Non-profit organizations and governments in countries around the world make direct payments to people in return for socially responsible behavior, but there is limited collaboration between those pushing primarily for improved living conditions and those pursuing environmental sustainability. A team of researchers led by Purdue University is hoping to bridge that gap so that these groups might learn from each other’s best practices and further benefit their missions and the peoples they work with.
Groups focused on human capital development (HCD), including national governments of countries such as Brazil and Mexico, and non-profit organizations such as CARE International and GiveDirectly, advocate for household practices that produce socially desirable outcomes. They work to improve schooling for girls or healthcare for mothers and children. Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) advocates, including various national and local governments, such as Costa Rica and New York City, and non-profit organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy, call for natural resource management practices that produce valuable ecosystem services to society such as biodiversity and water purification.
Both types of groups have found success for their missions through direct payments to citizens or natural resource managers. But there are many differences in how these groups operate.
“Conservation and development should always go hand in hand, but people and institutions devoted to each goal don’t always work together” said Zhao Ma, an associate professor of natural resource social science in the Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, who led a research team that reviewed the practices of both HCD and PES programs. “We argue for a more encompassing framework to look at direct payments as one umbrella mechanism to improve human capital development and environmental conservation rather than working in their own spaces.”