UCL Public Policy


Supporting indigenous and local communities through collaborative action research

Dr Jerome Lewis, Professor Muki Haklay and a team of UCL researchers have worked with non-literate indigenous communities to develop a smart phone app, ‘Sapelli,’ to support locals.


13 February 2023

International policy case study

Research title: Supporting indigenous and local communities through collaborative action research
Faculty: UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences
Activity: Research
Policy type: International Environment, Conservation or Wildlife; International Crime Police and Security policy; International Climate Policy
Country/Region: Africa and the Middle East, Latin America, North America
Policy partner: Local Communities; Non-UK National Governments (non-EU); International/Overseas NGOs


Jerome Lewis’s prize-winning, bottom-up approach to conservation and environmental justice has supported indigenous and local communities to adapt to rapid environmental change and protect biodiversity in Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Zambia. Lewis, together with Prof Muki Haklay (UCL Geography), developed an innovative method for collaborative action research, based on the smartphone app ‘Sapelli’, to support locals to monitor and protect resources. Data collected by the app has led to illegal loggers, poachers and traffickers being arrested, new community defined reserves (totaling 543,000 hectares) in Brazil and Cambodia, and changes to international law to combat illegal activities. Lewis also led the Flourishing Diversity Series to highlight the key role that cultural diversity plays in sustaining biodiversity, which changed the funding programme of UK charity Synchronicity Earth, founded a funding collective ‘Amazon Alliance’, and changed the practices of activist organization Extinction Rebellion Youth (XRY) to be guided directly by indigenous people.


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