Our Regional Approach

A focus on selected regions enables Christensen to develop expertise and relationships with local institutions, social movements and the custodians of biocultural diversity in particular landscapes.  It means we can hire staff for their regional expertise and craft locally-grounded strategies, working slowly and sensitively, making dozens of small grants over several years, so as to build local organizations on their own terms and ultimately achieve resilient bottom-up change.

Christensen selected four regions (later split into five) because rather than choose one place we wanted to work in several so that we are capable of comparative learning across the world, and can develop approaches that can be adapted by others, in other places.  Furthermore, we wish to avoid becoming a “mega-donor” by concentrating all our resources in just one or two areas, whereby we would end up dominating local actors.  Currently, this number of regions appears to match our scale, enabling us to disburse about $1.5-$2m per region per year, which seems to be the right amount for a single Program Officer to handle (with the other members of their teams). Christensen expects to engage long enough in its selected regions to enable movement-building and real change. One of our goals, therefore, is to work in a phased fashion so as to enable local people to establish institutions, rights, programs and practices that will endure long beyond our grants.  Each Program will therefore wish to develop with the grantee community a long range strategy to achieve this kind of change while funds are available.

We have selected our regions of focus based upon detailed review of their biocultural richness, and the roles that they have played in the emergence of ways of life, the domestication of animals and plants, and the movements of ideas around the planet. Since our concern is with the long term future of planetary diversity – after this extinction phase of the ‘anthropocene’ subsides and humans are driven towards new phases of adaptation and co-evolution with planetary systems – we looked for regions that had already demonstrated a capacity, over geologic time, to sustain that richness through periods of dramatic global change. Thus our priority regions are typically located on major biogeographic boundaries, often within dramatic physical landscapes that possess the kinds of heterogeneity that can enable resilience in the face of global climate change and other disturbances. Though somewhat isolated today, each region has also served as a major evolutionary crossroads for the world’s cultural and biological diversity and heritage.

To learn about the specific themes and priority landscapes in each of our current regions, please click below:

African Rift Valley /  Central Asia and Turkey / US Southwest / NW Mexico /  Melanesia /  Northern Australia

As citizens and as holders of resource rights to traditional territories, as well as purveyors of Indigenous knowledge, we find that the Indigenous and local communities in each of the selected regions can make a very big difference to the future of the world’s diversity, as well as to their own societies and places.

Since our approach is essentially a bioregional one which values network and exchange across boundaries, our initial four regions were all chosen as ones that traversed contemporary national borders (the US and Mexico, Ethiopia and Kenya, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and so forth).  (Melanesia and Northern Australia were divided because of their scale in 2004; but the Melanesia work achieves much strength from supporting work in the different countries of the region.)

Another important criteria in the selection of regions is that they are areas relatively neglected in recent times by the international community, but where there are significant opportunities opening up for local initiative to thrive with international support. Thus, our regions do not include any of the first generation of ‘biodiversity hotspots’ that were developed to guide major investments by international conservation (though subsequent work led to the identification of nine further hotspots in our priority regions).

Within each region, we focus on particular landscapes and themes, which form the basis of our grantmaking.  These are developed by our Program Officers in consultation with grantees and other stakeholders, and approved by the Board of Trustees.  Please navigate to specific regions to learn more about the specifics of the strategy associated with the different landscapes in which we work.