The CMP Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation


In order to achieve our goals, the conservation community must determine the extent to which our actions are working - and we must be able to diagnose why some actions succeed while others do not. In recent years, there has been great convergence among conservation organizations in thinking about how best to plan, implement, and assess conservation actions in the context of a project cycle.

Making the most of the extensive, trial-and-error experience gained by conservation organizations while designing, implementing and appraising their conservation projects, the members of the Conservation Measures Partnership (CMP) have developed a set of project cycle or adaptive management open standards that are reflected in the work of all of our organizations and are, we believe, fundamental to effective conservation. These Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation are less a recipe that must be followed exactly than a framework and guidance for conservation action.

Our goal in developing these Open Standards is to bring together common concepts, approaches, and terminology in conservation project design, management, and monitoring in order to help practitioners improve the practice of conservation. In particular, these standards are meant to provide the principles, tasks, and guidance necessary for the successful implementation of conservation projects. As members of CMP, we hope that by developing these open standards, our colleagues in our respective organizations - and across the conservation landscape - will have clear guidance on how to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of their projects for maximum conservation gain. In addition, we anticipate that these standards will comprise the foundation of a useful conservation audit process.

We have organized the main ingredients of these open standards - principles, tasks, and guidance - into seven steps that comprise the project management cycle including conceptualization, planning, implementation, analysis, adaptation, communication, and iteration (go to to download the full version of the standards). Although we present the standards as a linear series of steps or stages, the entire process is rarely applied in a linear fashion from start to finish - instead it is typically only a rough approximation of the more complex series of back-and-forth movements that a project goes through.


The Open Standards in Miradi

These Open Standards provide the basis for the Step-by-Step interview in the Miradi Software.  The following table lays out the basic principles and tasks for each step of the Open Standards. 

CMP  Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation, Version 2.0
Tasks that are currently covered by the current version of the Miradi Software are shown in blue text.

1. Conceptualize Project

1A. Define Initial Project Team

  • Select initial team members
  • Identify key skills
  • Agree on roles & responsibilities

1B. Define Scope, Vision & Targets

  • Define project scope
  • Develop map of project area
  • Agree on project vision
  • Select conservation targets
  • Describe status of targets

1C. Identify Critical Threats

  • Identify direct threats
  • Rank direct threats

1D. Complete Situation Analysis

  • Identify indirect threats & opportunities
  • Assess stakeholders
  • Create initial conceptual model
  • Ground-truth & revise model

2. Plan Actions & Monitoring

2A. Develop Strategic Plan

  • Develop goals for each target
  • Identify "key factors" & draft strategies
  • Rank draft strategies
  • Create results chains showing assumptions
  • Develop objectives
  • Finalize project conceptual model
  • Finalize Strategic Plan


2B. Develop Monitoring Plan

  • Define audiences & information Needs
  • Define indicators
  • Finalize monitoring plan

2C. Develop Operational Plan

  • Assess human, financial & other resources
  • Assess risks
  • plan project lifespan & exit strategy

3. Implement Actions & Monitoring

3A. Develop Short-Term Work Plan

  • Detail activities, tasks & responsibilities
  • Detail methods, tasks & responsibilities
  • Develop project timeline or calendar

3B. Develop & Refine Project Budget

  • Estimate costs for activities & monitoring
  • Develop & submit funding proposals
  • Obtain financial resources

3C. Implement Plans

  • Implement Strategic & Monitoring Plans
  • Implement Work Plan

4. Analyze, Use, Adapt

4A. Prepare Data for Analysis

  • Develop systems for recording, storing, processing & backing up project data


4B. Analyze Results

  • Analyze project results & assumptions
  • Analyze operational & financial data
  • Document discussions & decisions

4C. Adapt Project Plan

  • Revise Project Plan: Strategic, Monitoring, Operational & Work Plans

5. Capture & Share Learning

5A. Document Learning

  • Document key results & lessons

5B. Share Learning

  • Identify key audiences
  • Develop communications strategy
  • Report to project team & stakeholders
  • Develop & share communication products
  • Use other's communication products

5C. Create a Learning Environment

  • Share feedback formally or informally
  • Conduct evaluations and/or audits at appropriate times
  • Demonstrate commitment from leaders to learning & innovation
  • Provide a safe environment for encouraging experimentation
  • Share success & failures with practitioners around the world

Close the Loop

The Relationship Between the CMP Open Standards and Organizational-Specific Versions

The members of the Conservation Measures Partnership (CMP) each have their own organizational version of the CMP Open Standards. There is a long and complex history of exchange between these organizational versions and the CMP "generic" version of these standards. For example, The Nature Conservancy started with its 5-S process in the 1990s. Similarly, Foundations of Success staff published the Measures of Success approach around the same time. WWF and WCS, by contrast, had no one set of standards; instead each office had its own version.

The CMP Open Standards were initially developed by bringing together commonalities across these different versions into Version 1.0 of the Open Standards.  However, at that point, WWF then took this Version 1.0 and refined it to meet their needs, developing the WWF Project and Programme Standards shown below. Similarly, TNC took their 5-S process and refined it to fit the Open Standards, producing the TNC Conservation Action Planning (CAP) Approach shown below. And the WCS Living Landscapes Program developed their own version of the project cycle shown below. The CMP the evaluated the changes made by WWF, TNC, FOS, WCS and others, and used them to produce Version 2.0 of the Open Standards that reflect what has been learned from these experiences. As a result, each organization has a version of the standards that meets their specific needs, but at the same time, all can learn from one another.  A further benefit is that members of each organization can use Miradi Software in their work with only minimal "translation" being needed.