Combating Wildlife Trafficking Learning Agenda

The CWT Learning Agenda focuses the Collaborative Learning Group's learning efforts on three related CWT theories of change.

Purpose and Context

The purpose of the Countering Wildlife Trafficking Learning Agenda is to support cross-mission collaboration and sharing of experiences and learning to improve CWT programming at USAID. The CWT Learning Agenda details the priority strategic approaches, key learning questions, and activities that the CWT Collaborative Learning Group will pursue through the Cross-Mission Learning Program.

Download the Learning Agenda

Framework: Theory of Change

The Learning Agenda is framed around a theory of change articulating expected results leading from USAID’s engagement with CWT programming to improve conservation outcomes. This framework helps teams plan for, learn about, and adapt their CWT programming. The CWT Learning Group focuses on 3 areas: reducing consumer demand through behavior change methodologies, building capacity for CWT enforcement, and increasing Community Conservation Action and support to combat poaching and trafficking. A 2023 Learning Agenda update added new questions on transboundary collaboration, convergence of multiple nature crimes, and impacts of corruption and gender with wildlife trafficking.

View the full theory of change


The three CWT theories of change are defined as:

Reduce Consumer Demand through Behavior Change Methodologies: The use of social marketing and other methodologies to raise awareness and change the behaviors of target audiences, especially consumer choices and reporting of illegal products and markets.

CWT Enforcement Capacity Building: The provision of financial or technical assistance to improve the capacity of governments and agencies to enforce wildlife laws and prosecute wildlife criminals.

Increase Community Conservation Action and Support to Combat Poaching and Trafficking: Efforts to build community support and action to decrease poaching and illegal activity.

These three focal strategic approaches are frequently carried out in parallel to achieve a common set of results. To represent this, the Learning Group developed a single overarching theory of change (see results chain diagram below). It is this theory of change that will be used as the primary frame for the CWT Collaborative Learning Group.



Click the image to see the detailed theory of change

Figure 1: Overarching Results Chain for CWT. This shows how the three focal strategic approaches (yellow hexagons) will lead to key intermediate results (blue boxes) that together contribute to reduced wildlife crime and improvements in protected and regulated species.


The Learning Group identified an initial set of Learning Questions based on the theory of change, a literature review, and consultation with the Learning Group members. These questions formed the basis for the original 2017 Learning Agenda. The Learning Agenda was updated in 2023 based on the evolving needs of the group. The blue text in the table below indicates new additions. The full Agenda can be found here. The Learning Group will continue to investigate the Learning Agenda through a variety of activities and will continue to update the Agenda as the group needs change, learning questions are answered, and new questions emerge. Click on the Contact button below to let us know your thoughts and questions you have about implementing combating wildlife trafficking.


Cross-Mission Learning Agenda for Combating Wildlife Trafficking

Learning Questions Envisioned Learning Activities Proposed Learning Products Use/Value of Learning Products
Strategic Approach 1: Reduce Consumer Demand Through Behavior Change Methodologies
Guiding question: What does effective demand reduction look like?

Group members share their experience and learn about the evidence base and best practices for demand reduction approaches

To support this activity, Measuring Impact will:

  • Provide direct support to missions to define MEL Plan/indicators and generate evidence
  • Collect information on what is working and what is not in monitoring demand reduction activities
  • Examine and disseminate new tools on demand reduction
  • Coordinate with the Wild Meat Learning Group on wild meat demand reduction
  • Spotlight findings from the USAID Reducing Demand for Wildlife Activity including through a meta-analysis of USAID Wildlife Asia campaigns

Contributions to the online repository of lessons posted on the wiki

Examples or models of behavior change indicators (case studies, brief, webinars with experts)

Compilation of demand reduction "best practice" materials (demand reduction toolkit website, case studies on the Learning Group website)

Webinars or in-person presentations of new information and evidence to the Learning Group and others

Webinars and/or in-person presentations of the results to the Learning Group and others

Discussions via the Google email group

Development of a measuring demand reduction brief

Presentation of a meta-analysis of reducing demand for wildlife

The learning activities and products will help USAID:

  • Design and implement more effective demand reduction strategic approaches
  • Identify appropriate indicators to track project progress and effectiveness

What is the effect of reducing supply of illegal wildlife products as a consumer demand reduction strategy?
What are the most appropriate metrics and methodologies for monitoring demand reduction activities, especially the link between attitudes and behavior change?
Are certain messaging strategies more effective than others (i.e., positive messaging, messaging with enforcement information, etc.)?
Strategic Approach 2: Build Capacity for Effective Enforcement and Prosecution
Guiding question: What are the characteristics of effective law enforcement capacity building?

Group members share their experience and learn about the evidence base and best practices for capacity building for CWT

To support this activity, MI will:

  • Organize a case study collection (open to interagency and USAID) and a learning event for socialization/li>
  • Comparison of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, timber, and CWT interagency activities (common threats, drivers, barriers, and approaches) to harvest potential new approaches and methodologies

Contributions to the online repository of lessons posted on the wiki

Case study briefs from entries (from case study collection)

Summary brief on best practices in law enforcement capacity building, including measuring outcomes (derived from case studies and learning event)

Diagnostic tool to identify barriers and approaches to implementing desired actions

Collection of training resources (who is doing what, where, and when)

Webinars or in-person presentations of new information and evidence to the Learning Group and others

Discussions via the Google email group

Targeting Natural Resource Corruption webinar

Development of a Transboundary Cooperation brief



The learning activities and products will help USAID:

  • Apply tools and evidence to design and implement more effective capacity building approaches
  • Identify potential barriers and challenges to the sustainability of capacity building efforts
  • Measure progress of and effectiveness of different approaches

How do institutional arrangements, especially dedicated units and embed programs, impact the uptake of skills and knowledge?
What are good examples of systems, particularly judicial systems, which have made improvements in CWT enforcement?
What factors are necessary for effective cooperation and processes among national, sub-national, and local authorities, especially for Wildlife Enforcement Networks?
What are some successful examples of partnerships used to deliver competency-building activities and what made them work?
For specific audiences: Which competency-building methods and content works best, especially for maintaining skills and retaining staff?
What are effective strategies to reduce corruption?
What are effective ways to coordinate with other agencies?
Strategic Approach 7: Increase Community Conservation Action & Support to Combat Poaching & Trafficking
Guiding question: What is best practice for community engagement on wildlife crime?

Group members share experiences and learn about the evidence base for increasing community conservation action and support to combat poaching and trafficking

To support this activity, MI will:

  • Disseminate Wilkie, et al. (Rewards and Risks Associated with Community Engagement in Anti-Poaching and Anti-Trafficking) through webinars, newsletter, google discussion group, etc.
  • Synthesize available information on the conditions under which community members are more likely to work with enforcement agencies (What is the tipping point? What are the economics underlying the tipping point?)
  • Support forums that increase dialogue
  • Compare the CWT Learning Agenda with other environmental programs that are widely considered to effectively include youth participation (e.g., the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands)

Contributions to the online repository of lessons posted on the wiki

Webinars or in-person presentations of new information and evidence to the Learning Group and others

Discussions via the Google email group

Produce a CWT and Gender summary

Host a webinar with Joni Seager

The learning activities and products will help USAID:

  • Identify the enabling conditions that may be important for community management of wildlife
  • Design effective approaches to enable community-government collaboration in combating wildlife trafficking
When are certain community incentive structures (economic, governance, security, others) more important relative to others?
What are successful examples of community-government collaboration that have resulted in increased support for combating wildlife trafficking?
What is the best way to involve communities in wildlife conservation?
How can CWT programming integrate gender and youth considerations?
General Questions
How does CWT relate to other natural resource crimes?

Group members share experiences and learn about linkages between wildlife and other natural resource crimes

To support this activity, Learning Group facilitators will:

  • Disseminate case studies, guidance documents, and other relevant resources

Produce a summary of selected resources

Host a webinar on the connections between the illegal wildlife trade and illegal logging, or a similar topic

Host a virtual learning event for activities that focus on different natural resource crimes

The learning activities and products will help USAID:

  • Fill a significant gap in understanding of linkages to inform effective programming
Back to Top