More than funders: The roles of philanthropic foundations in marine conservation governance

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Environmental governance scholars have overlooked philanthropic foundations as influential non-state actors. This omission, along with the continued growth in funding from private foundations for conservation issues, presents important questions about what foundations do in governance spaces. To address this gap, we examine The David and Lucile Packard Foundation's involvement in Fiji and Palau in the context of the Foundation's “Western Pacific Program”—a series of coastal and marine-related investments made from 1998 to 2020. We describe and analyze six governance roles that the Packard Foundation contributed to: funding, influencing agendas, capacity-building, convening and coordinating, facilitating knowledge, and rule-making and regulation. In documenting the Packard Foundation's governance roles, we provide scholars and practitioners a conceptual framework to more systematically and strategically think about foundations as more than funders. This research helps move the conversation around conservation philanthropy beyond binary conceptions of “good” versus “bad,” and, instead, toward deeper considerations about what foundations currently do within governance systems, how they engage with diverse practitioners, as well as what they can and should do to advance conservation goals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12829
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Packard Foundation did not enforce rules or regulations directly. Rather, the work of its grantees – supported by Foundation grants for capacity‐building, knowledge generation, policy analysis and reform, etc. – influenced marine conservation rules, regulations, and regulatory bodies in Fiji and Palau.

Funding Information:
We thank all research participants, whose contributions to this work made it possible. This research was supported with grants from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation (grant numbers 2017‐66579 and 2018‐68274) and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies (grant number 1810‐05974). This research is approved by the Colorado State University Institutional Review Board for the protection of human subjects (protocol 18‐7869H). We thank past and current members of our Research Advisory Committee: Heather D′Agnes, Kristin Goss, King Sam, Aliti Vunisea, and Suliana Siwatibau, for their guidance throughout all stages of our research. Lastly, we want to thank the reviewers for their thoughtful and constructive comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Conservation Science and Practice published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology.

    Research areas

  • agency, conservation, environmental governance, non-state actors, philanthropy

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