Importance of Natural Resources

How a TEDx talk is helping save the rainforest | Matthew Owen | TEDxExeter

Reviewer: Denise RQ Hello, lovely to be back here. This time last year,
I was talking to you about Cool Earth, which is a rainforest charity
unlike any other. We’ve turned the conventional
conservation model on its head. We willfully circumvent government
on every level and focused instead on individuals, the families, the villages
that’ve done the most extraordinary job of being custodians of the rainforest
for many generations. But with the onset of the cash economy,
with new outbreaks of malaria, with El Nino floods
washing away that food garden, and four out of five kids suffering
from malnutrition need a helping hand. What Cool Earth does
is something very, very simple: we form partnerships whereby
we help build livelihoods that will actually ensure the rainforest
is worth a great deal more for them than it can ever be to a logger, and more importantly,
creates a sustainable income so they remain in control
of their rainforest. It’s worked well. Thanks to the efforts
of an extraordinary team in Congo, Peru, and Papua New Guinea, we have now, I’m delighted to say,
more rainforests under community control than any other NGO,
any other government in the world. But actually, that’s not why
I’m here today. I’m here today to talk a bit about
the grueling process that is TEDx. You’ve seen
some extraordinary talks today. You’re going to see a few more, and it seems as though they are
absolute walks in the park for these very confident presenters, but I assure you there’s
a lot more going on under the surface. It’s a difficult
and time consuming process that Claire and her excellent team do
to boil down your message into 15 minutes. What I want to talk about
is the effect that that has on Cool Earth, and I suspect for a lot
of other small organizations that get their 15 minutes of fame. Because when you do boil things down,
a few truths come to the surface, not least the authored mission
of mission creep, and the things that your organization
suddenly now finds itself doing, which really weren’t
in the original instructions. Things that you do
because other charities do them. Things that you do because they seemed
a good idea at the time and it was such a nice person
who suggested it. So, when we were looking —
putting together this TEDx talk, we actually realized
we’ve got to put things back and that’s exactly what we did. We did quite a bit of a spring cleaning. We stopped doing certain things, telling our community partners
how to spend the money we gave them. We always tried to avoid it,
but we really stepped back and said, “Look, this is your cash,
it’s your rainforest. What’s going to work best
for your communities?” Equally, and this is a brave thing to do, we stopped employing
so many people in the UK. We employed far, far more people now
in Peru, Congo, and Papua New Guinea. As you would expect, because it’s them on the ground
that’ll actually have the biggest impact. Then, the other thing we did is insist that every single partnership
had an exit date. Of those three things, I’m sure you can understand
the first two very easily. In particular making sure César Bustamante
– who you may remember from last year – a guy who’s going to know
a great deal more about investing in cacao pruning than I am, so it makes sense for him
to have the money and why were we going out there
every four months. I mean, even our parents don’t have
to suffer that regular contact. (Laughter) But the really important thing
was the exit strategy. Actually, understanding that for all
development NGOs, the enthusiasm, the excitement, the fondling
in the early years of a partnership, actually are the bits
you have to recognize are good fun, but you have to plan your way out of because unless you have a date
when you’re going to leave, things will limp along. The fonding will gradually decline
unless you have a date in the diary when you are actually going to say
thank you and goodbye, you’re going to create the dependency that will probably unravel all
the terrific things you’ve put together. So, now every single partnership
we have, we know, year five, we would have left them
in a far better position they’ve been in than when we first started
working with them. But ultimately, it’s their rainforest
and it’s their livelihoods they will develop. And this has worked very, very well. We put it in place, and you seem to be
quite enthused about this: this time last year, the TEDx audience
protected the 1,000 acres of rainforest in our Papua New Guinea projects,
which were overwhelmed by that. We had more regular givers sign up
than we’ve ever had before, ever. And the fantastic thing
is all but one are still with us. We will chase that person down. (Laughter) But it also gave us a calling card,
it gave us a video, because me drooling over a PowerPoint is not the most exciting thing
for people to get. So actually having a nice video we could
send out, opened up new markets for us. We are now a registered charity in the US;
we’re talking to foundations we couldn’t have
possibly got hold off before. We have Disney now funding
some fantastic biodiversity work. And we have the Michael Uren Foundation
who threw an extraordinary generous gift linked to our TEDx talk, and that is now covering absolutely
every penny of our overhead this year. So anything that we collect in 2016, we’re bringing directly
to our partnerships in the rainforest. And as a result, it’s only four months,
but would be 40% up. This was really just to say thank you
to the TEDx team and the TEDx audience and to really demonstrate
that when you talk about inspiring change, it’s not really just in the audiences,
it’s also in the participants. Thank you very much. (Applause)

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