Kanopi : how might we improve the environmental and social outcomes of biodiversity conservation projects? : an exegesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Design, Massey University, Te Kunenga Ki Pūrehuroa, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand
The environmental conservation sector in New Zealand and Australia is not able to keep pace with the scale of the challenges facing it, causing widespread loss of our planet’s biodiversity and the potential for profound societal challenges due to our reliance on ecosystem services. Many of the issues are interconnected and dynamic, brought about through the downstream effects of population growth and anthropocentric worldviews. Change is needed in how the conservation sector is able to operate, which better enables the existing sector stakeholders to create positive social and environmental outcomes. However the sector is chronically underfunded, and thus unable to muster the resources or a collective direction to address the systemic challenges alone. The challenges are complex (dynamic and emergent), yet we find the majority of resources poured into planning-based responses that are inadequate due to their reliance on predictive approaches to the unpredictable challenge. The alternative to planning, is prototyping; a culture rooted in experimentation, adaptation and continuous learning, in order to continually re-orientate efforts to a desired future.
This research project has focused on designing a targeted systems change intervention, rooted prototyping culture, which seeks to challenge power dynamics and the mental models of the types of impact that conservation groups can generate. Through systemic and strategic design, I have generated systems sight, crafted strategy, and developed a portfolio of concepts which serve as both technological and socio-cultural ‘Trojan Mice’ to challenge existing paradigms which limit the sector’s ability to reverse biodiversity loss.