MCCS 0529: Communication and Facilitation Skills for Conservation Managers

Wildlife conservation is a collaborative science requiring multiple stakeholders to work together to find common solutions.  It is a values-laden science in which multiple interests and concerns need to be navigated in order to reach a resolution that everyone can at least ‘live with’.  Achieving consensus is complex, involving a suite of process and interpersonal skills which, combined, allow for effective facilitation and group decision-making.  The skills developed as a facilitator can be applied to a range of situations, from running team meetings, to managing difficult individual professional relationships, all the way through to the facilitation of multi-stakeholder workshops.

For more than 30 years the Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG) of the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) has been running multi-stakeholder species conservation planning workshops globally.  CPSGs mission is to save threatened species by increasing the effectiveness of conservation efforts worldwide.  It has been achieving this mission by:

  1. developing and disseminating innovative and interdisciplinary science-based tools and methodologies,
  2. providing culturally sensitive and respectful facilitation that results in conservation action plans, and
  3. promoting global partnerships and collaborations


In addition, CPSG has partnered with a range of organizations to build global capacity for the facilitation of conservation planning processes, including the International Rhino Foundation.  It is this partnership that is bringing the current course to SMSC to equip a new generation of conservation professionals with the cross-disciplinary skills they need to facilitate conservation problem-solving, decision-making and planning.

In this course we bring together an expert group of conservation facilitators and trainers to guide participants through the development of practical facilitation and communication skills that will enable them to be more effective conservation scientists and managers.  This five-day interactive course will provide participants with an opportunity to learn and practice essential facilitation skills, including decision making, team formation and management, conflict resolution, communication skills, consensus building, and cross-cultural sensitivity. The course will include lectures, case studies, and significant time to practice facilitation skills.

The course is aimed at people working or planning to work in zoos or conservation organizations who wish to develop their facilitation skills. It is also relevant to other professionals or graduate level students who need to develop their skills in communication, facilitation and management.

By the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Describe the role of the facilitator in achieving consensual decision-making
  • Demonstrate how to facilitate an open discussion and run a meeting or workshop process
  • Explain the stages teams go through in their development and the processes that workshop participants will go through as they move towards decisions
  • Identify how to deal with conflict under different circumstances
  • Demonstrate effective listening skills
  • Describe how to provide feedback to individuals to improve relationships and effective work
  • Plan effective workshops and meetings


The course will be led by Jamie Copsey, Director of Training for CPSG, who has more 20 years’ experience in the field of wildlife conservation, with a focus on capacity building.  Jamie has published in the peer-reviewed literature on a range of topics, from invasive species management through to conservation management, leadership and capacity building.  He is also lead editor on a book to be published through Cambridge University Press towards the end of 2017, on species conservation, which encompasses the biological, social and leadership aspects of managing the recovery process.  Jamie will co-direct the course with Dr Susie Ellis, Executive Director of the International Rhino Foundation, the leading NGO for rhino conservation worldwide. Prior to joining IRF, Dr Ellis was Vice President for Indonesia and Philippines programs for Conservation International, overseeing management and program development for field programs in both Indonesia and Philippines, focusing on terrestrial and marine biodiversity conservation, including species work with Sumatran orangutans, Javan gibbons, and Philippine eagles. She has worked in nearly 30 countries over the past 15 years and has written more than 100 technical papers, proceedings and book chapters.



April 16-20, 2018


Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia

Application Procedure

Communication and Facilitation Skills is offered through the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation as a professional training course for 3 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Applications should be submitted using our Online Application System. If this is your first time using our system, you’ll be asking to first register and create a profile. You’ll need to attach an updated CV/Resume to create your profile and a Personal Statement of Interest and Qualifications (maximum 500 words) to complete a course application.

For first consideration, apply before February 5, 2018

Course Costs

Payment Deadline:February 19, 2018. Note that your acceptance to the course does not guarantee you a seat in the course. Seats are allocated as registration payments are received, and early registration is strongly encouraged to ensure your space in the course.

The total cost for this course is $1,781 (Course fee of $1400 + Housing and Dining Package of $381). Those applying as citizens of “less-developed” nations qualify for a reduced course fee of $850, making the total cost including housing (shared double room) and dining package $1,231. Click HERE to check if your country of citizenship qualifies you for the reduced course fee. Your total course payment includes:

  • Registration fees
  • Instruction, course manual, and other course materials
  •  Airport pick-up and drop-off shuttle service at Dulles International Airport (IAD), the only Washington, DC-region airport for which SMSC provides ground transportation shuttle service.  Shuttle pick-up date at Dulles Airport will be Sunday, April 15, 2018, and the time will be 4:30pm (16:30h). Individuals whose flight options are limited should plan to arrive the night before (April 14) and book into overnight accommodation in the Dulles-Washington, DC vicinity, so they can meet this Sunday afternoon shuttle. Otherwise a taxi can be privately arranged by participant for approximately $140. Our drop-off shuttle departs from SMSC (to IAD) on Saturday April 21 at 8am.
  • Daily full-service buffet dining at the SMSC Dining Commons.
  • Housing at the SMSC Residential Facility, including a shared room with bathroom (single rooms available at extra cost).


A very limited number of scholarships covering course fees/housing/dining may be available on a competitive basis for eligible course applicants. Click HERE for more information on scholarships.


Local participants may elect to waive the housing and dining package and commute to this course. Meals in the Dining Commons can then be purchased individually as needed.

For more information