Monetization & Fundmobilization
One of the barriers to reaching scale is that money spent on holistic landscape management and restoration is still seen as a cost and not as an investment with a high return in benefits: inspirational, social, ecological and economical. Financing 4 Returns landscape management means that we need a blended finance approach
to create financial leverage over time: in which subsidies, grants and philanthropy complement commercial funding (such as loans and investments). See Fig. 1. Science and practice have shown that restoration measures will increase the resilience of a landscape and thus the value per hectare over time. But how to monetise this?
Following our strategy 2040, we started to answer that question by monetizing the 4 Returns at a landscape scale. Together with KPMG, and supported by Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Utrecht University (UU), Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) and others –
using inputs from the landscape in Spain – an approach was developed that will serve as the basis for a generic tool from 2020 onwards. This tool will help to credibly quantify the benefits and risks of landscape restoration, to demonstrate that investments in landscape restoration payback through multiple returns.
As a result of our internal strategy process and organisational development, resulting in an actionable plan for the upcoming years, cornerstone funder the COmON Foundation pleasantly surprised us with a long-term beneficiary agreement with an increased amount of
support. This financial contribution allows the international Commonland team based in The Netherlands to continue its activities as an initiator, catalyst and enabler of large-scale landscape restoration based on sustainable business cases.
On fundraising, we celebrated several highlights. The Dutch Postcode Lottery increased the annual contribution from € 500,000 to € 900,000. Not only in terms of unearmarked funding but also in being a sparring partner and helping us put landscape restoration on the agenda
by giving it media attention. The years also marked the start of our collaboration with IKEA Foundation on the Knowledge & Innovation Platform and a new 4 Returns landscape initiative in India. Throughout the year, this partnership expanded as we connected on the 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People Initiative and went on field trips and joined their 10th-anniversary event with panel discussion and presentation.
A meaningful way to connect with our partners and funders was during the Landscape Learning Fest in May and the 4 Returns Facility for funders and investors meeting that we organised twice in 2019. During the first meeting in June, we zoomed in on the work-in-progress Commonland strategy, and during the second meeting in December, we connected around landscape activities. We are extremely grateful for their continued support.
Besides our cornerstone funders we are very grateful to our partners LGT Philanthropy, the Dutch Government (the Physical Environment Consultative Council of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (OFL)) our Belgian philanthropic partner, and the funders of our landscape partners in the countries we work, like Ecosia, Doen Foundation, Tui Care Foundation, Coca Cola Foundation, Leopold
Bachman Stiftung, Mustard Seed Foundation, and many others. Our fund mobilisation team will be strengthened in 2020 and integrated into the new team Development & Communications.
Marketing & Communications
Creating awareness about the necessity and potential for landscape restoration and the 4 Returns played a major role in 2019. Our social media channels scaled up in terms of following, interactions and activity. Furthermore, we were present at many different events and presented our approach on several occasions, such as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration in Bonn, led by IUCN, UNEP and FAO; The Global Security Conference in Bratislava (GLOBSEC in July 2019); the European Business and Nature Summit in Madrid (November 2019) and many more. For more information about our presence at events and our advocacy policy, go to the chapter of Partnerships & Outreach.
In line with our updated strategy, the new Commonland website was launched in October 2019. The foundation was laid for content and developing a Marketing & Communications strategy for 2020, including the process of expanding the Marketing & Communications team.
The Marketing & Communications team has been in a transition phase during 2019 and will be part of the new team Development and Communications. The core focus on developing a Marketing & Communication strategy for 2020 took place in alignment with the new organisational strategy.
The collective co-creation process of both the Marketing & Communications strategy and the new website defines the organisation. And even though it might cause a slower completion of the projects, it does create results that are carried by everyone within the organisation.
Knowledge, Education & Innovation
For the KEI team, 2019 was a transitioning year characterised by the newly developed Commonland strategy, organisational changes, broadening the funding base for our activities with the support of
the IKEA Foundation and finishing the 3-year ENABLE partnership in October 2019. Within the new strategy and organisational structure, the focus of activities of the Science & Education team has shifted more toward knowledge exchange, joint learning and action research as is also illustrated by the team’s name change to “Knowledge, Education & Innovation”.
In 2019, we took the initiative to become a founding partner in the 1000 Landscapes for 1 Billion People initiative. In this radical collaboration, we are joining forces with organisations worldwide to link currently fragmented efforts, build capacities, and unlock investment finance via a global digital landscape action platform. The scope and goals of this platform alliance are closely connected to our new strategy to reach 1000 landscapes and build a Digital Platform to enable this.
The ENABLE partnership successfully delivered on its goals to launch 2 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC 1: A Business Approach to Sustainable Landscape Restoration; MOOC 2: Business Model Innovation for Sustainable Landscape Restoration), 5 case teachings, an experiential learning event, and the prototype of a learning platform (4returns.earth; see below). The MOOCs have been followed by thousands of people worldwide. Those participating in the course include landscape restoration practitioners, academics, government officials, policymakers, students and those generally interested in sustainable landscape restoration.
Feedback from a MOOC participant:
“Well presented and professionally supported. I recommend this course for anyone involved in ecological restoration, who is designing and implementing projects that involve multi-stakeholders.”
The landscape restoration case teachings can be found on the ENABLE website.
The ENABLE partnership reported to the European Commission on 31 October and was awarded a very good evaluation. ENABLE is a promising foundation to build further on our 4 returns educational curriculum and action research program with partner organisations.
Impact & Learning
In 2019, we published our first Impact Report 2018 showcasing our collective impact in the 4 returns network and with our core landscape partners. We will continue to improve our MEL activities and will add a lot more focus on the Learning aspect of monitoring.
The 4returns.earth platform is a central meeting and learning space for our growing 4 returns community to meet, share and learn from each other. The platform provides practitioners and professionals with interesting tools, networks, stories, jobs and events in the field of landscape restoration.
In 2019, we organised over 10 different webinars and Community of Practice sessions. Topics included 3 zones implementation, regenerative agriculture and landscape finance. Together with the ENABLE partnership, we also hosted 3 Global Landscapes Forum Digital Summits on participatory monitoring, participatory research and community initiatives in response to large forest fires.
Publications & Research
- ‘Building the investment case for business-driven landscape restoration’ in SER News by Rudolf de Groot, Associate Professor Environmental System Analysis (ESA-WUR) and Chair Ecosystem Services Partnership, and Simon Moolenaar (PhD), Head of Science & Education at Commonland (link)
- ‘Impacts of land-use change and climatic effects on streamflow in the Chinese Loess Plateau: A meta-analysis’ Hao Chen, Luuk Fleskens, Jantiene Baartman, Fei Wang, Simon Moolenaar, Coen Ritsema (link)
Co-creating at landscape level:
4 Returns Labs
In 2019, we continued to develop our 4 Returns Labs strategy based on the principles of Theory U. The first 4 Returns labs prototype kick-started in 2019 named For Tomorrow’s Harvest (FTH), which brought together 80+ changemakers of the Dutch food- and agricultural system. A strong network has been developed while exploring potential opportunities for regional labs and a landscape blended finance lab.
For the design, development and implementation of FTH, we have a partnership with the Physical Environment Consultative Council of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (OFL). This year we have strengthened our partnership.
Together with OFL, we we are committed to expanding the Dutch FTH network. Subsequently, we are building a bigger network of 4 Returns practitioners, using the theoretical framework of Theory U in governmental institutions in the Netherlands.
Furthermore, we are exploring, together with the Presencing Institute (as part of an MoU), to bring this proposition to other countries and organisations (e.g. together with the Red Cross in the Philippines). Also, through the last year’s lab activities in West Australia, the partnership has grown on the landscape from working with Wide Open Agriculture to working with an ecosystem of partners focused on transitioning to a more sustainable agriculture and food system. A strong partnership with Aboriginal (Noongar) Elders as part of the Danjoo Koorliny (Walking Together) Social Impact Festival, is a highlight.