loss.

Currently, conservation in Aotearoa New Zealand is dependent on the energy and passion of amazing volunteers around the country, as well as the paid staff in our local and regional councils, NGO's and DOC, who provide support and coordination.

These coordinators are typically expected to be event managers, graphic designers, marketing professionals, web developers, OH&S trainers, rangers, photographers, data scientists and report wizards, all in one person. We can reduce this burden with smart technology which automates some of the time consuming parts, and guides them through the other parts with clever prompts and helpful resources.

By doing this, we can create more time for these people to work on what matters - engaging volunteers, focusing on environmental outcomes, and creating more links to help more money flow into the sector through partnerships, sponsorship and more.

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

We're currently investigating building web software which will enable conservation project coordinators to enter data, generate reports, and communicate with volunteers and stakeholders. I am currently developing this through a Masters of Design at Massey University, as well as pursuing setting up a social enterprise to create a sustainable future for the technology.

Data Types

We've already considered capturing "Outputs" as part of phase 1: 

  • engagement data (such as how many people, how many hours etc)
  • activity data (such as trees planted, track built, weeding completed, etc) 
  • locational data (where the activity happened)

We hope to then move on to "Outcome" data in phase 2:

  • this will be based on best practice evaluation frameworks, likely rolling out by conservation activity type - e.g. riparian planting, dune restoration etc.

We're also hoping to move towards Open Integrations in phase 3:

  • enabling groups to move their data seamlessly in and out of Volunteer Impact through API's

What makes your idea new and unique?

Three main aspects:

  • Visual Reporting is under used in the conservation sector, which means we're not engaging the volunteers, committees, funders and potential supporters with the full potential for sensemaking and understanding. We will automate this, so that beautiful reports will be available to all conservation groups, not just the ones with graphic designers working for free!
  • Future-casting - we're investigating the best ways to engage volunteers and build their loyalty over time. Blending psychological motivation, behavioural insights and interaction design, we're looking at how volunteers can project their impact forward into the future, based on the actions they've taken in the past.
  • Integrations - we're working on c21st best practice for building databases which talk to one another via 'API' technology which can move data seamlessly between systems to reduce admin overhead. Such as Nature Space, so live reporting is made more useful.

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

  • Community conservation groups & their volunteers: increased quality of data storage, graphics to engage volunteers, simple reporting to funders. More time to focus on what really creates good environmental outcomes. 
  • Funders: standardised reporting is something many funders have been telling us they're desperate for, as well as ways to 'pull' reports instead of having to bother/chase groups and waste their time.
  • Conservation Innovation Community: we'd like to investigate Open Data initiatives with anonymised sets of data, which would provide insights to drive further advancements in the conservation field.

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

I am leading all of the Research, User Experience and Interaction Design work through my Masters of Design.The grant would be used for the first build of the app which would be accessible to conservation projects around the country. We already have good relationships with the Enspiral Network which has a strong track record in technology projects for social enterprises.

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?


I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2016 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Community Guidelines


List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

1) Trap Monitor - http://bit.ly/2dfV9VT - simple use of tech to reduce overhead of checking traps.2) DroneCounts - http://bit.ly/2e9n8g5 - interesting speculative use of tech to tackle hard to reach areas.3) FenceOFF - http://bit.ly/2dNP8DR - if this is possible, it could reduce costs of creating predator free islands.4) Long Live Kakapo - http://bit.ly/2dAfZ3A - I'm not sure of the science, but genetic diversity is definitely a challenge for many species, so if this is possible, it could be worth investigating. Feels like hard core research funding needed.5) Immersive Conservation - http://bit.ly/2do2y94 - whilst I think that education isn't going to be a fast enough strategic response to tackle the challenges we're facing, I feel like we need to keep the pressure up on experimenting with new ways of educating children and adults about conservation / restoration challenges and opportunities. This is a nice use of accessible tech.

How could you improve your idea?

Some areas I'm wanting to explore:- Enabling the ability for users to collect media (such as photos and videos) and use them to improve the outreach and storytelling. For example, a series of photopoints could be automatically turned into a short video which shows the change in the project over time, a bit like Google Photos 'Assistant': http://bit.ly/1G9F27J- Creating frameworks for groups to tell good impact stories, based on the best practice of groups like Polhill (angling the 'Comms Kit' idea - http://bit.ly/2edYdnz - toward telling good Impact Stories, rather than general online stakeholder engagement). - Integrations - the leading edge of technology which are used + loved, has moved from being about good 'user experience' (UX), to good UX and Integrations. Integrations drastically increase the usefulness of software by creating tight ties with other software products. I envisage automations for Volunteer Impact which open up opportunities for using other products in tandem to support marketing, reporting, data collection, and much more.- Participation - the area I'm most excited about is involving the people who want to use Volunteer Impact in the co-creation of the tool itself. To this end, I signed up for a Masters of Design to develop Volunteer Impact with the support and coaching of senior designers such as Tristam Sparks and Anna Brown. In August 2016 I laid out a participatory design approach for developing Volunteer Impact, currently all at my own cost.

edited on Oct 14, 2016 by Sam Rye

Phill Coxon Oct 13, 2016

Go Sam!


Christopher Wingate Oct 13, 2016

I am hoping to get your support to vote for Dr Maggie Evans who until I intervened only had 2 votes. Her work is critical science to help save critically endangered birds such as the Kakapo. Please take a look and lets all give her our support. We are all in this together. Cheers- https://wwf-nz.crowdicity.com/post/285779


Sam Rye Oct 13, 2016

Done! Do you know anyone who is interested in supporting community conservation coordinators?


Christopher Wingate Oct 14, 2016

Hi Sam. Thanks for supporting Dr Evans. Re conservation coordinators- what is the plan there?


Sam Rye Oct 14, 2016

Well my idea (not sure if you've had time to read it?) is about supporting conservation coordinators and project managers with a tool to track, analyse and report on their progress over time.

We're currently on the look out for first users. Do you know anyone working in this space?


Christopher Wingate Oct 14, 2016

Your app is ready yet? What mobile platforms and is it also PC based? How did you design the various sections- ie; initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals?


View all replies (4)

Sam Rye Oct 13, 2016

Wow, I'm overwhelmed by the reaction to this. Thank you so much everyone! So excited to be through to the next milestone!

I've been thinking a bit about how we might want to refine and improve this idea so please do chime in with any critique and clarifying questions, so I can make some tweaks!


Charley Davenport Oct 13, 2016

Hi Sam - awesome project! I'm really intrigued by this - can you tell me more about why reporting is important to volunteer organisations? Do they rely on this kind of reporting for funding?

Users tagged:


Sam Rye Oct 13, 2016

Thanks Charley - I think it's a really vital one, so thanks for chiming in!

Conservation project coordinators tell me that reporting to committees and funders is a headache which takes a lot of time and effort, and they feel would be better spent on other tasks.

As we explored things together, it became apparent that reporting was also an opportunity, if we could reduce the admin overhead, and increase the amount of time for coordinators to make sense of the data, and change what they were doing to increase the social and environmental outcomes of their project.

Reporting could drive better volunteer engagement strategies, increase the amount of funding coming in, and give them the intelligence to leverage the resources they do have to improve the outcomes on the ground for their project - meaning more habitat and restoration of biodiversity, as well as more people connected to nature.

So yes! I think reporting has heaps of potential, and is central to the work of creating better feedback loops in the groups, and in the sector overall.


Sam Rye Oct 13, 2016

One particular thread of this project which I'm excited about, is the ability to bring a bit more 'citizen science' to the party - enabling community conservation groups to start monitoring actual changes to the area they're restoring / conserving.

I know there's some great best practice monitoring & evaluation kits out there, thanks to some pointers last year from people.

I'm also keen to explore how emerging technology might play a role - such as the wireless sensors developed through the maker movement, and connected to centralised data stores - a bit like this awesome citizen science project from Europe - https://smartcitizen.me/

Any thoughts on citizen science out there?


Alex Whitcombe Oct 14, 2016

Awesome Sam! You get my vote. I really enjoy hearing about how volunteer impact is solving the 'problem' at multiple levels - environment conservation, more direct attention to delivery and execution, telling the impact story and simplified reporting to reduce labour. I would love to see in iterations to come this exact story of value exchange


Alex Whitcombe Oct 14, 2016

..how much time manual labour time is saved by having using volunteer impact and how this time could be repurposed into additional funding for the project. Showing the value exchange is key to demonstrate the win-win situations. Mauri ora! - Alex