Marine CoLABoration

Marine CoLABoration was set up by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 2015 to explore how human values and the value of the ocean are reflected in individual and collective decision-making and can be utilised to increase ocean protection.

Our mission

The Marine CoLABoration (CoLAB) exists because current solutions are not creating the impact required to meet the scale of threat facing our ocean. We tackle issues by bringing together experts from diverse fields, creating a space to think differently and to experiment with new ways of approaching problems. We learn from experiments using action research cycles and share what we have learnt widely. Our work is rooted in the conviction that uncovering and reflecting the multiple values of the ocean and humankind will lead to better and faster ocean conservation. 

The following nine organisations are involved in the lab,  selected through an open call or via invitation, for their distinctive experience, interests and networks:

Client Earth, Fauna and Flora International, Forum for the Future, Institute for European Environmental Policy, International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), Marine Conservation Society, New Economics Foundation, Thames Estuary Partnership, Zoological Society of London.

Foam, a Brussels-based cultural laboratory, facilitated the initial Marine CoLABoration workshops and captured the learning via a wiki site. You can read a piece by Foam on the philosophy behind working as a laboratory to protect the ocean here.

Marine CoLABoration partner logos

Marine CoLABoration partner logos

Our aims and approach

Our objectives are to:

  • Discover and understand the multiple values placed on the oceans by humans.
  • Uncover the inherent, under-recognised value of the ocean to humankind.
  • Explore the values of humans and how these could be brought to bear to improve ocean conservation.
  • Create a space in which experts from diverse fields can think differently and construct new approaches and ideas to achieve impact.
  • Utilise laboratory techniques and disciplines.
  • Create, conduct and learn from experiments to test the values-based approach to achieving impact.
  • Sharing learning to increase wider impact and to influence the work and approaches of others.

What we do

We think

We convene organisations, strategise and bring in outside expertise and ideas. The lab explores the hypotheses that:

…by understanding and working with an approach using values, we can create more change.

Marine CoLABoration members in Lisbon 2015

Marine CoLABoration members in Lisbon 2015

We test 

We co-create projects and bring change into our own organisations and work. Our experiments include:


A project designed to create a link in people’s minds between the single-use plastic water bottle  and the health of the ocean, to trigger human values around waste and expose ocean value.

Join the conversation on twitter: @OneLess

Agents of Change

An initiative that aims to build support in coastal communities for Marine Protected Areas and associated marine resource use (e.g. sustainable fisheries, sustainable planning). The experiment is exploring what happens if we empower ‘Agents of Change’ – different actors within coastal communities and new voices for conservation – to widen engagement in the process and discussions surrounding marine conservation.

Own projects

Each member organisation is identifying individual projects or streams of work through which experiments can be run.

We learn

We are creating and implementing action research cycles for all our work and capturing learning as we progress. Our impact will be seen through:

  • Evaluation and learning to assess the effectiveness of our own projects.
  • NGOs and others adopting our learning and achieving more impactful solutions.

We share

We are sharing our learning through regular updates and developing a plan for articles, a workshop and lectures/talks.


Click here to read a piece by Lab member Sue Ranger on why value underscores all that we do. 

Click here for a one page document which sums up all that we do.