‘Bright Spots’ — How to change things when change is hard

Welcome to the Water Funds community!

Thank you so much for your moving response to our call for ‘Bright Spots’ as the world faces unprecedented challenges. We are truly impressed and encouraged by the variety of beautiful submissions we’ve received around the different topics and themes, helping to inspire us and motivate our work during these difficult times across the globe. This page is dedicated to summarizing and highlighting everything that the WFN collects over the ~6 weeks of this ‘Bright Spots’ initiative which started on Earth Day (April 22nd, 2020). To tell us a bit more, here is the initial short intro video by Water Funds Network (WFN) Manager, Emily Simmons:

GUIDELINES: If you’d like to contribute a ‘Bright Spot’, simply send an email directly to Emily Simmons and/or David Schaub-Jones with whatever it is that’s given you a moment of joy, excitement, hope or inspiration around the latest theme that we announce every week on Wednesdays. This can be a recent photo, article, quote, publication, idea, or anything else around the specified topic that you’d like to share with others. Participation is completely optional, but if you do want to submit something, make sure you do so before the next upcoming Wednesday when the Bright Spots theme changes.

NOTE: for any photos taken by, or contain images of non-TNC staff, please also send along a signed copy of the 1-page release form found here.

The WFN ‘Bright Spots’ initiative concluded on June 10th, 2020. Keep scrolling down though to see all the wonderful submissions and summary videos from each week.


The WFN ‘Bright Spots’ initiative has now come to a close, but we’re happy to share with you the new (but last) video from Week 6 that summarizes everything you sent in around the theme of ‘scaling for water funds/water security’. Some members shared a particular approach or strategy a water fund has taken that led to a positive outcome and has potential to be replicated, and some looked to other case studies or examples around water security that we can learn from to potentially improve our conservation work. Thank you to all our members for being a part of this exciting effort to capture experiences, share success stories, and learn from one another. Week 6 closed on Wednesday June 10th, and marks the official conclusion to this WFN ‘Bright Spots’ initiative.

WEEK 6 FEATURE: Final thoughts from Daniel Shemie, Water Fund Strategy Lead for TNC.

Dear friends and colleagues

For over six years now, this community of practice has been meeting up to share experiences and hard earned lessons about watershed conservation. We’ve done so largely virtually and with limited resources. And despite a membership that spans continents, cultures, and language barriers, we always manage to find a lot of things in common. I still find that remarkable.

Since we’re all so isolated, what we have in common strikes me as a good place to build from. It’s surely an understatement to say that the past few months have been tough and if you’re like me, you’ve been craving some good news. I hope that in some small measure, this Bright Spots initiative has provided that.

Scrolling through the Medium page, I see non-stop positivity and inspiration. I especially liked Henrick’s shout out to the Quilombola community in Rio Claro, Brazil whose bird monitoring helps to measure watershed health. That’s so much cooler than turbidity, right? Or perhaps I’m biased because song birds here in New York sound especially beautiful this spring.

But all good things must come to end. Or do they? If you liked Bright Spots, take a look at the book that inspired it: “SWITCH”. It makes a strong case to focus on what is working when things are hard.

Thanks to everyone who contributed and special thanks to Emily and David for the great initiative!




Week 5’s theme was around things that have worked well during the pandemic lockdowns that you would like to keep or continue going forward. You can also think of this as ‘silver linings during COVID’ which does not need to be water or nature related. Here is the video that summarizes all of the great submissions you sent in. Scroll down further as well to see more highlights and features both from this week and weeks prior.

WEEK 5 FEATURE: The source of this ‘Bright Spots’ initiative.

If you’re curious about where this ‘Bright Spots’ idea actually originated from, in this short video our very own David Schaub-Jones (TNC’s Water Funds Programme Manager) reveals the source, touches a little bit on the themes for the final two weeks of this initiative (Week 5 & Week 6), and describes the potential when we scale up from positive experiences and success stories, even when change is hard.

Whether you’re a student, a teacher, a writer, a rapper, a producer or something completely different, what percentage of your time do you spend focused on problems? What would it look like to instead spend that time finding, investing in and scaling the bright spots where success already exists? (HusslingtonPost.com)

Click here to find out more about the ‘Bright Spots’ approach to bringing about social and environmental change.

“WHAT TO KEEP AFTER THE LOCKDOWN” WEEK 5 (selected highlights)

“The spirit of community has shone brightly during this time, spotlighting the best of human nature, and I’m hoping that four things in particular carry over into our post-lockdown world:

  1. COMMUNITY CELEBRATIONS — Every night at 8pm my entire neighbourhood comes out of their homes to celebrate our healthcare and essential services workers through loud and joyful noises of all kinds — trumpets, drums, vuvuzelas, pots and pans, happy whoops and song! I think it’s also a way for all of us to reaffirm our connection to one another during this time of isolation, a nightly reminder that we are still a community, all close by, who will get through this time together.
  2. COMMUNITY SUPPORT — Our neighbourhood watch started separate Whatsapp groups for each street, and offers of support are extended on these groups each week. It’s been so heartening to experience the kindness of strangers towards one another, doing whatever they can to meet the needs of the community.
  3. COMMUNITY EXERCISE — Due to the strict daily window that we have to exercise (6–9am), the entire community appears together on streets and fields each morning to enjoy some fresh air and get their circulation going. I’ve loved seeing families together, many of whom are doing this for the first time, countless happy dogs and earnest joggers, all united in enjoying the simple joy of being outside and, as an added bonus, creating a safe outdoor space through sheer numbers!
  4. Also, RAINBOWS! On gates, on walls, in windows, on signposts — the perfect symbol of hope and joy, long may these reminders last!”

— — — — — — WEEK 4 (“INSPIRING FIGURES”) — — — — — —

Week 4’s ‘Bright Spots’ theme gave WFN members an opportunity to think about the people or outcomes that have impressed or even motivated them recently. This is because we proposed that ‘inspiring figures’ could be interpreted as an inspirational number (e.g. “X # hectares conserved”), a diagram (e.g. “illustrative info-graphic”), and/or a person (e.g. “water heros”). I hope you enjoy this summary video of what was sent in, and don’t forget to scroll down to see the new feature from this week, as well as additional details about all the ‘inspiring figures’ submitted in Week 4.

WEEK 4 FEATURE: The inspiring people (and numbers) behind South Africa’s Greater Cape Town Water Fund!

The Cape Floristic region is the smallest of six global floral kingdoms, a UNESCO World Heritage site and biodiversity hotspot with 9 500 plant species, 70% of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Alien plant invasions are one of the biggest threats to this global biodiversity hotspot.

55 billion litres of water are lost every year as a result of non-native tree invasions in the watersheds. Worse still, invasive pines burn up to 10 times hotter than native fynbos, destroy seedbanks, cause erosion, are difficult to control and pose a risk to communities in the watershed.

Restoring the Greater Cape Town Region’s watersheds protects biodiversity and improves climate change resilience. The Greater Cape Town Water Fund is expected to reclaim 100 billion liters every year within thirty years, cheaper than any engineered alternative.

To remove the pines, high altitude teams are dropped by helicopter in remote mountainous areas to remove these and other invasive trees. “High angle technicians” cut down invasive trees on steep cliffs in remote mountains to do this work, already 120 green jobs have been created.

“INSPIRING FIGURES” WEEK 4 (selected highlights)


Week 3 has shed light on so many amazing Bright Spots when it comes to upstream communities and watersheds. I hope you enjoy this summary video of all the moments of inspiration and happiness that WFN members submitted:

WEEK 3 FEATURE: — “A treat for your ears” — This video, submitted by TNC’s Ana Garcia, is a peaceful 15 second clip of flowing water and singing birds that she captured while walking through her neighborhood park in Arlington, VA. She shares with us that it’s a place where she can recharge and connect. The sounds are just so beautiful. Thank you Ana!


— — — — — — — WEEK 2 (“WATER SECURITY” )— — — — — — —

In contrast to Week 1 where submissions were mostly photos, Week 2 included Bright Spots in a variety of exciting formats. The following video is a summary of all the images, videos, books, and more that we received within the theme of water security, water availability, water quality or a mix of of these. We hope it provides you with the same inspiration we’ve been feeling from this amazing water funds community.

WEEK 2 FEATURE: — The Rio Grande Water Fund — Daniel Shemie, TNC’s Water Funds Strategy Lead, shares with the Water Funds Network some of his favorite ‘Bright Spots’ submitted in Week 2 of this initiative, of which the theme was water security. See his video below.

“WATER SECURITY” WEEK 2 (selected highlights)

— — — — — — — — — WEEK 1 (“NATURE”) — — — — — — — — —

Most of the submissions — but not all — that were sent to us in Week 1 (theme = NATURE) were photos. The following video is thus a short collage of the images and accompanying quotes we received, which hopefully provides an overall takeaway of the inspiration that was captured. Below that, you’ll find a featured Bright Spot from Week 1, plus a selection of the submissions with more detailed descriptions that members of our water funds network provided us with.

WEEK 1 FEATURE: While most of the submissions we got were great photos, TNC’s very own Jackie Hall (Director of Philanthropy, New Mexico) also sent through this great email:

This week, Sandra Postel sent me an email. As you may know, Sandra is global water policy expert and previously served as Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society. She is also co-creator of Change the Course, the national water stewardship initiative awarded the 2017 US Water Prize for restoring billions of gallons of water to depleted rivers and wetlands. Sandra has been a fan of the Rio Grande Water Fund for many years and even used it as a model in her recent book, Replenish.

Sandra recently wrote an article for The Hill proposing a Climate Preparedness Corps, similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps that was established during the Depression. This brightened my day as it demonstrates the kind of creative problem-solving we need right now in terms of eventually putting people back to work and solving our climate crisis. The bonus? In it, she once again highlights the work of the Rio Grande Water Fund. Here is the article: https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/493634-its-time-to-create-a-climate-preparedness-corps

“NATURE” WEEK 1 (selected highlights)


(older note about Week 2) Next week’s ‘Bright Spots‘ — A call to arms!

This first week was about collecting positive nature moments from around the world, whatever they may look like. But this coming week, with news breaking that the South Western US is experiencing the harshest drought for 1200 years, we turn our thoughts to the water aspects of Mother Earth and are asking you again to send through some ‘Bright Spots’ — this time with the theme of water security, water availability, water quality or a mix of any of these.

If you’d like to contribute in Week 2 of this Bright Spots activity, simply email Emily (esimmons@TNC.org) and/or David (d.schaub-jones@TNC.ORG) directly with whatever it is that’s given you a moment of joy, excitement, hope or inspiration around the theme of water security. This can be in the form of a photo, article, quote, idea, or anything else around the topic that you’d like to share with others. Participation is completely optional, but if you do want to submit something, the deadline for Week 2, is end-of-day this Tuesday, May 5th!

Note: for any photos taken by, or contain images of non-TNC staff, please also send along a signed release form found here.

As with Week 1, we will compile everything that is submitted to us into a user-friendly and hopefully engaging format here on this Medium page, and share back out to you on Wednesday along with the theme for Week 3.




Checkout the WFN Earth Day newsletter for further introduction to the Bright Spots effort: https://mailchi.mp/93c650f7d7f5/wfn-earth-day-2020-new-resources-opportunities-and-inspiration








The Nature Conservancy is one of the world's largest conservation organisations. Water security is amongst our top priorites-follow this account to know more.

The Nature Conservancy is one of the world's largest conservation organisations. Water security is amongst our top priorites-follow this account to know more.