Conservation Speed-Dating Workshop Guide

The Virginia Grassland Bird Initiative (VGBI) has worked with partners across three Regional Conservation Partnerships in Virginia, including the Rappahannock River Roundtable, Blue Ridge Conservation Alliance, and Shenandoah Valley Conservation Collaborative, to successfully build out a novel outreach approach that is accelerating the adoption of conservation best management practices in the region. Since its pilot launch in the summer of 2023, the aptly named Conservation Speed-Dating Workshop has sparked a lot of interest and positive feedback.  

The overarching goal for these workshops is to introduce landowners and producers to their local technical service providers (TSPs) and conservation practitioners (CPs), their expertise, and the full suite of (technical and financial) resources, knowledge, and programs they can provide. The strength of this event comes from having these TSPs and CPs (i.e., “conservation support team”) engage one-on-one with each participant discussing how their programs apply specifically to each landowner’s property and conservation goals, using a large, hard-copy map of each property as a focal point for discussion.  

Ultimately, participants leave with an informative and inspirational roadmap for adding more conservation practices to their landscapes and operations. They are armed with the knowledge of who to follow up with and what incentive opportunities and cost-share programs are available to support them. 

Justin Proctor, VGBI Coordinator, has now overseen four of these workshops and is really impressed with their lasting impact. “The large property maps are the golden ticket,” he explains. “I’ve visited landowners more than six months after they have attended one of these events and they still have their maps displayed and are continuing to reference them when talking about new management ideas they want to pursue.” 

Some additional perks of these workshops include (1) an opportunity for conservation staff to train new members of their team who can easily shadow them throughout the event, (2) creating a fun and comfortable event where neighbors can meet neighbors, sometimes for the first time, and build relationships around shared interests in land stewardship and conservation goals, and (3) just as importantly, a much-needed opportunity for conservation staff to interact and catch up with each other.  

Speed-dating is back in style, and it’s already having a powerful impact on accelerating conservation on private lands in Virginia!