Cool Earth is committed to innovation, experimentation, and learning. It is how we will achieve the biggest possible impact in the long term.
It’s why Cool Earth’s all-new Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) team is so important. Headed up by Natalie Gawor, the three-strong team will lead the way on all things impact, assessment and evaluation.
From satellite monitoring to household survey data and how we communicate impacts to our supporters, Natalie tells us how she’ll be looking at the forest and our outcomes from every angle.
As Cool Earth’s new MEL Manager, my main role is to help the team understand the impacts of its work in the rainforest and with the communities we work alongside. Studying the intricacies of what does and doesn’t work helps us to adapt our approaches to save even more rainforest and build even more resilient livelihoods.
MEL is increasingly being recognised as critical to a charity’s success. Supporters are rightly seeking evidence that their money is having a positive impact. But most of all, it helps ensure we are accountable to the communities we work alongside. If a charity is to stay true to its mission, an MEL mindset should be front and centre of its operations.
When MEL is fully integrated into an organisation, it can keep it on track to achieve the best possible outcomes for its beneficiaries in the most effective way possible. An organisation committed to MEL will also be quicker to adapt and respond on the ground, saving time and money. But whilst the sector is certainly heading in the right direction, charities still have a lot to learn about how to fully embed MEL in their organisations.
My team’s first project is a big one. We want to understand how rainforest canopy cover is changing in the areas where we work. We’re interested in any prior patterns of deforestation and how this changes (or doesn’t change) as we work with a community to mitigate deforestation.
We’ll be using high-resolution satellite data to give us a complete picture of the threats to our partner communities’ rainforests and how these threats change over time. Maps of deforestation will be shared with communities to inform the development of resilient livelihoods.
The MEL team will be working with research partners to set up a system for Cool Earth that enables a near real-time deforestation detection service that can be shared with our in-country teams. Data will be used to validate changes detected and inform strategies to halt future deforestation. Excitingly, we’ll also be exploring the use of advanced machine learning to attempt to forecast where future deforestation may occur. This will help inform early intervention and planning with our partner communities.
Understanding how rates of deforestation are changing is powerful in its own right, but there will still be significant work in the coming years to link these changes to the most successful strategies for rainforest protection. This is just the beginning for Cool Earth in refining its approach. And I can’t wait to share our findings with our supporters.