Charting trust to save peatlands


Charting trust in Indonesia

The politics of peatlands are fraught: these rich ecosystems lock up vast amounts of carbon dioxide, but agriculture, urbanization and other disruption leave them prone to fires that pour that CO2 into the atmosphere. In Indonesia, global climate concerns clash with suspicions about international encroachment and, above all, peatlands’ role in local and national economies. Meanwhile, conservation efforts face a key problem: the lack of an authoritative map of peatlands—many hidden beneath thick tropical forest.

From 2016-2018, Context Partners partnered with the Indonesian government and the Packard Foundation to create a prize competition, motivating leading international scientists to devise new mapping techniques for this complex environment. The prize experience had to engender acute trust in the endorsed winner while building a sustained network that would survive long after the winners were announced. 

“The politics of peatlands, like their carbon, lie mostly below the surface. For that reason, any method for making new maps must be transparent, credible and above political manipulation. In a word, the maps would have to be trusted.”

Jane Seymour

World Resources Institute, Peat Prize Team

What we did:


  • Immersive Discovery
  • Interviews
  • Co-design Facilitation


  • Innovation Prize Strategy
  • Network Development Strategy


  • Prize Experience Design
  • Prize Tech Build and Management
  • Prize Promotions
  • Storytelling


Understand the complexity of the challenge

Interviews and immersive discovery with partners and stakeholders revealed insights that directly informed our experience design and the opportunity to build a global innovation network among prize applicants. We worked with stakeholders to design a prize experience that would encourage new, innovative mapping methods, namely those that prioritize speed and affordability over detail. Because of the size and urgency of the problem, nontraditional approaches to mapping would also be encouraged.


Build a global network

Scientists and researchers have studied these environments for decades. Yet, they’d rarely collaborated to define the specific challenges facing Indonesia. Working with advisers and researchers to identify potential entrants, we shaped the Indonesian Peat Prize to attract maximum interest. Ultimately, it drew 10 entrant teams, consisting of researchers, students, companies and government agencies from more than a dozen countries.

The prize also includes a long-term strategy to create and maintain the global network of experts that emerged from the experience. This network will prove a valuable resource for the Indonesian government as it improves its understanding of mapping techniques and peatlands, and ultimately makes these cataclysmic fires a thing of the past.


The Indonesian Peat Prize was explicitly designed to support Indonesia’s One Map Policy to consolidate spatial information on a common, publicly-accessible platform. The competition illustrated how political tension impeding international cooperation on forests can be overcome. The $1 million prize, sponsored by Badan Informasi Geospasial (BIG), Indonesia’s national geospatial agency and funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, was awarded in February 2018. 

“The result provided a glowing example of how collaboration can help accelerate progress toward solving politically sensitive local problems.”

Jane Seymour

World Resources Institute