Design for Conservation is a systemic approach to innovation that draws from design methodologies to find solutions to challenges that arise from the interaction between people and the natural environment.


It understands that humans are just one species of a complex ecosystem that needs equilibrium to thrive. 

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D4C is an iterative process comprised of 5 core activities that can overlap and change order.


The best start is to do them in the following order: (re)connect, understand, propose and test, deploy and measure impact. And repeat as necessary: learn, evolve, adapt, just like a natural system.

The strength and challenge of D4C is the (re)connection step, since it is central to all other activities.


Showing up as we really are, using empathy, staying vulnerable and passionate about our project ensures that we embody the connection to an ecosystem that needs to be healthy for all of its parts to thrive. This state of mind (or mindset) will allow us to use make the best of our personal skills in a collaborative process.  


By re-connecting participants to their true nature, their community and their land,  as part of complex natural systems, D4C fosters the necessary mindset for committed, creative and adaptable problem solving.

Steps to Reconnect

  1. To yourself and with your team.

  2. To your community/the community you are designing for.

  3. To your land/environment.

Example tools: 

- Agile: Purpose map

- Deep:  Adaptive leadership


Understanding environmental issues requires systems thinking, embracing ambiguity and re-connecting to the sources. In order to do unbiased research we have to unlearn our pre-conceptions and understand that the experts can be the people closer to the land, the species, the problem.


Steps to Understand

  1. Unlearn/let go of assumptions

  2. Do research

  3. Diagnose the problem

Example tools: 

- Agile: Agile LCA

- Deep:  Life cycle assessment (LCA)


Getting inspiration form natural systems is one of the oldest approach to problem solving. Sourcing in slow , ancestral knowledge while making use of the latest technologies can yield highly innovative, yet resilient ideas. 

When prototyping rapidly and roughly one can cut costs on testing, learning from early failure and iteration, learning while doing and adding definition to initial ideas.


Steps to Propose and Test

  1. Ideate

  2. Prototype and test

  3. Select and commit

Example tools: 

- Agile: Multispecies Design Cards



Deploying means further defining your ideas in order to bring them to effective action. This activity is comprised of tools that will help materialise your project, wether for-profit or non-profit, most of these work locally and start small before scaling and replicating.

Steps to Deploy

  1. Plan your pilot

  2. Define a Business model

  3. Create influence groups


Example tools: 

- Agile: SLOC impact planner

- Deep: Live prototyping


Measuring impact is one of the most important tasks in environmental projects. Here, the Agile-to-Deep approach becomes very useful, allowing teams to use agile versions of impact measuring techniques that require less resources to apply. 


Steps to Measure Impact

  1. Definition of Depth, Breadth and Target

  2. Plan for Resilience

  3. Strategise for Evolution 

Example tools: 

- Agile: Ecosystemic services canvas

- Deep:  Environmental Impact Studies