The initial direction of this project was to investigate how I could support people to create better environmental volunteering experiences, as participating in environmental conservation action improves ongoing pro-environmental mindsets and decisions. This direction shifted as I explored the system, and found issues which were more systemic in nature.
My research aims were to design a targeted systems change intervention to tackle the underlying patterns and structures, and make sustained change to how the sector addresses biodiversity loss.
In the most part, for systems change initiatives to be successful, we need to identify areas of potential leverage and direct action and resources to them, in order to influence change. These insights need to be grounded in the lived experience of the system, as well as observations and understandings about the current and plausible future dynamics of the system.
To create a foundational understanding of the conservation sector I used a systemic design approach to generating systems sight. I then designed a strategy which highlighted three areas of action, and gave form to these actions in the shape of a portfolio of concepts in order to test my assumptions by probing the sector and sensing how it would respond, to generate further learning and influence change.
Whilst it is tempting to focus on the most concrete aspect of the research project - the portfolio of concepts - in order to assess it’s value, I draw us back to Golsby-Smith’s  assertion that fourth order design is about broadening the scope of enquiry “so that the product does not operate as a fragment in the world, but within useful and viable patterns”. In this sense, the Portfolio of Concepts is only ⅓ of the articulation of the targeted systems intervention. As I presented in the diagram of the initiative, I believe the value of this creative work to be the holistic nature of the systems change initiative - a stack of layers which interrelate and inform one another.
I see this project as part of an ecology of initiatives which, together, are targeting large scale systems change towards a sector which can adequately address biodiversity loss, and reverse this trend.
On a more granular scale, my revised research questions were variations on themes of addressing power dynamics and systemic underinvestment in the sector. The targeted systems intervention directly seeks to alter power dynamics through convening a cross-sectoral community of practice, and enabling a bottom-up shift in how data is gathered, stored and woven into stories and reports for funders.
Beyond the Masters, I intend to continue the ongoing design and adaptation to respond to the emerging context of the conservation sector. In the next section I set out some plausible paths forward that I envisage for the project.