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Leadership in Delicate Ecosystems: LLC Partners with MAR Leadership

The Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) region is made up of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. It includes the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere (second-largest in the world) and is a globally recognized priority conservation area.

This month the Leadership Learning Community is excited to begin our evaluation of the Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program (MAR Leadership), a program that leverages leadership development as a means to strengthen conservation efforts in the Mesoamerican Reef region. Selecting fellows from each of the four MAR countries (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras), the program seeks to recruit participants from a variety of sectors, such as nonprofit, business, government, and media, to build relationships across silos and strengthen the skills of those committed to the conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef over the 18-month program.


According to the 2012 Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Report Card, the overall condition of the 130 Mesoamerican coral reefs surveyed is dismaying, with 24% of the reef in critical condition, 40% in poor condition, 25% in fair condition, 9% in good condition and only 2% in very good condition. LLC is most excited to pair with MAR Leadership because of our mutual commitment to the environment and understanding of the urgency to conserve the MAR ecoregion. The MAR is one of the most delicate regions in the world, with local economies and livelihoods of almost 2 million people dependent on the health of the coral reef. It is a system of critical and fragile habitats that face constant threats, primarily due to local land-based pollution, overfishing, inland deforestation and abuse, climate change, as well as offshore oil exploration and drilling.  

Focusing on the major threats that face the region, MAR Leadership demonstrates a leadership development model that focuses on goals and outcomes, meaning that they have placed a stake in the ground to make an impact on conservation of the MAR ecosystem. Each year the thematic focus of the program varies according to the varying conservation needs of the reef. This plays a large part in the selection criteria for MAR Leadership fellows. Fellows must submit proposals that inspire bold and replicable projects that will mitigate threats to the reef ecosystem.

In addition, we are thrilled about MAR Leadership’s commitment to leading with a network mindset for social change. MAR Leadership encourages fellows to exchange ideas, information, and connectivity of its fellows for collective impact. In fact, MAR Leadership has taken on the mission of developing a network of multifunctional marine reserves to counteract reef degradation in the region. Over the course of the evaluation, MAR Leadership will undergo a communications analysis where we will be looking into how program participants are currently interacting with each other and program staff, and how they would like to continue interacting in the future. We look forward to studying how MAR Leadership can strengthen its networks in order to create greater collective impact on MAR conservation.

Deborah and I will be flying to Belize and Quintana Roo, Mexico in early February to conduct site visits with fellows and visit their implemented projects. We will also be participating in a program workshop in Belize where we will be interviewing and learning from the MAR Leadership staff and affiliated content experts. A second site visit trip to Guatemala and Honduras is planned for early March. We are thrilled to be learning more about the program, the fellows, and how their projects are impacting conservation efforts in their communities. We will continue to lift up the learning on this particular program and share the lessons learned for the leadership development field. 


Image Source: Mesoamerican Reef Leadership Program (MAR-L) 2012