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The New Model to Defend Nature & Community: Empower Women with Damien Mander (Episode #57)

You would never initially think that women would make some of the best game wardens in all of Africa and lead to complete social reform within the community! There is a lot to learn here, and today we’re going to dive head first into a world of social entrepreneurship with Damien Mander.

Damien is an Iraq war veteran who served as a Naval clearance diver and special operations sniper for the Australian Defense Force. It was during his service, travelling through Africa, that he was inspired by the work of rangers as they defended the wildlife. 

The International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) was born soon after, to be the ‘last line of defence for nature.’ Since it started, the IAPF has trained and supported rangers resulting in the protection of over 4 million hectares of African wilderness!

In 2017 IAPF founded ‘Akashinga (The Brave Ones) – Nature Protected by Women’, a program that has enabled the only group of nature reserves in the world to be protected by women. After giving women the opportunity to serve, the impact they’ve had on the community around them not only benefited the social structure, but even the economic structure. 

Let’s jump right into Damien’s incredible journey and learn a new model to defend nature and community – empowering women.

Resources Mentioned:

Tweetable Quotes:

“We know how to manage most challenges, and if we don’t – we have a team that will find a solution. When we get given a challenge, it’s almost like a blessing.” – Damien Mander

“A great plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow… For me the most important thing is to start, and even more important than starting is not to stop – just to push through because it’s never going to be easy.” – Damien Mander

“Empowering women is the single greatest force for change in the world… Conservation became a byproduct of our social impact.” – Damien Mander

Resources Mentioned:





Connect with Damien on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Be sure to visit https://www.iapf.org/ and become a defender of our precious and most vulnerable wildlife. 

[00:01 – 6:36] Opening Segment
  • I introduce Damien Mander
  • A reminder of the 5 characteristics of innovators’ recipe
  • Damien’ s approach to tackling an issue
    • Getting started and gaining momentum is the most important thing
      • You can’t steer a stationary ship 
    • The importance of having a team around you to disagree with you 
    • Pushing through even without confidence or comfort 
    • Feeling most comfortable outside of your comfort zone
[06:37 – 23:40] Jumping into the Middle of the Problem
  • Damien talks about how he started into solving the issue he saw
    • “I need to see it for myself” 
    • Jumping into the problem instead of waiting for it to come to you
    • Starting without a plan and figuring out the direction after
  • Filling the void in the world of conservation
    • Rapid militarization within the industry 
    • The targeting of elephants and rhinos 
    • Employing a short term solution first 
    • The community needs to be involved for long term change 
  • I share the parallels to the Hero’s Journey 
  • Damien talks about getting to the heart of the real issues – Peeling the onion
    • Not analyzing but ‘eating your way through the onion’ 
    • From almost giving up to learning to scale the organization 
    • It’s the pressure that pushes you to find a better solution 
    • Positivity is just around the corner from a hardship
      • The project of 2017 
[23:41 –  56:03] The New Model to Defend Nature & Community: Empower Women
  • Seeing the need and benefit of getting more women on the front lines
    • Getting left behind by industries using women on the front 
    • An answer to the short term, ‘good guys with the gun’ mentality
    • Why aren’t women given the opportunity? 
  • Turning examples of other industries into a working model
    • There is no need to reinvent the wheel 
    • Fit your narrative into a model – test and adjust
  • Fighting through the criticism
    • Rebuilding the organization to fit the model
    • There is a value to having critics 
  • Dealing with conservation from a social issue standpoint
    • Getting the opposition to see the long term value of preserving wildlife
    • Community development through women empowerment
  • Why women at the forefront?
    • It changes the dynamics of society for the better 
    • Not even a single case of corruption
      • The impact on strategic national parks 
      • Finding an economic alternative to trophy hunting 
      • Wildlife hunting: an equation to be solved 
  • A breakdown of the economics behind conservation
    • Best gains are made from the social side 
    • The challenge having to solve the largest issues with the least funding 
    • How women help de-escalate tension 
    • Investing in education and job creation
    • A look into the health care
    • Including stakeholders
  • A word about the Conspiracy of Goodness Summit
[56:04 – 1:08:59]  Making Things Better from the Inside Out
  • Damien shares the effects at the local level
    • 80% down turn in poaching 
    • 400% increase in wildlife in the region 
    • A community wide respect for women 
  • Impacting the community on a economic and personal level
    • Giving women a chance 
    • Building up the society through women 
  • Damien reflects on what he’s learned on his journey
    • Giving up the ‘boys club’ mentality 
    • There need to be a better way to protect the planet
    • Giving up a selfish lifestyle 
[1:09:00 – 1:19:25] Closing Segment
  • Damien talks about what he needs to take this initiative forward
    • Everything is in place 
    • It all just needs funding 
    • The growth so far 
  • More than just conservation
    • This is to change the world 
    • Giving others a model to use
    • Providing opportunities to women 
  • How to support and connect with Damien
    • Links below 
  • Final announcements 

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