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Behind the scenes at WWF-Myanmar

What is it like to work for WWF-Myanmar?

Communications Intern, blogger and conservation enthusiast Samhita Gopal Rao tells us about her time here, and what she learnt.

Amidst the hustle of the city of Yangon, lies the quaint and mostly colonial Than Thaman road. The road is bordered by rows of houses, each looking quite similar to the next. But there is one house that stands apart from the others. It is adorned with the familiar logo of a panda. There is a small garden at the corner, where there are a few cloth-covered, paper-mache elephants, a reminder of one of the most successful campaigns of its kind. Upon entering the building, there are pictures of the wilderness, the one they are striving to save. The annual reports of the years since its set up, the notebooks on the office desks, the wall at the entrance, all bear the prized mark of the WWF organisation.

WWF as an organisation that is devoted to helping the Earth and its occupants beat the odds for survival, and, with a team of few but focused individuals, striving hard at a possibility of an improved life on the planet for everyone. To the uninitiated, it may appear to be only engaged in complex environmental sciences and glossy campaigns, but nothing could be further from truth. It undertakes a plethora of initiatives that have a deep-seated and long-term impact on a variety of levels: economic, legal, social, and of course, ecological. These initiatives take on different challenges and deliver tangible results whose benefits reach a wide cross section of society.

Much like the environment that it is striving to save, the initiatives undertaken at WWF are very intricately planned and executed. At every stage of the initiatives, there exists a high level of inter-dependency on a variety of stakeholders, both internal and external. These processes within WWF are affected by three major drivers: by international offices of WWF and the Donors globally, by the government who regulates its activities locally, and by the varied landscape of beneficiaries being the Community, Wildlife, Environment etc.

WWF-Myanmar focuses on 4 out of 6 global goals: Climate and Energy, Wildlife, Forests, and Freshwater. In its pursuit to achieve this, it requires strong support from the Government at all levels including the law enforcement bodies. WWF-Myanmar works in close coordination with the government of Myanmar. This allows them an opportunity to align their conservation drives with the development plans laid out by the government. It is clear much of the ecological deterioration comes from the conflict between society’s need for development and limited resources that the planet has to offer. This coordination with the Government acts to provide a common ground, establishing certain shared interests and goals that allow them to work with one another more effectively, steadily leading towards sustainable development.

It is here that one of the three departments of WWF-Myanmar comes to play a crucial role. The communications department undertakes effective communication with all stakeholders having varied interests and value systems about the objectives of each of its initiatives and strives to achieve standardisation of purpose. This holistic communication uses all the media vehicles that are available at its disposal, like the organisation’s website, social media pages, annual reports, roadshows, awareness campaigns in public places, press releases, information-editorials in the newspapers, donor visits to field work, etc. Much of this wide spread reach of the communications efforts provides immense impetus in improving the awareness of both the community and the Government on conservation.

Apart from the expertise of WWF, another main ingredient for these initiatives is the Financial support, which is derived from various recognised global donors. The Finance department works to use every dollar to make the initiative work efficiently and achieve more by diligently evaluating all expenditure. It provides an evaluation for each initiative by providing a scorecard for donor evaluation of how their donations were used in past and present initiatives.

The main cog in the wheel for execution comes from the Operations department. Covering all support services from Administration, Information Technology, Human Resources for all departments, Transport & Logistics, the Operations department forms a backbone for all activities and achievements of WWF-Myanmar.

One of WWF-Myanmar’s recent big successes is Voices for Wildlife, a campaign by a coalition of conservation organisations and government agencies to end wildlife trade in Myanmar. What began as sensitisation effort about three years ago to all stakeholders has led to massive awareness of the issue and a law prohibiting the wildlife products trade.

This complex change has come about with relentless follow up and advocacy support from WWF-Myanmar; and already a wide array of private bodies has started active support to the cause. WWF-Myanmar organised various activities and gained support from a varied group of people, like working with the Forest Department to set up an elephant museum at Yangon Zoological Garden, actively promoting the campaign at the Yangon Airport, two music festivals that supported the cause and drew in crowds of young supporters, contributions from many law experts taken to assist the Government in drafting the law, training support to law enforcement and other related bodies on methods of implementing the ban on wildlife trade and its importance.

Another important programme being implemented by WWF-Myanmar is the Energy Programme. Alongside providing the necessary information and the probable measures to help the decision makers, WWF-Myanmar involves itself in the process of training the locals to set up solar energy units. It also works alongside the concerned government officials by providing advise as to how the development plans can incorporate conservation goals. This programme gives insight into how many facets of the process of implementation WWF-Myanmar cares to serve in order to ensure successful implementation and adoption.

Meet Shoon So Oo, WWF-Myanmar Energy Programme Manager:

As is with most successful teams, providing support in their area of core expertise towards a central cause which is well planned and well-orchestrated amplifies the outcomes and this can be seen clearly in the working of WWF-Myanmar. When these causes are altruistic in nature and not commercial, a stronger sense of purpose and gratification comes about in the team. It leads to each person being driven by an intrinsic sense of motivation that the work they do makes a difference. This drive and their passion towards the environment, brings about an energy that makes the work they do all the more impactful. When one interacts with the WWF-Myanmar team this energy, motivation, passion and sincere warmth is evidently discernible. -- By Samhita Gopal Rao