Design a project to generate evidence. Teams can accelerate the development of a Conservation Evidence Base by thinking about their conservation engagement as a “hypothesis”, and building into it elements of good experimental design, such as: a clear understanding of the assumptions being made in the theory of change; a hypothesis of the change we propose to make through an intervention; identification of controls or counterfactuals for comparison with the project; adequate monitoring to detect change; analysis to determine effect; and, an investment in communication of results, regardless of the project’s “success.” Sharing evidence of failures is just as important — if not more so- than sharing evidence of success.
Finding evidence and building an evidence base. Sources of evidence are many, and may be difficult to locate. Some may be found via literature review using standard scientific search methods, while other evidence will be found in reports, public documents, white papers, data bases, oral histories, social surveys, and many other repositories. Teams should document the methods used (e.g., keywords, databases, key informants engaged, interviews conducted, social media searches) in building the evidence base for their project, and ensure that their synthesis is designed for accessibility and peer review. Because many conservation engagements aim to address similar systems and issues, early investment in comprehensive evidence review and synthesis on major themes would benefit many projects.
Understand the context for sufficiency of evidence. The sufficiency of evidence depends on the context. What will the information be used for? There are five categories of use that should be considered: 1) reducing uncertainties in the theory of change and improving adaptive management; 2) avoiding and mitigating negative impacts; 3) managing legal or reputational risk; 4) reporting to funders and other philanthropic uses; and; 5) influencing others. The specific circumstances within each category should be considered. For example, who are you trying to influence? If you are trying to encourage engineering and insurance companies to alter premiums based on the presence of natural infrastructure for flood risk reduction, this will require rigorous evidence demonstrating a cause and effect relationship. In contrast, the testimony of constituents may be sufficient evidence for convincing politicians of the value of a particular conservation plan.
Provide evidence of causation through experimental design principles. In order to estimate the impact caused by an intervention, it is generally necessary to have data prior to and after the intervention, and to have the same data from a comparable control group that does not receive the intervention. Experimental design and statistical rigor is related to the required level of strength of evidence. Additional guidance on experimental design and rigor is provided in the Monitoring section and in Appendix G.
Capture and share knowledge. Knowledge management and transfer can be a highly leveraged conservation strategy — ensuring that the broader conservation community benefits from experience and investments regarding what works and what fails. Learning should occur in all phases of CbD 2.0. Conservation teams should be attentive to advances in knowledge that occur during their application of the process, and develop the systems and discipline to capture those advances. Documentation and dissemination of information may take a range of forms.