Reef-World has been shortlisted as a finalist in 2020’s Con X Tech Prize to help develop this digital sustainability solution
The Reef-World Foundation – the international coordinator of Green Fins in partnership with the UN Environment Programme – has announced it has officially been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2020 Con X Tech Prize.
The Con X Tech Prize provides opportunities for seed funding to anyone, anywhere to turn their bold new ideas for conservation into reality. The current round of the Con X Tech Prize attracted 167 submissions from around the world – including Uganda, Malaysia, Cameroon, the Philippines, Brazil, & more – and Reef-World has been named as one of the 20 finalists with the potential for exponential conservation impact. The Grand Prize Winner will be announced by Conservation X Labs after finalists complete a 12-week prototyping period.
Reef-World’s entry is the development of The Green Fins Global Hub: a digital global solution to help dive professionals protect fragile coral reefs. This first-of-its-kind online support system will motivate marine tourism operators to improve their everyday environmental practices. This product will leverage innovation to meet increasing consumer demand for sustainable tourism practices by empowering tourism organisations to minimise environmental impacts associated with their business and protect their natural assets.
Harnessing Reef-World’s 20+ years’ grassroots experience in environmental behaviour change, the Hub allows Reef-World to upscale its conservation impact by moving the proven Green Fins tools online. This will significantly boost knowledge and capacity for improved sustainability worldwide. This project has immediate potential to upscale globally: digitising Green Fins’ offering overcomes traditional capacity and time constraints. In this way, it allows Reef-World to reach previously inaccessible operators and help them take the first steps on their sustainability journey. Going digital in this way opens up an opportunity to reach 30,000 dive and snorkel operators across 100 coral reef countries. This means Reef-World can educate and empower over 48,000 guides and building sustainability into the trips of the 171 million tourists who visit coral reef sites each year. The potential cumulative impact of this on global coral reef health is significant.
This project creates a tipping point for sustainable reef tourism by helping the industry identify pressing environmental threats and providing proven solutions, such as responsible waste management measures. Complementing Green Fins’ proven conservation approach, the Hub will boost reef resilience by empowering people in biodiversity hotspots worldwide to alleviate local threats.
Tourism operators’ owners, managers, staff and crew will directly engage with the Hub for access to robust, evidence-based sustainability practices. Following online registration and self-evaluation, they will receive proven solutions for their highest environmental threats, continued access to implementation action plans, tools and resources and user forums for support and encouragement. Data captured from self-evaluations, access to solutions, tools to address threats and on-site verification assessments will also inform where strengthened policy and regulation can have the greatest impact.
The resultant measurable reduction of local threats to coral gives reefs a better chance of surviving mounting global threats. Reef resilience is a growing marine ecosystems conservation approach focusing on alleviating local threats, allowing them to be healthier, more robust & resilient to climate change impacts. Green Fins is a proven conservation approach that works in line with resilience-based management by reducing coastal ecosystems threats posed by marine tourism. It is traditionally implemented by trained government teams conducting on site environmental assessments and training. Already active in 11 countries, demand for Green Fins participation globally greatly exceeds current capacity & complementing on-the-ground activity with a novel, digital approach is required to achieve conservation impact scale.
Reef-World has already completed in-depth market research and prepared a business plan, product requirement document and sustainable finance model. By the end of the 12-week prototyping period, the charity will have: drafted a design specification document; mapped out the evaluation and onboarding processes for members; developed wireframes for the onboarding process and key sections of the system; designed a visual mock-up of the user interface; and begun collaborating with software development agencies to ensure all outputs are realistic and achievable.
James Greenhalgh, Digital Strategy Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re proud to have been shortlisted alongside these impressive conservation innovations. There is no other product like the Global Hub on the market and our market research shows strong industry demand for a service providing this type of solution. The Hub will enable operators to train and empower their staff to adopt better environmental behaviours and collaborate with other businesses. We’re excited about the project’s potential to benefit reefs globally!”
Tom Quigley, Community Manager at Conservation X Labs, said: “The Con X Tech Prize is meant for opportunities just like this – where some funding and support through a prototyping sprint can help a product like Green Fins make a transformative leap in the scale of their impact. We’re excited to see what Reef-World builds over the prototyping period!”
Each of the 20 shortlisted teams have received $3,500 to turn their idea into a prototype over 12-weeks. At the end of the prototyping period, one project will be awarded the $20,000 grand prize to support the future of their project.
Reef-World has already secured funding for this project from the United Nations Environment Programme, The Matthew Good Foundation, and G-Research and is continuing to fundraise to cover the remaining development costs.
The Reef-World Foundation is a registered UK charity which delivers practical solutions for marine conservation around the world. Its flagship initiative, Green Fins, is implemented in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). This proven, established approach focuses on driving environmentally friendly scuba diving and snorkelling practices across the industry globally. By driving compliance to marine tourism environmental standards, Green Fins helps to reduce local threats to coral reefs in popular tourism destinations. It unites tourism organisations, governments and operators to preserve natural resources by implementing proven sustainability measures.
To see the full list of 20 finalists please click here.