Beyond Fear, Authority and Generations


Alison Coburn and Kathleen Bury who run the MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy bring a unique combination of personal and professional experience and insight to the programme.

Alison Coburn © Thibault Branquart

Real investment in people is relatively uncommon in the non-profit sector. And without it, the demanding vocational nature of conservation work means burn-out is all too common. MAVA’s investment recognizes it’s people that deliver change. — Alison Coburn

Kathleen and Alison are passionate about personal growth and change. Having both come to mentoring and leadership from other sectors, Kathleen from oil and gas and Alison from broadcasting, they understand the need to do work that matches personal values. They also recognize that with so much pressure to deliver, conservation leaders also need to find ways of building and maintaining confidence, optimism and resilience.

Kathleen Bury © Mowgli Mentoring

“In my own journey, I’ve experienced the power of having someone walk shoulder-to-shoulder with me. A good mentor will listen deeply and help clarify vision”, says Kathleen. “Addressing personal fears that prevent us from fulfilling our potential is also vital.”

The leadership philosophy guiding the Academy is ‘Leading Beyond Authority’ which invites us to influence peers, partners and players beyond our direct circle of control but who have the power to deliver change.

“The approach is especially important in the conservation sector which often relies on persuasion, advocacy, networking and collaboration”, says Alison. “The wicked problems we face today are outside the gift of any single authority to solve, so we need leaders who can cross boundaries of all kinds, whether geographical, economic or political.”

Beyond creating a multi-cultural peer group and offering highly experiential learning, including organisational visits and sessions with world class leaders from different sectors, the programme matches participants across generations — which is something entirely unique to the Academy.

“Inviting pairs of participants from the same organisation, one senior and one younger, and then matching them with opposite generations from other organisations, is a totally new approach that really facilitates exchange and innovation. Bridging the widening generational divide in society is critical to creating a more sustainable world. — Alison Coburn

Transformational change

Kathleen and Alison have dozens of stories of transformation amongst Academy participants, ranging from newfound personal confidence and emotional intelligence to deeper professional relationships and more dynamic leadership. Their hope is that the initiative will continue to flourish after MAVA closes, inspiring bold leadership for sustainability across the non-profit and private sectors alike.

© Thibault Branquart

The MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy is a central part of ensuring our partners are ready to continue their vital work without us when we close our doors in 2022.