Focusing on What Matters

MODULE INTRODUCTION (2:05) Defining objectives provides a clear destination for teams that are mapping out their strategies.

About This Module

imagePrep: 4 hr | Module: 2 hrimageTeam: 5-10

The Defining Objectives module is designed to help conservation teams identify a set of objectives that describe what the team cares about and aims to achieve. This ensures that their strategy is aligned with their desired outcomes, and contributes to TNC’s 2030 Goals. 

This module is an important step in the initial planning process for a new strategy. However, teams can also find value in completing this module as part of a “pause and reflect” exercise for existing work; following adjustments to a theory of change; or when expanding a strategy to include new partners who may bring additional values, priorities, and insights. 

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    • A set of clear and actionable objectives, which serve as a guiding direction for future steps in the planning process.
    • A description of these objectives in a narrative statement and an accompanying visual diagram.
    • What does our team aim to maintain or improve for nature and people through our conservation work?
    • How do we ensure that all team members are aligned on our objectives?
    • How do we incorporate a commitment to equitable conservation into what we aim to achieve?
  • The primary participants are the core planning team. The ideal group size is 5-10 people to incorporate multiple perspectives while also enabling all participants to fully engage. This may include only internal staff, or both internal and external participants. Teams will also need a facilitator—ideally, someone from outside the planning team—who has completed training on this module. Feedback can be obtained from additional TNC staff and interested parties to ensure the planning team considers a range of values and perspectives.

  • This module includes one or two group sessions of 2 hours each (up to 4 hours total) depending on team needs. The strategy team lead and module facilitator should also expect to commit 2-4 hours of prep and wrap-up time.

  • Teams should have a shared understanding of their strategic focus and scope before beginning this module.

  • This module follows a three-step process. 

    1. Build out an inclusive set of possible objectives.

    2. Organize objectives into a set that describe the strategy’s desired end results. 

    3. Review objectives for alignment and to inform next steps in the planning process.


“Aligning on our team’s objectives proved essential to our ability to make the case for which strategies we ultimately committed to. Spending time upfront to define objectives pays off immensely later in the planning process."


— Alison Bowden,
Director of Conservation Science and Strategy,
TNC Massachusetts (U.S.)


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