, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 788–792 | Cite as

A human-centered framework for innovation in conservation incentive programs

  • Michael G. SoriceEmail author
  • C. Josh Donlan


The promise of environmental conservation incentive programs that provide direct payments in exchange for conservation outcomes is that they enhance the value of engaging in stewardship behaviors. An insidious but important concern is that a narrow focus on optimizing payment levels can ultimately suppress program participation and subvert participants’ internal motivation to engage in long-term conservation behaviors. Increasing participation and engendering stewardship can be achieved by recognizing that participation is not simply a function of the payment; it is a function of the overall structure and administration of the program. Key to creating innovative and more sustainable programs is fitting them within the existing needs and values of target participants. By focusing on empathy for participants, co-designing program approaches, and learning from the rapid prototyping of program concepts, a human-centered approach to conservation incentive program design enhances the propensity for discovery of novel and innovative solutions to pressing conservation issues.


Adaptive governance Design thinking Human-centered design Incentive programs Participation Stewardship 



We thank the following organizations for financial support: Wildlife Conservation Society through the Wildlife Action Opportunities Fund (with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation), and the David & Lucille Packard Foundation. C. J. Donlan also thanks D. Newman for introducing him to the world of design thinking. This material is based in part upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) Program (GEO-1211877), the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and the McIntire Stennis Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forest Resources & Environmental ConservationVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Advanced Conservation StrategiesMidwayUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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