It all started when…
Commonweal Conservancy was inspired by the findings of an 18-month research and development initiative sponsored by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation and park-making organization headquartered in San Francisco.
In 2001, after serving for 12 years as director of TPL's southwest regional operations, Ted Harrison initiated a program at TPL known as Conservation Ventures. Conservation Ventures was designed to assess the opportunities and challenges associated with an "integrative practice of conservation-based community development." The pilot program explored opportunities for new park and open space protection that advanced larger, multi-beneficiary community development initiatives.
While the pilot program received an enthusiastic reception from community leaders and transaction partners, TPL's highly focused environmental preservation mission could not support the full potential of Conservation Ventures. To ensure the realization of Conservation Ventures' community empowerment and environmental protection goals, Ted decided to form a separate, independent organization explicitly dedicated to integrating conservation and community development.
In collaboration with a number of advisors and friends, Ted and three colleagues created a new organization. This organization's mission expressly embraced conservation-based community-building tools and strategies in order to achieve both land conservation and community development goals. With a lead grant from Land Legacy, a land-conservation organization based in Oklahoma, Commonweal Conservancy was officially launched in August 2003.
Commonweal, n. 1. the common welfare; the public good. 2. Archaic. the body politic; a commonwealth.
We chose the name "Commonweal" to signify the inclusive nature of our work. Land, air, water, animals, plants, and culture are precious aspects of our shared wealth-our common wealth-as a nation and as a community of interconnected people on the Earth.
"Conservancy" honors our origins as a gathering of people deeply committed to and experienced in the practice of connecting people to land. Conservancy also anchors our values of stewardship, healing, and renewal as fundamental goals of our work practice.
With the formation of Commonweal Communities, we brought focus to the community-building aspect of our work. The concept of community connotes fellowship, dialogue, and gracious neighborliness-and the knowledge that our human interdependence extends to our ecological communities, too.
The "Enso" or Zen circle that embraces our name is an ancient Japanese symbol signifying wholeness and unity. Its brush stroke reflects the inherent delicacy and humanness of our work—acknowledging that our well-intended, if ultimately imperfect, service to community and land is an artistic expression as much as a professional practice.