How We Work – APPA

village meeting in Ngora-Khorya Village, Qomolanagma Nature Reserve, Tibet

The Snow Leopard Conservancy engages local communities using a highly participatory planning process known as Appreciative Participatory Planning and Action, or APPA. APPA significantly extends the more traditional rural development tools such as Participatory Rural Appraisal.

The Mountain Institute (TMI) has developed and pioneered APPA as a community-action and learning tool. It combines concepts from Appreciative Inquiry (used in business leadership training) and Participatory Learning and Motivation, in a collective inquiry and planning process that fosters effective group action.

In our context, APPA enables participants to better explore ways in which biodiversity protection, livestock (or crop) damage alleviation and income-generating opportunities can be implicitly linked to the benefit of local residents and the protected area’s overall objectives.

APPA operates on two simple complimentary premises:

  1. What you seek is what you will find – “if you look for problems, then you will find more problems,” or conversely, “if you look for successes, you will find more successes.”
  2. What you believe is what matters most – “if you have faith in your vision or ideas for the future, and if these are believable, then you’ll be able to achieve success without waiting for government or an outside donor to help take you there.”

APPA is practiced through a repetitive cycle known as the “Four Ds:”

  1. discovering the community’s strengths and valued assets or resources;
  2. dreaming, or envisioning, the short-term (one year) and long-term (five or more years) futures – if adequate and realistic resources were mobilized and the community acted in concert;
  3. designing an action plan for linking community development with stewardship of snow leopards and their habitat, emphasizing what the community already knows and can do on its own without relying substantially on outside financial sources or technical know-how;
  4. delivery – spurring participants to initiate community-improvement actions immediately rather than waiting for some future time or depending on a government subsidy that somehow is always delayed for lack of funding.

APPA has been applied to community-based conservation initiatives in Nepal’s Makalu-Barun Conservation Area, in Sikkim’s Khangchendzonga National Park, in Tibet’s Qomolangma Nature Preserve and India’s Hemis National Park. It has empowered communities to learn from their successes instead of focusing on their problems, mobilized individuals and groups toward concrete actions which they can start immediately, and initiated long-term change toward self-reliance. APPA is relatively quick and easy for villagers to learn and implement by themselves. Junior park field staff found it relatively easy to understand and implement with minimal training.

This process is relatively quick and easy for rural people to learn and implement, and has been applied to community-based conservation initiatives in Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet and India. Communities are enabled to focus on their assets and positive attributes and learn from their successes instead of dwelling on their problems and negatives. Handouts do little to build a community’s self esteem. But when people feel a sense of ownership in efforts to protect snow leopards, the chances of long-term success are greatly improved. Toward this end, we have established the five conditions below that must be met or satisfactorily addressed when we fund a community-based conservation program:

Design Criteria

Linkage with Biodiversity Conservation We invest in a community with the primary objective of conserving snow leopards and other mountain biodiversity. This linkage is constantly reinforced during village mobilization and planning meetings, so that it becomes associated with the project activities we support.
Reciprocal Contribution All stakeholders (villager, NGO, or government) must make a reciprocal contribution, within their means, to compliment that being made by the Conservancy. This may be in the form of in-kind services such as materials and labor, which are valued using existing market rates.
Participation Strong commitment to active and equitable participation is expected from each involved stakeholder through the life of the project, from planning to implementation, monitoring, evaluation and reporting. The project activities should benefit as many individuals and households as possible, and be sensitive to matters of ethnic or economic equity and gender.
Responsibility The beneficiary community must be willing to assume all or significant responsibility for repairing and maintaining any infrastructural improvements we provide.
Monitoring & Evaluation The stakeholders must be willing to employ simple but realistic indicators for measuring project performance and impact, according to a Monitoring and Evaluation Plan (part of the overall Action Plan).