We are all on the lookout for innovations that will resolve issues big and small – whether it’s something more commonplace, or addressing a global threat.

Why didn’t I think of that? We’ve all said this at one point or another. We are all on the lookout for innovations that will resolve issues big and small – whether it’s something more commonplace, like constantly misplaced keys, or addressing a global threat, as in our current reality of COVID 19. 

One key aspect of effective innovation that often gets overlooked is integration. Collaboration across teams, organizations, sectors and nations can lead to some pretty amazing results. That may be why Pact has elected to bring integration to the forefront of their work in international development.

Founded in 1971, Pact works to address the root challenge of an issue by focusing on change within an entire system – from governments to individuals within a local community – for sustainable results. This has a multiplier effect across the many facets of poverty. For example, if you empower women through a savings and loan system, like Pact’s WORTH Program, they can then assist in increasing productivity and resilience for their communities and families. This typically translates to better overall health and education for their children, who in turn will have the resources to live more successful lives.

Pact offers programs across nearly 40 countries, where they are working actively on the ground to break the cycle of poverty and contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. These programs range from ending child labor in mining to preventing illegal wildlife trafficking. 

Integration between Pact teams
The organization has infused integration across teams, projects and goals to develop a holistic approach with tailored solutions that meet local needs. This type of operational outlook opens the door for innovation and clears the way for crowdsourcing to achieve the greatest outcomes. 

Building on of its expertise in open innovation and crowd sourcing, the organization launched COVID Connection on March 31 – an internal innovation platform to exchange ideas and create an incubator for solutions to this international health challenge. Some are short-term solutions to address the immediate needs of communities around the world – for example, finding a way for people without running water to wash their hands regularly. Other solutions will take more time to process, like the idea of using 3D printing to convert plastic waste into personal protective equipment for those responding to COVID-19 on the front lines. Both of these examples highlight the value of integration to develop a solution – whether it is across offices or across needs (i.e., the need to reduce plastic waste and the need for PPE).

Integration across Pact’s programs
Integration within Pact is not unique to the current coronavirus crisis – although we’ll come back to that. Their integrated approach can be seen in the way Pact manages international issues from improving health systems to protecting national resources. It is evident across programmatic areas and throughout the implementation of each project. Let’s take a look at how the approach unfolds within some of Pact’s environmental programs and the way in which they touch on many of the organization’s other focus areas. 

Pact’s Integrated Approach to Natural Resource Management from Pact on Vimeo.

Fisheries co-management
With more than 20% of Malawi covered by water, it is no surprise that fish are a major source of protein and livelihood for Malawians. As populations grow and climate change disrupts environmental resources, the fishing industry has seen a significant strain. Along with these stresses, fisheries also face the challenge of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices. 

The combination of these threats affects all areas of life in this already impoverished country. That’s where Pact comes in. Through its FISH and subsequent REFRESH projects, Pact aims to equip fishing communities with expertise and means to benefit from the natural resources in a responsible manner. 

The FISH project resulted in a number of successes for Malawians, laying the foundation for co-management of the fisheries resources and empowering individuals to protect them. Through increased capacity development and support from Pact and its partners, residents of these lakeshore communities learned about ecosystem restoration, farming best practices and alternative energy sources to reduce deforestation for firewood. They were also introduced to and empowered to take on alternative livelihoods to decrease fishing pressure on the lake. 

The FISH project in Malawi from Pact on Vimeo.

REFRESH builds on the successes of FISH to increase the productivity of Lake Malawi fisheries while also restoring the natural aquatic habitats, scaling up the fisheries co-management model across the whole lake nationwide, and supporting the development of conservation enterprises to improve livelihoods while reducing the threats on the ecosystem. 

Pact’s approach in this region takes into account governmental regulations, scientific evidence, local knowledge and socioeconomic implications. In addition to environmental protection and resilience building, both of these projects improve livelihoods, increase community capacity and address subnational governance issues to ensure long-term solutions can be carried out for generations to come – integrating across program areas, with partners and alongside key stakeholders. 

A woman collecting fish.

Biodiversity protection
Well known for its unique plants and wildlife, Madagascar is the exclusive home to many species and habitats. Unfortunately, many of them are in danger, threatened by growing populations, deforestation, overfishing and other global demands. 

Much like FISH and REFRESH, Pact’s Hay Tao project is working to build an environment where communities are empowered to manage natural resources and protected areas at the local levels. 

To achieve this goal, stakeholders are coming together to develop and implement policy reform at all levels, conduct biodiversity conservation training, and share best practices in conservation and wildlife management. Recent project achievements include: 

  • Sharing conservation data between key stakeholders to improve tools such as the World Resources Institute’s Forest Watcher mobile app, which is already helping the Madagascar National Parks team monitor deforestation and plan their patrol routes. 
  • Reducing environmental crimes through an anonymous reporting hotline, and improving prosecutions to successfully arrest and detain perpetrators serving as a further deterrent.
  • Providing training and disseminating information to journalists to raise awareness of local conservation issues. 

Hay Tao works to improve biodiversity conservation and foster sustainable natural resource management by strengthening civil society advocacy and community-based stewards of the protected areas. The project encourages the development of more environmentally friendly enterprises and supports stakeholders that work across population, health and environment sectors, to assure intersectional health and conservation outcomes.

Integrating COVID-19 response with Pact’s current programming
As mentioned before, Pact has swiftly responded to the coronavirus pandemic with innovative ideas and solutions. Additionally, we see their staff taking the initiative to actively support beneficiaries above and beyond existing programming.

As the awareness of zoonotic diseases increases with the spread of COVID-19, the projects in both countries highlight the inextricable link between human and environmental health. And indeed Pact’s new Environmental and Social Sustainability Policy that came into effect last year embodies this link and assures that Pact’s activities, both internally and externally, continue in this vein now and into the future. 

Although the REFRESH project is in its infancy, it is already serving as an unexpected support network for the lakeshore communities it aims to benefit. This direct connection is an avenue for Pact to disseminate critical information about COVID-19 and hygiene practices.

These projects demonstrate how Pact addresses multiple areas of their work across programs and integrates lessons learned, stakeholder perspectives and key development initiatives for maximum success, opening the door for innovation. Global Impact is proud to support Pact’s work to end poverty and create a better tomorrow for all.