Category Archives: Business Risk

Video

Infographic shows why Branson’s Virgin formula for branding #biodiversity is so right on

This video by a Vancouver art student group is a good overview of the value of #biodiversity, but seeing it makes me realize how much I like Richard Branson’s method of branding biodiversity.

Richard Branson’s Biodiversity Branding Formula has five elements. Start with A. an at risk animal that’s cute or magnificent (for biodiversity, cute and exotic may trump charismatic megafauna (lions, hippos, etc.) The big animals are usually seen alone; the small animals are believably dependent on context; local habitat, and ecosystem. Then it says B. We are starting to make a difference; we are protecting its habitat, it’s coming back in some places. Next he says C. That it’s safe to give to this country or region; there are fair elections on the way, or some other validator so that people won’t be afraid to give or get involved there. The rule of law is essential for biocultural diversity. That’s why the confluence this September of the UN and International Funders for Indigenous People annual conference and the first ever real time meeting of representatives of indigenous nations and the nation states of the UN is so important and why I plan to be  deeply involved in those September gatherings.

Then there is D. a brief mention of the fact that biodiversity is good for people, too. But you don’t sell that too hard; you don’t lead with it. I’ve learned in seven years of involvement with Fair Trade companies, that the message of linking poverty alleviation is not one you lead with if you want to talk to a broad audience. It doesn’t resonate well with people beyond a core group of justice seekers.

There could be a greater link with faith based people in the U.S. on this, as there is in the UK. The tragic failure of Fair Trade USA to make this a key component of their message has to be overcome. In the UK, 83 % of grocery store buying decisions are positively impacted by fair trade as a factor. In the U.S.  it’s under 10 % largely, I think, in the UK the governing fair trade organization linked faith based people with activists, while in the U.S. the leadership was only about motivating activists. Until the church and the secular justice activists effectively link up, selling justice as a key reason to get important things done will lag behind using environmental motivations.

Finally, when you look the pictures on Branson’s project on Pinterest, E. the money line appears; not in the story. There is no intrusion into the story experience of Branson’s business reasons for being involved in biodiversity (whatever his personal reasons are). That’s the way to sell. Let the cute animals lead the way. Follow with the reassurance that it’s safe to give and that there is reason to hope, mention the people in passing, and leave the money pitch until the story is finished and has gotten its proper reaction.

Branding the Regenerative Capital Fund

I like the idea of describing the thesis of the Regenerative Capital Fund as a bridge between the ideas of John Fullerton at the Capital Institute and his co author Hunter Lovins and the ideas of Morgan Simon and Andrea Armeni and her team at Transform Finance. If it works, we will be a fungible anecdote for two related, aligned but not yet actively partnering, as in making common cause, for two groups of thought leaders.  We can, if we do this well, be an example each one uses to illustrate how a fund would make use of their ideas,  as they explain to people how the world should be. We want to be one of the funds they point to as an iconic example.

My simple formulation of our thesis is we are about biodiversity meets inclusion at the corner of non extractive profits. Good Capital Holdings in investing in the General Partnership of the fund, (one of three we are investing in)in order to inform the thesis; the truth they are trying to prove and show the world. Shaun Paul is the managing director, with Ed Dugger the transaction guy and the one who has sold institutional players.

It’s really that simple. They carry our story everywhere they go. People who want to get serious about those ideas find us. We have a sidecar donor advised fund, (DAF) so the average person who can put up $5,000 can invest directly in our companies, or in us. We give them the choice; we have to validate our position as an intermediary in a transparent marketplace. We could even be paid with tips, like Kiva when they saw something good they realized we had a significant hand in.

I am thinking of ways to make our fund communal, partly owned by the community, easily, maybe through local lending clubs, which also let people put in small dollars. There is one forming here that I will be participating here. I plan to invest in Accelerating Appalachia this fund’s sister accelerator through that. I could not find a way to invest in a single seed stage company was in line with our Good Capital Holdings thesis. We are investing in horizontal ecosystem infrastructure. My continual push as I work with RegenCap is to push for the best story. Shaun and my own good sense will moderate that desire to make the story I want conform to reality. It will be fun.

Iirro Niemi and Anna Blume got us this far. I am excited to continue to work with them.

We also plan to tell this story as kind of road to SOCAP14 building the Regenerative Capital Fund reality series with this blog cross-posted on the SOCAP site. We will also open that platform to other funds which are forming.

Overall, my goal this year to light up and connect the nodes in my network, from the Impact Hubs we now own and operate in TriBeCa, Philly, San Francisco and soon DC with SOCAP and the funds and companies Good Capital Holdings (GCH) is investing in.

Tell us your story of bio-cultural resilience in business

Business effects and sometimes even drives resilience in socio-ecological systems.  There are many many examples throughout the world where blended value companies driven by for-profit and non-profit entrepreneurs are greatly contributing to and sometimes even driving systemic change toward social and environmental sustainability.

With this blog, we seek to begin to capture examples and tell stories of companies about where and how business is pursuing business opportunities and successfully managing risk to guide their success often measured with financial returns along with social and environmental impacts.

Building biocultural resilience in business:

  • enhances and generally increases biodiversity;
  • affirms traditional and customary resource rights especially among Indigenous Peoples;
  • contributes to good governance for people and nature; and,
  • enhances the ability of people and nature to navigate economic and environmental shocks and disruptions like extreme weather events.

What does this look like today? I offer a few examples here with an invitation to share your story of biocultural resilience in business.

EcoMadera is pioneering a new business model to conserve threatened rainforests of the planet’s most biodiverse forests in Ecuador by producing sustainable hardwood products.  They are organized around a provocative business model bridging international partnerships between forest communities, and academia.

Maya Mountain Chocolate from Belize has adopted a direct trade model producing some of the best chocolate I have EVER tasted while offering Mayan farmers a price and value beyond fair trade and organic. Growing cacao MMC-style can have a powerful affect regenerating local biodiversity while affirming traditional land use and culture.

Dune Lankard is a native Athabaskan Eyak from the Copper River Delta of Alaska, and the founder of Redzone, an ongoing First Nations project created in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. He started the Copper River Wild Salmon Company to help local fishermen regain control over processing, packaging, labeling, and marketing their fish.  He’s is furthering a big vision to further sustainable fisheries management, bring high quality product to market and invigorate indigenous activists working to keep their fisheries healthy by keeping large coal beds underground in their traditional territories.

I welcome your joining us in telling stories about when and how business can offer profits while protecting and restoring nature aligned especially in ways that empower traditional knowledge and cultural practices.

Considerations for M&E capabilities during Farmerline’s early-stage pilots

In the past week, I’ve been working with the Farmerline team on how we can take the next steps to expand while in the middle of a pilot (and beginning another). Farmerline plays an integral role in getting stakeholders the information they need to better manage crops, reach markets to sell those crops, and appropriate market prices for inputs and outputs. One of the toughest things I am constantly thinking about is what will be able to prove our business model. Right now, they have had strong interest from non-profits with large groups of beneficiaries, but the hope is that farmers would be able to pay for the service to sustain business. While all its value-added services are extremely important in the process of getting vital information to farmers in Ghana, what do farmers demand the most? Right now, they need information from non-profits and government to reach the market and manage crops. But what services do they demand where the net benefit of Agro-Calls and Call-Ins is positive for their growth? At this expansion phase, we know we have to take advantage of growth at the right time and make decisions quickly, all of which is difficult while in the middle of the pilots.

The uniqueness of Farmerline is a combination of ease of use, wide applicability and its specific focus on small shareholder farmers. At a glance, this seems like a win-win for so many organizations working with differing cultures, languages, and access to a mobile phone. I’ve learned that in Ghana, the country in which they operate, researchers have cited up to 91% of the target population for mobile use is saturated. The vast use of mobile phones has seen an explosion of apps targeted at solving deeply entrenched social issues, but the new space has created what one article from SSI calls “pilotitis” (Khan & Joseph, 2013). Writers Khan and Joseph highlight the need to move beyond the “conceptualizing and testing phase” in order to “catalyze systemic change” (Khan & Joseph 2013). This “innovation cult” drives inventors to seek new solutions to endemic problems, which is inherently good, but ultimately change needs execution to scale. Even though the founders developed this technology as they themselves lived and worked on smallholder farmers, wide adoption is still key to success.

One of the suggestion the authors recommend is “linking pilot approval phases to the solving of associated executional demands” (Khan & Joseph, 2013). For us, each hypothesis Farmerline posits during its pilot can have a decision-making step once it is proved or contradicted. That way, we can hopefully take advantage of quickly moving opportunities and adapt the product to how farmers and stakeholders best need it. One of the benefits of having a widely applicable technology is that during the pilot phase, Farmerline will be able to test which of the umbrella options in its technology are most beneficial. For non-profits seeking monitoring and evaluation technologies, the Agro-Polls technology is tailored to their needs to compute statistics and qualitative research. But in testing the buying power of individual farmers or farmer-based groups, Farmerline can understand if calling in a hotline or receiving weekly/monthly subscribed updates is worth paying for to help them increase yield and reach access to market. As we work to scale the current services, we focus on these needs.

As I think about the BCR tool in relation to how Farmerline enhances monitoring and evaluation, it becomes tricky. We are currently facilitating better M&E for nonprofits with our real-time dashboards that come with polling systems. Real-time data collection and analysis is possible for non-profits. The key is to make the product sticky enough so that when the pilot ends with a non-profit, its beneficiaries will realize its benefits. The flexibility of the pay-as-you-go platform creates affordability for low-income farmers, and allows nucleus farmers to regularly send updates to the hundreds of smaller farmers they support. After testing the nucleus farmers’ receptiveness to the service, Farmerline could then develop in-house M&E tools that measure farmers’ increases in yields and productivity since the time they have been using their ICT. At this pilot stage, developing potential impact metrics to put in place later on will test M&E capabilities. As an ICT organization, Farmerline addresses very specific pain points along the agricultural value chain; however, quantifiable impact is more indirect as it allows faster communication and facilitates better management practices among stakeholders. Providing in-house workshops on BMPs is one example of how direct impact can potentially be linked to Farmerline’s services.

Sources: http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/embracing_the_paradoxes_of_innovation

 

Why biocultural resilience matters and what it can look like

It’s great to have this blog up as I am on a quest with Kevin Jones and others to accelerate business practices that restore and regenerate nature. Resilience offers a powerful frame to harness a convergence of new opportunities that I believe can allow us to greatly accelerate global sustainability and well-being.

http://www.stockholmresilience.org/21/research/what-is-resilience.html introduces what we mean by resilience. We are building from Stockholm Resilience Centre’s system’s approach to socio-ecological systems. We affirm a core value that human and environmental well-being are inter-dependent and inextricably linked.  We are working to consider the role of culture that binds people to one another, and manifests deeply in human’s material, social, and spiritual relationships with nature. Culture remains a poorly understood  dimension to well-being.

One manifestation of why this matters is the high correlation between regions with high concentrations of biodiversity and cultural integrity of Indigenous Peoples. While I am not suggesting there are ‘noble savages’, indigenous cultures have sustained biodiversity in contrast to western culture that has driven the consumption of nature to a point of planetary crisis.

In this context, we are looking at how business can be a lever for systems change with positive social and conservation outcomes. This can mean companies incorporate ecological restoration into their cost of doing business extending beyond payment for environmental services which are good but remain insufficient.

Among my most inspiring examples are companies that restore and regenerate nature. Will Raap’s work with Earth Partners removing invasive species that permits range land restoration while creating wood chips fueling an energy substitute to coal.

I am also inspired by Terracycle growing rapidly with a business proposition to eliminate the concept of waste. They have taken plastics recycling, upcycling and product redesign to a completely new level. They are delightfully disruptive but perhaps don’t best embody biocultural resilience.

I hope this blog can build upon a rather lively conversation we have been having on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BioCulturalResilienceTool providing a basis for a free flowing exchange uncovering a range of interesting resources and perspectives.

Biosphere Entrepreneurship – An Approach To Supporting Human Well-being and Ecological Resilience” reflects the work of one of our project partners that manages the Lake Vanern Biosphere Reserve in Sweden who has been diligently developing and applying a strategy to foster local business activity that contribute to the Biosphere’s conservation objectives which encompass natural, cultural, and economic dimensions.  As a non-profit, this project has also become a source of funding and constituency building. Thus, there are many benefits for non-profit conservation practitioners to adopt this approach, but it first requires value alignment which can unleash very powerful possibilities.

What can investing in biocultural resilience look like? Sweden’s Lake Vanern was restored from a highly polluted place to a healthy place for people and planet. This included identifying cultural assets and traditional knowledge that can be leveraged to build well-being for people and planet. And, this involved the non-profit biosphere manager together with local public officials convening public-private partnerships that supported actively expanding high value fish products with ancient native fishing communities – caviar for the planet!

Our project partner, Johanna MacTaggart, who is the Lake Vanern Biosphere Manager offers a translated VIP visit with native fisherfolk that offers a glimpse of what building biocultural resilience can look like.

Together, we are building innovative approaches to catalyze a way of thinking and analytical framework that uncovers poorly understood business risk and opportunity. However, we also need many others to join us including donors, protected area managers, public agencies and academia. Systems change requires many actors and we believe harnessing business can be a very powerful driver…to build the world we want.

We are building an open platform to support and encourage broad participation and engagement. We welcome ideas, learnings, and collaborations from all sectors. We welcome you to join us especially if you are committed to learning, using your voice and influence, as well as taking action.

Stay tuned for more as we turn our attention most immediately to fish, oceans and the blue economy.

Shaun Paul