Introducing Elinor for monitoring the governance and management of area-based conservation

Monitoring the governance and management effectiveness of area-based conservation has long been recognized as an important foundation for achieving national and global biodiversity goals and enabling adaptive management. However, there are still many barriers that prevent conservation actors, including those impacted by governance and management systems and/or implementing conservation activities and programs, from gathering and using data on governance and management to inform decision-making across spatial scales and through time. Here, we explore current and past efforts for assessing governance and management effectiveness and the barriers that different actors have faced in using the resulting data and insights to inform conservation decision-making. To help overcome these barriers, we introduce Elinor, a free and open-source monitoring tool that builds upon the work of Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom, to facilitate the gathering, storing, sharing, analyzing, and use of data on environmental governance and management across spatial scales and for areas under different governance and management types. We discuss the process of co-designing and piloting Elinor with conservation scientists and practitioners, and introduce the main components of the assessment and the online data system. We situate Elinor within the context of existing approaches for assessing governance and management, and demonstrate how Elinor complements existing approaches by (1) addressing both governance and management in a single assessment for different types of area-based conservation, (2) introducing flexible options for data collection, and (3) integrating a data system with an assessment which can support data use and sharing across different spatial scales. We conclude by recognizing the challenges conservationists will continue to face when using governance and management data to inform decision-making and offer tangible solutions that can help navigate these in support of more effective, inclusive, and durable area-based conservation. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved