Funding in Partnership: A discussion with the Oriental Bird Club
At ASAP we are developing partnerships with similar organisations in order to increase support for our Partners and the conservation of ASAP species.
The Oriental Bird Club (OBC) is for birders and ornithologists around the world who are interested in birds of the Oriental region and their conservation. Through generous support of their members and sponsors, the OBC Conservation Fund has supported over 250 projects to date. We spoke with John Gregory, Chair, and Paul Insua-Cao, Chair of the Conservation Committee, from OBC about the ways ASAP and OBC are working together to support the conservation of Critically Endangered birds in Southeast Asia.
Tell us about OBC and what your priorities are.
John Gregory – Over the years we’ve done some excellent work. We’ve funded probably half a million pounds worth of projects since our inception in 1985. A lot of that has been research based, and what we realised was that despite putting a lot of money into research, species were still going extinct. So now we want to move our emphasis towards the coalface of conservation. We want to help save Critically Endangered species.
We know that we are not a big player and cannot operate at policy and government levels. So, our focus is on small projects that change hearts and minds at the community level. Particularly in this way, we want to support direct conservation for Critically Endangered bird species.
Currently, we are building our conservation team which will allow us to be more proactive. We now have a team of five around Paul, and they process the small grants, look at the larger grants, and help to target funds to the birds that need it most.
Paul Insua-Cao – I’m fairly new to OBC in this capacity, having been a member for a few years. What I see is that we have good networks on the ground throughout Asia, and a lot of detailed knowledge. We are all volunteers which is a restraint in terms of time, but also a benefit because all the money we spend goes to projects.
Can you describe the way OBC and ASAP are working together?
Paul – OBC’s focus is on promoting conservation and interest in birds in Asia which is a big geographic remit. I see a big overlap with ASAP. There are too many ASAP birds to tackle alone but working together we can start chipping away at the issues.
We have started working with ASAP to identify potential projects. ASAP has just launched new grant opportunities but there will be interesting and valuable project proposals that ASAP receives but can’t fund, and where appropriate, these are being directed to OBC. This helps us because we are getting conservation project proposals that might otherwise not come to us. This is the first partnership of this sort for OBC, and we want to learn from the experience to support more conservation.
John – Something we can learn from ASAP is how to build connectivity with organisations on the ground that need funding, and how best to channel money to them efficiently.
Paul – Going forward, I also see potential for collaboration around capacity development. This is something that OBC takes to heart. Part of our process is that if we receive a proposal that needs improvement, we spend time with the applicant to sharpen it. I think we can explore this between OBC and ASAP too. Our grants have always been quite small – our small grants have just gone up to GBP 3,000. For conservationists that don’t have a lot of experience, it gives them a chance to manage a small project on their local plot. Our Conservation Officers will have a direct relationship with the applicant and be on hand to provide guidance.
Can you give an example of a project that OBC and ASAP are collaborating on?
John – Yes, on a project with Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre. I’m personally excited about this project, which is for Black-winged Myna Acridotheres melanopterus, Javan Green Magpie Cissa thalassina and Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush Garrulax rufifrons. These are three iconic species. I was in Indonesia 20 years ago and was seeing Black-winged Mynas everywhere, and now they have gone.
Paul – It is exciting that this happened so quickly and is a good example of how our being in regular contact can work. An urgent request for funding came to ASAP which was higher than ASAP could fund alone. OBC was able to contribute jointly to get the project going at full budget. It’s a good model for how we can work together going forward.
John – If we can get these captive breeding programmes to the next stage, where we’re actually putting the species back into the wild, that is what we want to support. When we heard that Cikananga needed emergency funds for operations, it pricked up our ears. We know that they are doing things the right way and preserving the species’ integrity.
Paul – They have the vision and potential to breed for release in the long-term which is what clinches it for OBC. While we would prefer to be supporting in-situ conservation projects we see captive breeding as sometimes necessary when species like these are really on the brink of extinction, something like an Intensive Care Unit for their survival.
For implementing organisations delivering conservation, what would you say the benefits are of organisations like ours collaborating?
John – We’re trying to partner with more like minded small NGOs to bring more projects our way for funding. In addition to the funding benefits we’ve already talked about, we also hope to give organisations a voice through our communications.
We’re a small team, but through our social media and publications, we can talk to the right people. We have two publications: the annual Forktail, which is our scientific journal, and the twice-yearly Birding ASIA. Our publications team is willing to help shape articles for these two publications so that people can get stories of their work out there. We also realize it can be a struggle writing in English when it is not a first language, so we try to provide editorial support. If any ASAP Partners want to share news about an ASAP bird or their conservation projects, do get in touch.
Are there any ASAP species that you’re particularly interested in supporting work on?
John – Something I’m excited to get off the ground is funding small project teams, run by local nationals, to look for species that have gone missing.
Paul – Essentially, if it is Critically Endangered, we’re interested!
If you are interested in birds and bird conservation in Asia, you can become an OBC member by going to: https://www.orientalbirdclub.org/join. Each year members receive:
- Forktail, Oriental Bird Club’s journal, containing papers on distribution, conservation, ecology and biology of the region’s birds
- Two issues of Birding ASIA containing news, recent reports, reviews and feature articles from around the Oriental region.
For conservationists, the OBC gives Small Conservation Awards of up to £3,000 for projects involving threatened bird species and their habitats or to raise conservation awareness. There are two deadlines per year: 31 March and 15 November.
Find out more here: https://www.orientalbirdclub.org/applications
Featured image credit: Anaïs Tritto