MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy:
Continuing the virtual learning journey

The Human Edge
4 min readNov 26, 2020

Launched in March 2018, the MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy is developing leaders in the conservation sector, specifically supporting senior and young professionals from MAVA Foundation’s partner organisations. Delivered by Common Purpose and Mowgli Mentoring who are recognised and applauded experts in their respective fields, the Academy has four cohorts (one French-speaking and three English-speaking); two have graduated, one is currently ongoing, and applications for the fourth and final (English speaking) cohort were received on 5 November 2020.

In June 2020 we shared that, despite the unexpected interruption of the coronavirus pandemic, the Academy continued to maintain individual and group learning, intergenerational relationships and momentum. We did this by providing virtual opportunities for leadership development and mentoring. In this blog post we share highlights of two virtual gatherings which took place over the past few months.

Mentoring Refresher
To celebrate and support our Senior and Young Professionals at the seven-month milestone in their Academy journey, on 24 September 2020 we held a virtual mentoring refresher for participants to:

  • Reconnect with their peers in the MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy
  • Reflect on their mentoring experience and challenges.
  • Refresh: receive peer support, feedback and learn best practices.

Over the course of two sessions, participants collectively reflected on challenges they have faced as leaders since the Covid-19 pandemic began and had a chance to flex their mentoring muscles experiencing intergenerational peer-to-peer mentoring with others across the cohort, increasing the confidence and resilience of participants to navigate and innovate to solve conservation challenges.

Enrolling in this programme was the best thing I did in this scary 2020. I think that this programme has a lot to offer and I can honestly say out of my experience that I managed to change to the better, learn a lot and implement what I learnt at my organization, I am now somehow better at making decisions and I was able to set my short term goals and focus on them.” Lara Kanso, Monitoring and Research Assistant, Shouf Biosphere Reserve.


From 9th-13th November we held the final virtual gathering of the extended Academy year where our learning outcomes for participants were to:

  1. Reflect on their leadership and learning journey so far
  2. Explore and respond to an intergenerational challenge
  3. Learn about and apply a new approach to innovation
  4. Hear about the reality of practicing Leading Beyond Authority when solving complex problems
  5. Broaden their networks and gain different perspectives on a range of topics

Most learning outcomes pertain to the Innoventure process where participants were presented to the Challenge “How can we seize this moment for both people and nature?” and were led through a series of carefully framed steps to figure out ways of bringing innovation to the Challenge.

To start the week, we had the pleasure of welcoming André Hoffmann, MAVA Foundation President, who helped frame the Challenge and shared his vision of the future as participants got to ask their questions. Day 1 closed with Kathleen Bury, CEO of Mowgli Mentoring and her father Tony Bury, Founder of Mowgli Mentoring as they shared their experience and exchanged insights around intergenerational collaboration.

The second day enabled participants to further broaden their horizons as they got to meet and exchange with a variety of leaders working in and out of the conservation sector. These include Aman Khan (Sycomore), Asad Rehman (War on Want), Robin Millington (Planet Tracker), Lizzi Testani (Bristol Green Capital), Jemima Hartshorn (Mums for Lungs), Estelle Banks (Innovation SuperNetwork), Omar Itani (Fabric Aid), Jasmine Salter (Extinction Rebellion UK), Mike Maunder (Cambridge Conservation Initiative) and Zufi Deo (BizGees).

Before responding to the Challenge, we welcomed Julia Middleton, Founder of Common Purpose & Women Emerging from Isolation, as she shared her practical experience of Leading Beyond Authority and how it now applies to the virtual world we have shifted to.

On the 4th and 5th day, groups of five to six participants brainstormed, selected and strengthened five creative ideas which they presented to three Change Lab panelists: Lucy Armstrong (The Alchemists) Vimla Appadoo (Honeybadger) and Thierry Renaud (MAVA Fondation pour la Nature) who gave them feedback and recommendations.

The extended Academy year is nearing the end. Over the coming three months coaching and mentoring continues. We will release a Sharing Learning online module which is designed for participants to transfer their new skills, competencies and behaviours, developed over 11 months, so that peers, teams and organisations can benefit from the transformational changes they have experienced as individuals and duos, as peers and intergenerational leaders.

Cohort 3 will officially end their Academy journey at the virtual graduation event on 21 January 2021. This is one part of the Academy that hasn’t changed, it was always done virtually. This gathering will be a sad moment of closing the year and at the same time it will be a wonderful chance to celebrate and share gratitude for all that happened. We will also look forward as the participants transition to becoming graduates of the #NatureLeaders community and members of a global alumni network from Common Purpose and Mowgli mentoring.

What really makes this program special is that there is now a group of people who have the skills and courage to be empathetic and vulnerable, while at the same time understanding the role, obligations, and responsibilities of a leader. Mindfulness of these qualities has always been important, but especially in the light of the current events.” Marko Pecarevic, Program Manager, Protected Areas and Governance, WWF Adria

Learn more about the participants’ experiences in this video and this blog article and why mentoring and coaching are essential parts of the Academy.



The Human Edge

The Human Edge is a specialist mentoring organisation which aims to unlock human potential which accelerates economic progress and social change.