Megan Cromp, director of Key Conservation, talks us through the challenges facing the field of wildlife conservation and how technology and social media may be able to help.
Firstly, could you give us a brief introduction to Key Conservation, and where the idea for the organisation came from?
We are building an app to help conservationists gain support and funding in real-time. The app has a scrolling feed that will update as needs from conservationists occur globally, while providing three ways for supporters to give. Supporters can give their professional skills, donate money and be alerted to real-time volunteer opportunities through geo-based notifications. After the contribution has been put to use, the conservation organization will send a photo/video update to the supporter to show the outcome and how it made a difference.
The idea for Key came from my own time spent in the field as a wildlife biologist. I found that every organization that I worked with were struggling with the same issues, such as lack of support and funding even while there were so many people around the world who wanted to do more to help. My frustration from this disconnect and my own in-field experiences to make ends meet inspired the idea for Key Conservation.
Personally, where did your own interest in conservation come from?
To be honest I can’t remember a time when I was not interested in conservation, but I think what really kicked off hands-on work was when I read about the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a part of bringing endangered species back from the brink of extinction in some capacity.
The Key Conservation App is currently in development, what will be some of the main features of the app?
Some of the main features are the scrolling Live Feed and the three ways to contribute; funds, skills and in-person. The Live Feed is a constantly updating feed where conservation organizations can post about the issues they are currently facing with direct actionable steps for global supporters to get involved.
The Skilled Impact feature allows you to help an organization with your professional skills like building a website or helping to record drone footage of a field site.
In the Funding feature, you can see individual items that you can help fund, for example; $25 for medicine to help an injured sea turtle or $60 for a new tire for a patrol vehicle.
Lastly, the In-Person feature sends you geo-based push notifications about real-time volunteer opportunities in your area. Here you can see what is happening in your community or wherever you may be on vacation and get involved on site.
There are many other like creating events, earning Keys for helping and more but the Live Feed and the ways to help are our core features.
What have been the major challenges so far in getting the app launched?
The major challenges we have faced to get the app launched has been securing the right development team, raising enough funds to complete development and ensuring the app has a great user experience that will also make the lives of conservationists easier not harder.
Is it fair to say that Key Conservation was born out of frustration with lack of funding for conservation projects?
Definitely. There are incredible conservation organizations around the world who are doing critical work to protect species and ecosystems but usually the world as a whole is unaware of the work they are doing, the team lacks the time to create and run an outreach campaign or they are spending countless hours on grants they may or may not get. Many organisations are unfortunately in survival mode and are struggling to face the daily challenges that come with working in conservation while also constantly struggling for funding and support to do this critical work.
Why do you think such projects are facing these problems, despite more species being threatened with extinction now than ever?
We believe the world as a whole wants to do more but they just don’t know how or feel overwhelmed by the doom and gloom messaging about the environment in general. We are working to empower hope by giving direct actionable steps of how people can make a difference and see the outcome of their support to inspire them to do more.
The app allows people from a variety of backgrounds to aid in conservation efforts, opening up conservation to people who might not necessarily have science backgrounds, was this one of your goals when designing the app?
Yes, being able to crowdsource support, ideas and skills from people from all walks of life with a completely different perspective than someone in the conservation field is powerful. Not only can we help organisations tap into high quality professionals, but they can ask the world for help on ideas for solving some of their biggest issues. Being able to see how your own skills made the difference for an organisation is exciting and we hope it will create lasting relationships between organisation and supporter that can lead to deeper involvement and care about the communities, species and countries where these organisations work.
Photo feedback is one of the key features of the app, in the age of social media, do you think this is a potential way for conservation organisations to evolve and engage new supporters?
Definitely. Knowing exactly how their individual contribution made a difference is the number one thing global supporters said they wanted to see when we were designing the app. We want people to feel like they are in the field with conservationists fighting side by side, seeing their struggles, knowing what they are up against and working together to find solutions. If you can see exactly how your individual contribution was the turning point for an organisation, you will feel a sense of pride and have a deeper connection with the organisation. Our hope is that by empowering hope around the world with actionable steps we can build robust support networks for conservation organisations big and small.
What is your vision for the future of Key Conservation?
We want to help conservation organisations cover their operating costs for planned and unplanned events, so they can focus on long term goals and community involvement. Our hope is to also develop access to the app for researchers, academics and field stations as well as businesses, so they can help drive change with their resources and professionals. We have a few more ideas up our sleeves so you’ll have to stay tuned as we develop!
San Diego, California, USA.