By: Crista Valentino, CoalitionWILD Director

For my 6th birthday in the early 90’s, my parents adopted a reintroduced Yellowstone National Park wolf on my behalf. In the photograph that accompanied the certificate stating our support, Matsi’s black and grey coat stood out in front of a snowy backdrop. The gift was a gesture that appealed to my early fascination with wolves and outstated desire to move to Montana to save them. I don’t quite remember where my intrigue stemmed from, nor do I remember it fading – but in the years that followed, that certificate collected more and more dust, and with it, the dream from a wide-eyed little girl.

Matsi certificate

As I grew, adolescent activities took priority – academia, sports, and social pressures pushed me down a winding path of least resistance towards a future I barely considered. That is, until a spontaneous series of yes’s and one brave person who decided to take a chance on a twenty-something with no experience brought the last two decades full circle.

CoalitionWILD at WILD10

CoalitionWILD members at WILD10, from left to right: Jordi van Oort, Netherlands. Michael Grover, South Africa, Crista Valentino, USA, Lincoln Meyer, South Africa

In 2013, I found myself sitting at my desk in the historically important Murie Center in Grand Teton National Park (3 hours south of Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming USA) attempting to envision a platform to share nature-based projects, when an email popped up from my mother. “You somehow always knew you’d be where you are. Proud of you for following your dreams,” and with it, a photo of Matsi and the certificate. It got me thinking…

Inside of each of us lies a vision, a smoldering passion, that can change the world.  For some, it is realized and followed early. For others, like me, it lays dormant until a passing wind fans the flame. And still, for many, it is left forgotten or not pursued. I wonder how many Matsi photos have been left to fade, and what that might mean for our world.

What if we created a platform that encourages the rekindling of those interests, and to offer the opportunity to recognize a vision maybe not yet realized or not yet acted upon? How can we develop a space for learning, for growing, and for sharing? And, most of all, what does it look like when a global connected community begins to support one another, adding validation and inclusivity where there was none before?


Paddling for a Purpose shows there is strength and support in numbers.

What happens is real, meaningful change.

CoalitionWILD shares the stories of young people around the world who are creating a wilder world.  Using these on-the-ground projects as inspiration and learning tools, we work to catalyze more action. Now, it is easier than ever to find success in being a change-maker. What was once interest has turned into action, and passion has developed into a purpose. CoalitionWILD goes beyond best practices and opens lines for communication between peers that allows for replication rather than reinvention. For a concrete example of a life CoalitionWILD has helped transform for conservation,  take a look at Sai’s story in WILD’s 2015 Storybook.

Over the last two years, CoalitionWILD has grown into a movement of over 6,000 members from 42 countries.  We have showcased more than 20 projects from rising leaders in 16 different countries, and have offered free toolkits for action – downloaded by almost 2,000 individuals. With the support of our networks, we have helped six of our project leaders gain international recognition for their work, catapulting them into the forefront of the environmental sector. And, most importantly, we have started an intergenerational dialogue, expressing the need for new visions and voices to be recognized and considered as we look to tackle the challenges of our planet. We’re proud to be a part of this expanding network of passion, and we’re not finished yet.

Forest committee members

Project leaders are often working in their own local communities to enact meaningful and long-term changes.

CoalitionWILD is as ambitious as those we work alongside. As we look ahead to 2016 and beyond, we see the opportunity to bring the global momentum back down into communities and into the hands of those with the spark inside of them waiting to ignite.

CoalitionWILD Alliances will do just that – converting an international movement into regional hubs of activity. These groups of rising leaders (ages 18 – 35) will be action focused, community minded, philanthropic, and globally connected. Imagine a collective of like-minded, creative and aspiring change-makers who are committed to doing good both locally and globally, and are supported and networked to everywhere in the world. We believe in the potential of this and future generations, and know that by investing in these rising leaders, we are investing in the future of our planet.

We will also be ramping up our resources offered; creating toolkits for action for each project we feature on our website. Through CoalitionWILD, we hope to lower the threshold for getting involved and increase the chances for success by learning from those who have experience.  With public support, we will explore various matching grant opportunities in order to assist young people in jump starting a project idea, as well as finding creative ways to support those already on the ground and in the field.

Bruno Monteferri / Conservamos de Naturaleza

This will all, of course, be in addition to continuing to grow our networks, taking opportunities to share our work on global stages (like the World Conservation Congress), and engaging with young visionaries to share their real-world solutions.

Every person born into this world is given a different set of circumstances.  I like to believe that regardless of situation, we are each also born with a smoldering something just waiting to be ignited. For me, perhaps Matsi was the start of a self-fulfilling prophecy fanned by one person who saw the tiny flame. CoalitionWILD is seeking out those tiny flames.

Be the spark with us. Support CoalitionWILD with your donations, time, and expertise.

Learn more about CoalitionWILD >

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