How a Seacology Project is Born
It's that time again. Twice a year, I check my email even more obsessively than usual, awaiting the new batch of potential projects to be considered for funding by Seacology's Board of Directors.
Seacology's process of identifying good projects relies largely on our great part-time field representatives. At left is one of our field representatives, Ferdie Marcelo of the Philippines, pictured cutting the ribbon to a new Seacology-funded multi-purpose building in Barangay Rizal, Cuyo Island, Northeastern Palawan. The field reps act as our "eyes and ears" on the ground in the regions where they live. Their knowledge of local conservation issues, community activities, other nonprofits and funding sources, and belief in Seacology's model are invaluable. In several cases, our field representatives have to straddle two worlds: in their home region, communication can be difficult, and travel to remote areas is challenging and unpredictable. By working for Seacology, they also understand the importance of deadlines and prompt responses to requests for information.
The ideal Seacology project involves some sort of trade-off, whereby a community expresses a wish to protect some aspect of their natural environment, in return for receiving some tangible benefit that they have identified. Our field representatives work with island community leaders to help hone a proposal that has genuine benefits for both the village and the surrounding environment. The protected area, whether marine or terrestrial, must be of a size that is both enforceable and realistic for the community. Small, remote island villages rely intensely on their natural resources for food and shelter, and these needs must be taken into consideration.
Fortunately for Seacology, our projects are extremely cost-effective by Western standards. However, freight charges to remote villages far from major shipping routes can drive project budgets up astronomically, especially these days. Our field representatives also have to insure that the Seacology-funded benefit can withstand harsh island weather conditions, meets a genuine need for the entire community, and can be constructed or procured within a reasonable time line.
Once I receive proposed project information from the field representatives, including a detailed description of the project, the size of the protected area, photos from both the community and protected area, a list of local species, a detailed budget, maps, etc., a series of back-and-forth emails begin. My job as senior program officer is to take this carefully-prepared information and come up with as many questions as I can about the project. Since it is my role to summarize the information to our board of directors, I have to anticipate any questions and be able to fill in any information missing in the one-page writeup that they receive.
Fortunately, thanks to the fine work done by our field representatives, my job is not so hard.
Now if you will excuse me, I haven't checked my email in at least 10 minutes!