How do you build a group of volunteers
Many community based organisations do not engage with biodiversity or conservation. Community champions come together at a quarterly Champions' Forum to share lessons, inspiration and to learn from each other. Training at Champions' Forum has included proposal writing, conflict resolution, presentation skills and the biodiversity network. Cape Flats Nature has facilitated community exchanges between Cape Flats community partners and those in the Baviaanskloof and the Cedarberg.We try to counter some of the challenges by getting to know the volunteers and understanding their various motivations for volunteering. We have facilitated training for conservation managers in human dynamics, chairing meetings, case studies and developing management plans and annual plans that integrate biodiversity and social development priorities.
We are frank about job opportunities and take care to explain what we can and cannot offer. We have also learnt to anticipate the lack of resources and additional effort it takes to work with volunteers from low income areas. We understand that volunteers will use their experience as a stepping stone and will move on as other opportunities arise. The value of Partnerships derives from the different expertise, experience and resources which partners bring. Partnerships provide a powerful co-ordinated base to work from, although they need to be carefully managed because they are time consuming and there are inevitably tension.
We realized that deeper development of an urban conservation practice that integrates biodiversity and social development priorities can only happen if we learn from failures as well as successes. Our honesty and gritty engagement about what it takes to do urban nature conservation is inspiring. Even though many people on the Cape Flats are poor and cut off from nature, our work with individuals and organizations have shown that people have had an opportunity to explore and enjoy nature, appreciate and welcome it. However, the pressing issues on the Cape Flats are the big social issues of health, housing, education and security.