To #SaveOurOcean, we have to work together

The UN Ocean Conference and World Ocean Festival will mark a historic convening of thinkers and doers from all over the world. But the momentum we feel when we’re together will only lead to lasting impact if we make a commitment (and a plan) to collaborate more effectively beyond the inspiration of events to unfold.

Not only have philanthropists come up short on ocean conservation in recent years (just 1% of philanthropic funding since 2009 has gone to ocean projects*), we also suffer from a lack of coordination. Organizations working on ocean conservation are duplicating efforts — from scientific research to data analysis to community engagement-- when they could extend their impact by working together.

This problem isn’t unique to ocean projects, of course. I’m often reminded of a USAID project in Haiti several years ago, where I learned that two major players had offices literally around the corner from each other in Port-au-Prince, and didn’t know the other existed. I can feel your head nodding. This happens too often.

We launched -- with an incredible group of partners -- to address this problem. The site is an open-access information hub for what ocean conservation work is being done, who is doing it, where it is happening, and who is funding it. Its database includes information from 2009 to 2017 on more than 24,000 grants, 3,800 donors, 3,600 conservation groups across the globe, representing a total of $4 billion dollars in foundation giving and around $3 billion dollars in bi- and multi-lateral aid.* We’re pretty proud of what we’ve built, but it’ll only truly thrive if you join us and we keep building it together.

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Don’t get me wrong - there’s heroic work being done around the world to address Sustainable Development Goal 14. And people are collaborating in countless ways at unprecedented levels.

I’m especially encouraged when I see examples of successful public-private partnerships, where multilaterals, corporations, governments and foundations come together to improve the condition of the ocean and the livelihoods of those that depend on it. A great example of this is the Walton Family Foundation’s systems approach to sustainable fisheries, working with industry, governments, and private partners to create a tipping point in the business practices of fisheries producing seafood commodity products.

We can always do more. Look at almost any two ocean-focused philanthropy projects and you’ll see opportunities to overlap, complement and partner. Measurement and data collection are particularly ripe for more partnership -- because if we want to successfully measure progress toward the SDGs, we need to measure (together) how complex, interrelated interventions and experiments drive impact. We’re urging ocean funders to add their data to this new shared resource in order to better illustrate the who, what, where, why, and how of ocean funding.

And the collaboration can’t stop within oceans work -- we must engage colleagues addressing climate change and poverty and energy and food and work.

Like the oceans themselves, all of our work is connected. And now is the time to renew our commitment to collaborate.  

If you happen to be attending the UN Ocean Conference, please join our side event exploring how this resource can help inform public-private partnerships on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 at 1:15pm in the Express Bar at UNHQ.  

Not attending but still want to learn more about    Join us for a short webinar on Thursday July 29, 2017 at 12:00pm EST.  Register here.

C. Davis Parchment is Manager of Knowledge Services at Foundation Center.

*Based on all grants from Foundation Center’s Foundation Maps database of all publishable grants from 2009. Sources of data for these grants include IRS tax returns and grants information reported directly submitted to Foundation Center through the Electronic Reporting Program. Learn more at