Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy

People in Nature (PiN)

People in Nature (PiN) is an IUCN knowledge basket on the interrelationships between people and nature. PiN will provide a systematic approach to working with communities and others to document the benefits and values of the material and cultural uses of biodiversity, identify where biodiversity benefits (and costs) are located in the landscape, and how these benefits are realised and distributed. The purpose of PiN assessments is to help identify opportunities for and constraints to change, and provide information to help key decision-makers think through the implications of any proposed decisions, positively influencing conservation and development planning.
Stateless women weaving Nypa thatch Ban Lam Poo (2)

Chair : Helen Suich

The factors that shape material and cultural uses of biodiversity are key to PiN analyses, which will focus initially on people’s material use of biodiversity and on the role of nature in culture as expressed through cultural narratives, language and traditions. Early applications of PiN situation analyses demonstrate that the approach would benefit from also considering water and land in assessments.  

The PiN approach is necessary because the absence of mechanisms for decision-makers to systematically consider use of biodiversity across a range of habitats. The absence of such information can result in interventions that convert or damage critical aspects of biodiversity that are vital to local livelihoods and well-being. PiN assessments will therefore help identify opportunities for and constraints to change, and provide information to help key decision makers think through the implications of any proposed decisions, positively influencing conservation and development planning.

Assessments will start with material use (recognising that use is embedded within worldviews that include deep-seated cultural norms, values and understandings):

  • food and nutrition;

  • health and medicine;

  • energy;

  • shelter;

  • income;

  • ceremony;

  • trade.  

Assessments will also consider symbolic interrelationships with nature expressed through cultural narratives, language, and traditions, including diverse understandings of sacred and spiritual aspects of nature and our relationship with natural resources.

1.1 Overarching goals and guiding principles
PiN has two overarching goals. The first is to provide resource managers at different scales (Indigenous Peoples, rural and remote communities, government and non-government agencies, etc.) with mechanisms to identify and document material and cultural uses of nature in order to influence conservation and development planning and to develop strategies to scale up and enhance their influence in decision making.

The second overarching goal of PiN is to facilitate opportunities to learn from, communicate and exchange experiences with other resource managers.

The PiN approach also follows two guiding principles:

  1. Conducting assessments in a participatory manner – to ensure that the assessment design includes key issues as identified by relevant stakeholders. A methodology conceived to be participatory from the outset also encourages the sharing of perspectives, building of capacity and skills development for data gathering and monitoring.

  2. Taking a systems approach – which will consider both the direct interactions people have with biodiversity and the broader context in which these interactions take place, and will integrate knowledge and experiences from outside the area of the PiN assessment with information gathered in the assessment area

1.2 Practical uses of PiN Assesments
The ultimate goal of PiN assessments is to enable local priorities and choices about development pathways to mitigate or minimise negative impacts and strengthen positive impacts, and to equip Indigenous Peoples and local communities to better exercise their rights, fitting within IUCN’s commitment to a rights based approach.  

Without such information, local people can be alienated from, or have their access restricted to, resources that are (or have been) of fundamental importance to livelihoods and culture.  

Underlying this framework is the assumption that resilience is enhanced when rural and remote communities are able to utilise biodiversity to respond to change, and can incorporate such utilisation in their choices of development pathways (Armitage, et al., 2009; Biggs, et al., 2015; Brown, 2016). Rather than impose ‘responses’ upon rural and remote communities, it will be important for PiN to support communities in their own analysis and subsequent choices of appropriate and desired responses.

Information from PiN analyses is particularly useful in describing the dimensions of poverty or well-being that are most significantly impacted by any potential change and those that are most valued locally, which can create a focus on local priorities. PiN analyses will identify the aspects of the interrelationships between humans and nature – whether material or cultural – that are of critical importance to the well-being of communities, and the dimensions most vulnerable to change, or that may be critical for adapting to, or mitigating change. Analyses will also improve the understanding of the distribution of impacts across social groups and identify those groups with the greatest vulnerabilities to particular changes, so intervention planning can offset or mitigate these costs.

All of this information can then be used to inform choices about future development pathways, enabling a greater depth of understanding about the trade-offs and distributional impacts of different choices.

More information about the PiN framework and approach to landscape assessments can be found here [Link to page on approach to landscape assessments].

2 Future Directions
Three key areas of work under the framework of the IUCN 2017–20 programme have been identified.

2.1 Further conceptual and methodological development of PiN

Further development of the conceptual framework will focus on determining what the benefits derived from the use of biodiversity are, how they can be (or are) realised and distributed as well as consolidation and testing of the existing well-developed parts of the framework. Processes of intercultural co-creation of knowledge will also be investigated, as will local concepts of well-being and sustainable livelihoods, and how these are affected by flows of biological resources and benefits.

2.2 To encourage IUCN to integrate the ways in which biodiversity benefits people into project design and implementation.

There is a need to apply PiN through projects (based on the ‘One Programme’ approach) to help deliver IUCN programme. PiN is a mechanism to monitor progress on Target 22, measuring benefits from nature linked to sub-result 3.1. Additionally, this is necessary to help support activity one, the further development and refinement of the conceptual framework and tools.

2.3 Make data regarding benefits from biodiversity publicly accessible.

This activity is tied to rights and access to information of local communities and Indigenous Peoples, and is designed to increase our knowledge of how biodiversity contributes to livelihoods and well-being (e.g. through linking nutritional information to the SIS). It aims to explore interoperability of databases and IUCN’s role in facilitating links between databases and ensuring public access to information, thus bringing together secondary and primary data, exploring crowd sourcing, etc., as well as integration with other IUCN knowledge products.

3. The 'One Programme approach'

PiN has been developed under the One Programme approach, with involvement and engagement from the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, Secretariat and IUCN Members. The purpose of working together is to develop, implement and advance IUCN’s programme and maximise programme results.


PiN is in active development, and we encourage visitors to check back periodically for news and chances to participate in PiN activities and initiatives.

If you have any questions or would like to become involved in People in Nature, please write to

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