Learn more about the importance of Conservation by Design to TNC's work and mission.

What is Conservation by Design?

Conservation by Design is a framework that provides guidance and tools to support TNC teams in developing and improving conservation strategies. It is designed by TNC staff, for TNC staff, to help teams adaptively manage their work and increase their impact towards our 2030 Goals.

Conservation by Design has guided The Nature Conservancy’s work for more than two decades.

Since 1996, this conservation framework has unified and defined TNC’s conservation efforts around the world. We use Conservation by Design to set priorities, develop impactful and science-based conservation strategies, measure our effectiveness, and inform our learning. This feeds a powerful cycle of adaptive management for improved conservation outcomes.

Conservation Through the Decades

Conservation Through the Decades (6:43) Olivia Millard, Director of Conservation Learning, shares how TNC has evolved Conservation by Design over time to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

What’s New with Conservation by Design?

In 2024, TNC released updated Conservation by Design guidance in the form of nine modules. This has truly been a “One Conservancy” effort, informed by hundreds of TNC staff over a three-year period.

Here’s what’s new with the latest update:


Conservation by Design now consists of nine modules. A “module” is a tailored package of materials that helps a conservation team work through a specific step or aspect of conservation planning in a time bound, efficient manner. The team determines their planning needs and then chooses whichever modules are right for their needs now. The modules are designed to be useful to all conservation teams across TNC, for both new work and mature strategies.


The design of the modules emphasizes effectiveness, efficiency, and accessibility. They are an effective way for teams to develop and adaptively manage rigorous and equitable conservation strategies, while making efficient use of available time and resources. They are also accessible to TNC teams around the world, and relevant to diverse needs and contexts.


The module updates were guided by three key principles of conservation: equity, evidence, and impact. Through Conservation by Design, TNC aims to make these principles more actionable for conservation teams, so we can achieve our vision for 2030.

Key Guiding Principles

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  • Conservation by Design supports TNC teams in building and improving conservation strategies. It should be used by any TNC team looking to:

    • Develop a new strategy
    • Improve an existing strategy
    • Review a strategy component during implementation and adaptive management
  • Conservation by Design is intended for use by TNC staff and partners working on TNC strategies. It is not supported for external use. However, we make the modules freely available on conservationbydesign.org as part of our commitment to collaboration and learning.

  • The updated Conservation by Design modules replace all previous versions of Conservation by Design and associated guidance. Module resources will be updated regularly to incorporate the latest learning and best practices. Therefore, version numbers (e.g., “2.0”) will not be used going forward.

  • A strategy is a coherent body of actions that contribute to TNC’s 2030 Goals. Strategies are defined by a theory of change and executed through projects.

  • Strategies answer the question What should we do? A strategy is then implemented through one or more projects.

    Projects answer the question How should we do it? Through projects, we achieve tangible, lasting results that meet strategic objectives and contribute to our 2030 Goals.

    Conservation by Design is focused on strategies, not projects.