International Women's Day - Daveen

Wildflower meadow (c) James Alder

This year, as part of International Women's Day, we wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate a few of the incredible women working to make the world that little bit more wild. In this interview, Daveen Wallis, Director of Nature and Wellbeing, shares her story.

What does your role involve? 

As Director of Nature and Wellbeing I am passionate about how nature can have a direct impact on our health and wellbeing. Having personally felt the benefits of contact with nature, and seeing so many people experience, sometimes for the first time, the effects of nature on their wellbeing, I am driven to promote why nature is fundamental for our health, why we need to do more to halt nature’s decline, and why it is so important that we help everyone to have the opportunity to reap the benefits of contact with nature.

Key projects that I oversee to help engage people with nature include Myplace, Carbon Landscape, volunteering, and I am currently leading the Greater Manchester Environment Fund.  I truly believe that if we are to reach as many people as possible we need to campaign for a green economy, accessible greenspaces in our towns and cities, nature incorporated into new development, and work at a landscape scale to achieve our Wilder 2030 ambitions where a third of our land and sea is managed for wildlife. Now is the time to seize the opportunity, as we come out of the pandemic, to build a healthier, stronger and wilder future. 

How long have you worked for The Wildlife Trust? 

22 years. I started as a Project Officer engaging local people in the designation and management of local Nature Reserves.  This work remains so important for me as our local Nature Reserves are those places that are special for wildlife but are also accessible and close to where people live. I supported the Wildlife Trust to secure funding for project staff to work on a variety of local Nature Reserves across Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Merseyside, and our work expanded to include other urban greenspaces where we recognised the importance of bringing derelict, underused and neglected land back into productive use as a community asset where people felt re-connected with nature. 

What did you do before? 

Before I worked at the Wildlife Trust I travelled the world and volunteered on a number of conservation projects in the Appalachian Mountains in America, New Zealand and Australia. Before that I volunteered for a number of charities including TCV, CPRE and the Derbyshire Rural Community Council which gave me the skills and experience to get me my dream job with the Wildlife Trust.  

Daveen Wallis (centre)
My advice to women who would like to work in a similar job to this is to build those partnership, talk to anyone and everyone, and enthuse about what you do, and how valuable it is. I believe I am in the position I am because of my passion, commitment and integrity. Treating people as an equal and offering help and support is key to building trust quickly and that is the fundamental requirement for any partnerships to be successful.

What made you want to work in the environmental sector? 

I spent my childhood outdoors and was fortunate to have family that took us exploring on many adventures that nurtured my love for wildlife, and I often took to the comforts of the countryside when things were stressful at school. I appreciated that I was one of the fortunate few to have had this valuable experience, with so many people not aware of what nature is on our doorstep and the benefits that contact with nature can have on people’s lives. I studied Countryside Planning at Cheltenham to give me a sound wealth of knowledge in how management of our countryside could benefit our communities and economy as well as our ecology and realised at this point that I wanted to focus on how we can engage more people in greenspace improvements within our towns and cities. 

What are the best bits about your current job? 

I love the people that I work with. We are all so passionate and dedicated and want to do the best we can to reach out to as many people as possible. To work with such warm hearted enthusiastic people makes every day a joy. Although I am not directly delivering activity I like to get to meet the people we are reaching and connecting with as when I see the impact that we are having I can see the importance of this work. I’m a great believer in partnerships and the importance to working collectively if we are to achieve our ambitions for a Wilder 2030 and I get a real buzz from seeing new projects develop, funds secured and increased capacity to enable this vital work to continue and grow. 

What are the major challenges in your role? 

Unfortunately all of this wonderful work that I am involved in is funding dependent. It is a major challenge to secure funds to see successful projects continue – there are some funders who do not like to fund continuation. This leads us to think of innovative ways in which we can bring in more diverse income streams to see activity continue whether its through membership recruitment, corporate sponsorships, charged activity, contract work, crowdfunding, appeals and community fundraising.

What advice would you give to women interested in working in a similar job to you ? 

As the lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion within the Wildlife Trust, I am very aware how critical it is to ensure that all of our activities and opportunities are accessible to everyone, and we are putting actions in place to ensure that we reach any audiences that are under-represented. My advice to women who would like to work in a similar job to this is to build those partnership, talk to anyone and everyone, and enthuse about what you do, and how valuable it is. I believe I am in the position I am because of my passion, commitment and integrity. Treating people as an equal and offering help and support is key to building trust quickly and that is the fundamental requirement for any partnerships to be successful.