Our History

Carving a path that makes communities equal partners in conservation.

Communities are the solution

Chris LaFranchi worked in Africa, Asia, and the Americas for organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, UNESCO and World Bank. It led to the insight that equitably involving communities and aligning solutions with their interests is critical to conservation success. Chris refined his idea during his Fellowship with the Mulago Foundation which led to the OneReef Community Partnership Agreements that support coral reef conservation in Micronesia.

Community interest is the catalyst

The Hatohobei Community in Palau contacted Chris because they saw the OneReef partnership as a better solution to protect Helen Reef - it put the community on an equal footing with partners and would support them as long as needed. A conference in Palau led to interest from other Micronesian communities.

First agreement - Groundbreaking!

A five-year renewable agreement was signed between OneReef, Micronesia Conservation Trust (fiscal executor), and the Hatohobei Community to protect Helen Reef into the future.

Ripple effect

 Six months after Hatohobei, the traditional leaders of Ngulu Atoll and Nimpal MPA (Yap State, Micronesia) signed Community Partnership Agreements with OneReef. In 2013, Conservation Society of Pohnpei, Micronesia, introduced OneReef’s model to the late Rohsa Namio Nanpei, of Ant Atoll, leading to the first phase of a Community Partnership Agreement with the current Rohsa, William Hawley, Sr.

Science and technology meet traditional knowledge

Reef monitoring using novel 3D imaging technology was done by OneReef partner Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Sandin Labs) at Helen Reef (Palau) and Ant Atoll (Pohnpei, FSM). Marine Monitor (M2) radar was installed and tested at Ant Atoll in collaboration with ProtectedSeas. 

OneReef model expanded in Palau

OneReef signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Palau Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Palau Ministry of Justice to help the nation with its conservation goals and ocean policies. Subsequently, OneReef engaged with individual communities (the states of Angaur, Peleliu, Ngarchelong, Kayangel, Sonsorol) and the government officials as a step towards formal agreements.

Guiding traditional stewardship with scientific evidence

Scripps Institution of Oceanography conducted follow up monitoring of reef health at Helen Reef and Ant Atoll, and baseline monitoring for neighboring Pakin Atoll. Periodic monitoring informs long term management.

A proven model

Galvanized by the success in Ant Atoll, five more communities in Pohnpei signed agreements: Palikir, Pakin, Lenger and Dehpek-Takaiou. Scripps conducted monitoring at Ant Atoll for the third time and neighboring Pakin Atoll for the second time. Partnership with Ngulu Atoll renewed. 

Mentor and Collaborate for long term success
(1) As part of its commitment to foster young conservation leaders, OneReef advocated to get the Nia Tero Young Leaders Fellowship Program for Ryan Hawley, of Ant Atoll (2) Weekly ranger training and mentoring started at Ngarchelong (Palau) and testing of M2 radar commenced (3) Three teams from OneReef partner communities trained in Scripps’ novel 3D imaging technology, enabling scale-up of reef monitoring to more areas and communities sharing ownership of the science. 
Power to scale the model
With help from financier and OneReef supporter, Dr. Russell Fuller (Fuller & Thaler), Chris formulated a concept for massively scaling the model. The approach uses Nudge Theory to engage employees at large companies who donate and partner directly with traditional stewards. At the invitation of Richard Thaler (Nobel Prize laureate), Chris then worked with an MBA class at the University of Chicago’s Booth School to refine the concept. 
10th anniversary of 1st agreement

10th anniversary of 1st agreement (Helen Reef; Tobi community, Palau). Tobi/Helen Reef rangers, trained and equipped by OneReef help apprehend a large, foreign poaching vessel. OneReef is one of 6 worldwide Blue Climate Initiative awardees. Local island teams trained in cutting-edge technology independently image 20 different reef sites in Palau and FSM.