Vincent Rajiv Louis on technology’s expanding role in conservation efforts in Asia Pacific
Keelback Consulting’s Rajiv Louis shares insights
December 07, 2021
We continue our conversation with Vincent Rajiv Louis from Keelback Consulting. Today, he shares his views about how technology is positively impacting conservation efforts in Asia Pacific.
Rajiv Louis: Machine learning and big data are transforming conservation efforts
Some very important work has now started to be supported by machine learning and big data.
Cloud computing services allow conservationists to store massive amounts of data and share information in real-time. Conservationists can also use these technologies to do more with less. Cloud-based platforms can give conservationists real-time information about what's happening in critical habitats around the world.
Data collected by researchers is often stored in disparate sources globally. By linking it together, scientists can gain a better understanding of the flora and fauna and use that information to support their preservation efforts.
Rajiv Louis: Satellite imagery and big data analysis – the potential is massive
Satellites collect a tremendous amount of information about the Earth every day. This information can be used for monitoring land use, studying crop yields and predicting future weather patterns.
In the past decade, data from satellite imagery and other sources have been used to map a variety of conservation efforts, including deforestation, illegal logging and poaching with big data analysis.
In recent years, several companies have developed algorithms that transform satellite data into actionable information. In many cases, these algorithms analyze large amounts of high-resolution images to determine variables such as plant health or soil moisture content.
Rajiv Louis: Tracking elephants and poachers with satellite data
Machine learning and satellite imagery are helping conservationists monitor the health of endangered animals and their habitats. You can take it to the level of GPS tracking on herds of elephants, for example, tracking from year to year to see if claims on biodiversity protection or conservation are proving true.
These technologies also provide information about threats ranging from poaching, illegal logging or mining activity to encroaching human development like new roads or farms.
What the algorithms can provide, for example, is greater accuracy in directing anti-poaching patrols on any given day – the last time a group of poachers was spotted, when and where they entered, the time it takes them to explore 100 hectares, the number of days they've followed the herds, the tracks they used, etc. This increases the accuracy of tracking and allows for more efficient management of resources.
Exciting developments are happening and what we hope is that the cost of deploying these technologies continues to become more affordable so they can be used more frequently in conservation efforts in Asia.
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Rajiv Louis applies the rigor of his background in investment banking to help organizations in Asia Pacific methodically build donor relationships and grow their donor networks by advising how to deliver tangible results at the conservation level.Rajiv Louis: NGOs need to match their agendas with the objectives of donors and investorsNeither donors nor investors want to fund projects that don't achieve their objectives. That means NGOs need to match their conservation agendas with donor and investor objectives. It’s horses for courses.Many NGOs do this by framing their work in economic terms, but this approach may raise questions about the motivation of the NGO and whether it is using proper science to achieve its goals or has an agenda that is not necessarily conservation-focused. The challenge for donors and investors, therefore, is to assess how much they trust the NGO to deliver on its promises.Rajiv Louis: How can NGOs build this trust?Conservation groups are increasingly looking for funding from both government donors and the private sector. Corporate philanthropy is growing in Asia Pacific too. To match their agendas with the objectives of their funders, conservation-focused NGOs should be clear on what they want to achieve, whether it's strengthening marine protected areas (MPAs) in Indonesia or protecting biodiversity and wildlife in the Philippines. It’s critical that NGOs have a thorough understanding of government policies in their host countries. Being able to show a track record of harmonized work in-country whilst achieving the NGOs overarching goals and objectives is priority number one to garnering donor trust.Regular and rigorous reporting standards is critical as it allows an NGO to objectively demonstrate progress and how its work relates to broader goals, such as reducing poverty or promoting economic growth or food security.Camera ready for friendships bonding with Rwanda kids Rajiv Louis: Making an impact and demonstrating resultsThe challenge of making an impact is even harder for conservation NGOs that are trying to protect ecosystems. These NGOs often work in countries with some of the most formidable environmental problems, where government action may be lacking. Again, they need to match their agendas with the objectives of donors and investors who want to see concrete results.NGOs must demonstrate results or risk losing funding. Donors are also more likely to give money when they believe it will be used efficiently. So, conservation NGOs have to find ways to meet their own goals by working within the parameters of donor requirements.Rajiv Louis: Building a donor networkA strong donor network is vital to the success of a conservation-focused non-profit organization in Asia Pacific. It can help them accomplish a larger scope of goals and objectives, while also building a more unified community of activists and volunteers. To build a strong network, NGOs need to have a clear idea of what they hope to accomplish with their donors, as well as what they hope to receive from the relationship.
Vincent Rajiv Louis has over 20 years of experience as a global investment executive in Southeast Asia markets including Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam. Dedicated to conservation, Rajiv has served as Chairman of the Leadership Council for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Indonesia (which he helped charter in 2017) and is also a member of the Asia Pacific Leadership Council for TNC (2019). In 2019, he joined the Asia Pacific Advisory Board of African Parks Network.We recently had a chance to catch up with Rajiv Louis and ask him about his views on philanthropy and sustainable investing in Asia Pacific.Rajiv Louis: Before we can talk about sustainable investing, let’s examine the state of philanthropyThe concept of philanthropy in Asia is new and evolving and quite unlike the level of philanthropic maturity you find in North America or Europe. Therefore, one is almost forced to lead with sustainable investing and trying to get people focused in this manner first before turning to a purely philanthropic model. However, as in all things Asia over the past 30 years, things move fast and change is accelerating at a pace unprecedented in history, and there is little reason to doubt that a similar rate of change won’t apply to philanthropy in Asia as well.Rajiv Louis: Philanthropy lags in Asia Pacific but there are some standoutsIt's fantastic to see that philanthropy has caught on extremely fast in China and is growing by leaps and bounds. You see wealthy private donors inside China not just embrace philanthropy first and foremost for China itself, but they've started to look outward now as well. So that's great, and it sets an example for others. However, at present, the rest of Asia lags quite significantly. Philanthropy in Japan is advanced, but it is a market unto itself. Australia has a very developed level of philanthropy, but they are focused on many domestic issues, such as historic indigenous inequality, and more recently climate change.Rajiv Louis: Philanthropy in Asia must be localizedThe real question for NGOs that focus on Asia Pacific to ask is how they can bring about increased levels of Asian philanthropy. If you look at past NGO models, the lessons learned were that philanthropy had been previously viewed through a North American or European lens, and that doesn't work for the same reason it doesn’t work in many other industries. We need a fit-for-purpose philanthropic model in Asia that gels well with the families and corporate titans that lord over the region.Rajiv Louis: In Asia, relationships are crucial, but they take time to buildRelationships take time here. You don't get a mandate after one or two meetings. You've got to build relationships and that’s hard enough to do from a business or commercial perspective, so you can imagine what it's like when you're asking people to open their purse strings for donations. The entire NGO field must develop a different way of approaching fundraising here – you need persons with deep local relationships and cultural understanding to spearhead these efforts in combination with successful models from developed nations.Bridging African and Asian conservation efforts Rajiv Louis: Several obstacles impede the development of philanthropy in the regionPerhaps the single most important factor in impeding a more giving society in Asia is the last of a tax scheme to incentivize philanthropy. That's a huge issue as people give out of their own largesse with little or no tax benefit, which as we understand is a massive incentive in North America in particular. Also, same as from a commercial perspective, you can't look at Thailand in the same way that you look at Indonesia, or the Philippines or Vietnam or China. Each jurisdiction has its own unique perspectives and set of issues and why there is more or less philanthropic giving. Dealing with these issues and getting people to focus on philanthropic work can be extremely time-consuming and an art in itself. But ultimately, Asian families thrive on and value relationships and this is what must be focused upon.Rajiv Louis: Ultimately, look to business and investment modelsIn philanthropy, there are several parallels to business and how investment works. How do you pursue investors alongside the philanthropic mission in these countries? Ask yourself which donors you want to partner with, learn their history, understand their culture and appreciate the needs of their business. Considering these macro and micro issues, it's not unsurprising that many global NGOs active in Asia are predominantly funded from outside Asia. But just as Asia is constantly evolving and fast, there is hope to believe that we will see ever increasing rates of philanthropy from Asia as the climate discussion takes more prominence in our lives. It's a new and exciting area to be involved in.