Today’s global challenges are massive, and affect the planet and people’s lives with equal impact. We need to move beyond the myopic view that we can solve global challenges one sector at a time. Yet, few organizations are equipped to do the needed cross-sector work, and only a few progressive funders are supporting it. We seek to change that, and announce the Bridge Spark Fund as a catalyst to empower teams and demonstrate what’s possible through solutions that deliver cross-sector impact.
Bridge Spark Fund
Having completed rounds of seed grants in 2017 and 2018, the Bridge Collaborative has helped spark new, powerful cross-sector projects. Learning from and building on these experiences, we launched the Bridge Spark Fund – a funding opportunity to expand the pipeline of integrated solutions ready to address today’s most pressing global challenges.
The Bridge Spark Fund will grant four US$150,000 awards to advance testing of solutions that benefit people and nature related to the following challenges:
- Accelerating a low-carbon, clean air and environmentally-friendly energy future for all
- Transforming the global food system for health and sustainability
- Improving sanitation and wastewater management to benefit people and nature
We received 256 pre-proposal applications, and 51 were invited as semi-finalists to participate in a virtual “bootcamp” focused on strengthening the scalability and clarifying cross-sector impacts of these concepts, as well as submit a full proposal.
For more information on the three challenges, please read our new report co-authored with the UN Development Programme titled Bigger Change Faster: Integrated Development, Health, and Environment Actions for a Sustainable Future.
Past Bridge Spark Awardees
In 2017 and 2018, the Bridge Collaborative ran two Bridge Spark Challenge cycles to seed new ideas for cross-sector impact. The positive outcomes from the eight winning teams and our experiences working with them informed the evolution of the Bridge Spark Fund.
The Nature Conservancy
In November 2018, The Nature Conservancy hosted an internal competition to select the second round of Bridge Spark Champions. Five project teams received seed grants of $10,000 to put their ideas into action to integrate health and development outcomes into their conservation strategies. These projects support the Conservancy’s vision to create a future in which people and nature thrive together.
WORKING TOWARD A NATIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR COMMUNITY-DRIVEN MARINE SPATIAL PLANNING IN KENYA
Jennifer O’Leary, George Maina; TNC Africa Region
In coastal Kenya—where artisanal fishing is an important livelihood source for many poor communities—community-driven marine spatial planning is needed to integrate conservation and development priorities. The Nature Conservancy’s Africa marine team has successfully developed a model for empowering locally-driven marine governance in northern Kenya, with the potential for expansion to a national approach. This project catalyzed new collaborations with social scientists to assess adaptive capacity among coastal communities, allowing the team to further promote thriving human and marine ecosystems by pinpointing priority locations for scale and impact. (Photo: Mwangi Kirubi/TNC)
CONNECTING WATER FUNDS AND HEALTH IN LATIN AMERICA
Silvia Benitez, Jorge Leon, Paulo Petry; TNC Latin America Region
Water Funds are recognized as an innovative, nature-based strategy to secure clean, safe drinking water for urban communities through collective action for source watershed stewardship. Now, a team at TNC has the vision to take this proven model further to identify aligned ways to improve the lives of rural communities where conservation activities largely occur. Focusing on Water Funds throughout Latin America, the team tapped into new experts and evidence for actionable steps to integrate water, sanitation, hygiene, and human health outcomes in rural areas with ongoing conservation stewardship, thereby increasing impacts for people and nature. (Photo: Erika Nortemann/TNC)
DEBT-FOR-NATURE SWAP: SOCIAL SECURITY FOR SMALL-SCALE FISHERS WHO IMPLEMENT SUSTAINABLE FISHING PRACTICES
Meredith de la Garza, Mariana Walther, Cristina Lasch, Ana Carolina Izaguirre; TNC Mexico
The Gulf of California is home to a wealth of biodiversity, producing 70 percent of Mexico’s seafood. Yet, many artisanal fishers in this region, challenged by financial hardship, rely on unsustainable practices to sustain their livelihoods—posing serious concerns for marine ecosystems and the viability of local fisheries. Through this project, the team developed a new financial mechanism to swap fishers’ social security debts in exchange for conservation outcomes to catalyze win-win opportunities for people and nature. (Photo: Erika Nortemann/TNC)
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT WITH THE CHEROKEE NATION ON CONTROLLED BURNING IN THE SOUTHERN BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS
Debbie Crane, Liz Kalies, Megan Sutton, Margit Bucher, Katherine Medlock, Avery Bond; TNC North Carolina
The Southern Blue Ridge forests depend upon fires, which provide important benefits for nature and people. In the heart of the forest in western North Carolina, the 57,000-acre Qualla Boundary is home to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. Historically, controlled burning in the Qualla Boundary has been culturally important for Native Americans, and the reintroduction of this practice will promote improved health of the forest for all communities in the region. This project conducted social science research to understand the features of authentic engagement with the Cherokee Nation, laying the groundwork for a collaborative community engagement plan on controlled burning in the area. (Photo: Gary Kaufman)
A NEW FUTURE IN FARMING: CARVING RESILIENT PATHWAYS THROUGH CROSS-SECTOR COLLABORATION
Hannah Birge, Jill Wells, Heidi Mehl; TNC Kansas and Nebraska
In the agricultural sector, on-farm conservation provides many social, economic, and ecological benefits. To enable a future generation of resilient farmers, instilling these practices at the outset of a farmer’s operation is vital. Through a new collaboration, The Nature Conservancy’s Kansas and Nebraska programs are infusing conservation agricultural practices into the Servicemember Agricultural Vocation Education (SAVE) Farm program, which provides military veterans with agricultural training, accredited college courses, and an apprenticeship on a working farm. Through this project, the team engaged new experts to establish a framework to monitor and evaluate the program’s economic and social outcomes and develop a communications plan to engage diverse audiences. (Photo: Gary LaGrange)
London Global Launch Event
At our global launch event in 2017, we hosted the Bridge Spark Awards: our first experiment in how to catalyze powerful, innovative ideas for cross-sector impact. Our three winning ‘Bridge Spark Champions’ received $10,000 to execute their bold ideas for collaboration and test our Practitioner’s Guide along the way.
SUBSIDIZED AGRICULTURE IN MALAWI
Gillian Galford, Ph.D., University of Vermont
Government subsidies for agriculture are highly controversial—and Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Program is no exception. With this Spark Award, researchers are building on an existing effort to understand the impacts of Malawi’s agricultural subsidy programs within the complex relationships among agriculture, nutrition and forests. Using the Practitioner’s Guide, the team will engaged cross-sector experts to develop a results chain for the Malawian context, test it and evaluate the strength of the evidence behind the relationships it reveals.
CONSERVING INDONESIAN MANGROVES: IMPACT ON BLUE CARBON, LIVELIHOODS AND FOOD SECURITY
Megan Kelso, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Davis
Indonesia is home to one-fifth of the world’s mangroves, which support fisheries and help mitigate climate change. Yet, many of these mangroves are being converted into shrimp aquaculture ponds that provide income and food for local communities. So, how might the conservation of Indonesian mangroves affect blue carbon, local livelihoods and food security? We still don’t have a full picture of the impacts and tradeoffs. To find out, this Bridge Spark Champion engaged with experts from the health, development and environment communities to ask the right questions and build a cross-sector results chain using the Bridge Collaborative Practitioner’s Guide. Read the story about this project here.
OIL BOOM IN UGANDA NEEDS A MULTISECTORAL SOLUTION
David Wilkie, Ph.D., Wildlife Conservation Society
In Western Uganda, fossil fuel exploration and planned extraction are shaping the way humans and nature interact. As migration for expected oil industry employment increases, natural resource depletion is on the rise and risks undermining local economies, increasing insecurity and harming human health and nutrition. In partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Uganda and The Uganda Biodiversity Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society brought together actors from government, business and civil-society to explore integrated solutions to this challenge. This Spark Award leveraged additional support from the European Union and USAID. Read the story here.