How We Started


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.