Towards a New Vision for WAZA

Posted: 6 June 2023

Founded in 1935 as the International Association of Directors of Zoological Gardens, WAZA has a long history of working with the international community to promote best practices in animal welfare and conservation in zoos and aquariums. Over the years, however, it became apparent that there was a need to reimagine what WAZA would look like, what its potential impact could be and how it could better support its members in being pioneers.

Against this background, the WAZA Council and Executive Office, with support and guidance from Ecoleaders, embarked on a journey toward a new strategy for WAZA. Over the course of 2022, the WAZA Council and Executive Office met several times, both virtually and in-person to develop the strategic plan. Meetings took place at ZooParc de Beauval (France) in April 2022, at the Denver Zoo (US) in July 2022 and finally at Loro Parque (Spain) in October 2022. To ground the strategy discussions in anunderstanding of stakeholder perspectives, data was gathered by the Executive Office, on beliefs, values and aspirations for WAZA through the annual member survey. Additionally, a process of consultation with various focus groups including non-members, former members, association members, and institutional members further informed the conversations.

As we began to gain perspective on the enduring parts of WAZA – who we are, what we stand for, and the impact we would want to have on the world – we invited members of the WAZA Committees and Subcommittees to share their feedback on our initial progress.

Prior to the 77th WAZA Annual Meeting in Tenerife, the WAZA Council and Executive Office met again to further progress the new strategy for WAZA, based on feedback received from the different focus groups and the WAZA Executive Office. This then culminated in the strategic planning workshop held during the WAZA Annual Conference. Attendees were presented with a draft of WAZA’s conceptual framework, which includes our purpose, guiding principles and niche. This is the long-term part of our strategy that helps us to understand what we will and won’t do.

  • The purpose is the heart of why we do what we do.  It is the overarching statement that expresses why we (WAZA) exists.
  • WAZA’s guiding principles describe how we show up to the work. These present what we believe, what we stand for, and what we expect our members to adhere to.
  • WAZA’s niche is the unique space that we occupy from which we can demonstrate our global voice, leverage our scale, and provide distinct services to WAZA members, partners and stakeholders to achieve our purpose. This is the role that we play that differentiates how we deliver on our purpose from other organisations.

WAZA’s vision is our aspiration for who we want to become and what we want to achieve together; it’s our chosen future. A great vision should stretch us and inspire us to achieve more than we thought possible. It should be transformational, for ourselves and our shared purpose.

WAZA Annual Conference attendees were then invited to divide into breakout groups to share their feedback on the conceptual framework, including any changes they would like to see reflected in it. As a demonstration of commitment to WAZA’s guiding principle of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Council members hosted breakout groups in a variety of languages, including Spanish, German, French, Japanese and Mandarin.

Building on WAZA’s niche, additional feedback on the conceptual framework and vision was welcomed before the WAZA Executive Office began the process of working on the new operational plan for WAZA. On 13 April 2023, during a WAZA Extraordinary General Assembly, 68 WAZA voting members unanimously approved the following vision and four strategic priorities:

To be a
Globally Recognised and Trusted Leader Advancing Conservation and Animal Welfare

1) Transformative leadership –
Lead the way in constantly redefining excellence in zoos and aquariums.

This ensures we are proactively addressing the emerging global opportunities and challenges and contributing effectively and impactfully to animal welfare and conservation.

2) Species impact – Promote and facilitate global cooperation for species conservation and sustainability.

This harnesses the collective power of our global network to advance the shared mission of our member institutions.

3) Global members – Retain and grow our members to have true global representation, engagement, participation and voice.

This increases our resources, capacity, and impact potential.

4) Reputation – Build a reputation as an indispensable voice in forums where global conservation and welfare policy is set.

This increases our influence over policy outcomes and opens up new funding and partnership opportunities for our members.

Over the course of this year, the Executive Office will work towards developing and implementing the operational plan to breathe life into WAZA’s new vision and work with our members to ensure that we achieve the mandate entrusted to us by the global zoo and aquarium community.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

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