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Following the peatland path



The politics of Indonesian peatlands are fraught: these rich ecosystems lock up vast amounts of carbon dioxide deep below the soil, but agriculture, urbanization, and other disruption above ground leave them prone to fires that pour that CO2 back into the atmosphere. In this complex archipelago, global climate concerns clash with suspicions about international encroachment and, above all, peatlands’ role in local and national economies.


Meanwhile, conservation efforts faced a key problem: there was no authoritative map of peatlands—and you can’t protect what you can’t easily find. From 2016-2018, Context Partners partnered with the Indonesian government and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation to create a prize competition, motivating leading international scientists to devise new mapping techniques for this complex environment.


The prize experience Context Partners designed—from the stories used to attract participants, to the requirements prize entrants were asked to meet—had to engender acute trust in the endorsed winner, while building a global network that would continue the conservation work long after the winners were announced.


I ghost wrote this story for Valerie Armstrong, a senior visual designer and emerging storyteller at Context Partners, for inclusion in The Practice Papers: Trust Issue, for which I served as Editor in Chief and Writer.



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