Category Archives: Environment

How do you fund cutting edge commons technology?

The Caltrope project is really mesmerizing (no surprise, since it’s the brainchild of a Hungarian conceptual installation artist). Let’s jump ahead and assume we could figure out how to produce it cheaply and in volume. To pay for it we move into the world of long term project finance, which I know nothing about. What’s the net present value of the future cash flows enabled by filling in the soil at the edge of a fragile and eroding delta like that of the Mississippi? What are the upstream benefits?

And then how do you sell bleeding edge promising technology, assuming you found enlightened economic development and conservation players who would see its value and the need for its deployment with an agile need for speed and with an entrepreneurial fail-forward attitude, since you are doing alpha tests of technology trying to get to a product that works in a reasonable amount of time? They would need to know they need to fund product development.

It would take someone with a lot of patience to do that, to keep explaining the concept, as you move up the desks from your initial entry into an agency. I’ve done that several times, but it can take, in my case, up to 18 months to get what I wanted even when the value for participating was totally clear.

I don’t have the patience for that today. And I was not as good as it as someone with a more patient temperament would be, someone who can be happy with slogging upward and getting incremental steps forward. That’s a great thing to do. I’ve done it, but am too old and impatient for larger long term change to tie myself down to that kind of process now. But if someone stepped up to do it, to productize Caltrope, I would help.

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.

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Richard Branson shows how to sell biodiversity

In this post on the Virgin site savvy marketer Richard Branson outlines what is probably an effective way to reach the masses with the concept of biodiversitylemursmadagascarYou hold a cute animal, talk about the sadness of its loss, then say it’s safe to give and care about the country (in this case, Madagascar) because the next elections will be free and fair, and wind up by saying biodiversity is ALSO good for people. No irony there; there are many more lemur lovers with many more dollars than there are people who take action to care about poor people. There is also a documentary video

Pitches about biodiversity probably need that charismatic fauna appeal to get people to pay attention. Crises and now, with biodiversity as the goal, opportunities focusing on primates and megafauna (rhinos, elephants, lions, etc.) have proven to be effective to get people to take action. Virgin’s autopopulated pinterest  tagline says “biodiversity is vital to development.” Which also brings in business utility.

The post also mentions the upside of ecotourism, which Branson’s airline is obviously in favor of. The pattern of the pitch, from cute animal, to trusted place to give to (part of the Victorian need to only give to the “deserving poor)”, followed by the payoff for the people and closing with the upside for the local people and ecosystem of ecotourism is one that I think could work as a template for other places.

And the hidden message, encapsulated in every pinterest picture from the site, that biodiversity is good for development, is probably situated in the right place within the story’s frame.

Measuring impact on resilience: A case of the New England fishery

I had the opportunity this summer to spend some time with a Boston-based fish Red's Bestcompany called Red’s Best. Using a unique software platform, Red’s Best works to promote traceability in fisheries as well as the consumption of local, fresh, and diverse fish species from New England waters. During my time with them, I tried to assess the impact their company was having on the resilience of the social-ecological system they operate in. Drawing on information from stakeholder interviews and scientific literature, I built a framework through which to assess their impact on the New England fishery social-ecological system. It was incredibly interesting to see what insights the resilience approach can offer to this both company and the fishing industry, and also to uncover the many challenges of the resilience approach. Key findings are discussed in the attached report.

Measuring the impact of business on the resilience of social-ecological systems: A case study of Red’s Best and the New England fishery

Planting Empowerment succeeds at mobilizing crowd-funding for forestry in Panama with Indigenous Peoples

I was inspired today to learn from the company principals of Planting Empowerment, a social enterprise devoted to reforestation in the Darien Province of Panama, that they were the first Kiva project in Panama and met their capital goals within days of launching their campaign! Proceeds are already being put to work to increased production of plantains which will contribute to a long-term investment in building out community reforestation while also providing a source of near term employment.

http://www.kiva.org/partners/306

SOCAP Conference- Sustainability in Fisheries and Oceans using Bio-Cultural Tools

Panel

Bio-cultural tools were the main topic at one of today’s panels at SOCAP. The topic of the panel was Creating an Operating System for the Good Economy with Indigenous People. The main focus was fisheries, the ecosystems of oceans, and the indigenous people whose lives depend on the fishing industry. The excellent panel included Alloysius Attah from Farmerline in Ghana, Dune Lankard from Copper River Wild Salmon Company in Alaska, Lisa Monzon from the Packard Foundation in California, and Shaun Paul as the moderator. 

A shared interest in fostering business practices that foster conservation practices with indigenous people is what brought this panel together. The discussion focused on new collaborative approaches to catalyze business practices and investment that harness pioneering technological and social innovations that build resilience tools in relation to the fisheries industry. 

Alloysius Attah discussed how Farmerline has developed a voice-activated mobile phone tool that gives rural farmers in Ghana the opportunity to enhance access to markets, improves access to financial services, and create a high mobile phone penetration in rural households. According to Alloysius “there are more mobile phones than people in Ghana” which creates an incredible opportunity to reach every rural farmer in Ghana with this important bio-cultural tool that creates social good. Farmeline has been working with the Bio-Cultural Resilience Tool and more information on the partnership can be found here

The other tool that was discussed at the panel was traceability. In relation to the fisheries industry, how can we make sure the fish are coming from a sustainable supply-chain and not from devastated ocean resources or caught in a way that supports over-fishing? Dune Lankard is working on a solution to this problem by labeling the fish shipment boxes with a bar code and number that will bring the customer to a website that tells the story of where the fish came from, and the fishermen that caught it.  This tool will stop the mass mislabeling of fish which in turn will help prevent over-fishing. Lisa Monzon works with the major companies around the world that buy seafood (such as Wal-Mart) and has been working with these companies to change fishing policies in North America, Europe and Japan. She also works with these companies on issues such as traceability, where the focus is on supply-chains creating a sustainable fishing industry worldwide.

This panel showed that bio-cultural tools are being used at every level to build economic, social, cultural, and ecological resilience benefiting priority conservation areas with indigenous people. 

What is resilience?

I really liked this explanation of resilience with the exception of the Matisse example.  He does a really good job introducing the topic.  http://www.stockholmresilience.org/21/research/what-is-resilience.html

http://youtu.be/aSil22JYraI is the great 7 minute video.