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Ask Atti: Supporting New Staff

Dear Atti, I’ve just stepped into a new position supporting a collaborative conservation effort. Where do I even start? Who do I contact or find resources?”
– Crystal

To parrot this question in another way: How do you manage turnover in your organization? How do you support new staff working in collaborative conservation?

Atti, the Peach-faced Lovebird, studiously gathered responses from other WCCN partners to support Crystal, and many people suggested that new staff should meet with many people to listen, ask questions, learn from their experiences, and understand how they are connected through partnerships. Collaborative conservation is all about relationships, so start building them quickly!

Team members can facilitate these relationships and intentionally integrate new staff into these collaborative efforts, either informally or through mentorship. It is important for collaboratives to keep notes on their process, history, and connections so that new partners or staff can get up to speed quickly. New staff can also consider developing their leadership skills, and below are some reading, resources, and training suggestions shared by others.

Here is what the WCCN offered in response to Crystal’s question:

  • Start by listening. Understand the needs and motivations of stakeholders in the area. Connect with folks who have a conservation mindset, but listen to others in the community too
  • One of the first steps as a newbie is to identify your potential partners in your project area. Learn what can you do to help the community and they will eventually help you!
  • I would start by looking into what collaborative leadership is so you know what it means to collaborate well. A good starting place is Amy Mickel’s The Four Cornerstones!
  • The Montana Watershed Coordination Council Watershed Resource Library!
  • Check out the Collaboration Program in Natural Resources, U-WY
  • Ask questions! I can feel silly with the number of questions I want to ask when I start a new position, but am always met with positivity and get acclimated faster than I would otherwise.
  • Get to know the local Conservation District or Extension…they can be lifelong partners
  • The Find a Collaborative map may be useful. You can query it by focus areas to get an idea of the topic
  • Maintain summaries of who is involved (& what organizations), and what collaborative groups have accomplished over time to help fill in new participants (or staff)
  • Read Strategic Doing: Ten Skills for Agile Leadership by Morrison et al.
  • Find a mentor!
  • Spend some time in your new position just having meetings with folks in this collaborative. Getting to know people is the first step!
  • Supporting new staff means modeling how you practice collaborative conservation and sharing access to your network!
  • So much of the collaborative process is based on relationship building. That means showing up, listening, and giving yourself time to integrate.
  • Meet a lot of people, ask a lot of questions. Listen and learn from others involved in the collaborative project to better understand the big picture of the work you’re stepping into.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Q&A! Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments of this blog post.

Have a question and want to seek advice from other collaborative conservationists? The WCCN Awareness & Engagement Working Group has come up with a fun new way to engage and connect network partners through collaborative problem-solving via a Q&A platform: Ask Atti!

Submit your questions to and we’ll call upon the Network to submit their advice in a play off of the classic newspaper column, Ask Abby. Instead, we will be asking Aireona’s charming Peach-faced Lovebird, Atticus!