2. Develop a shared understanding

Everyone brings unique perspectives and priorities to the landscape. Developing a shared understanding of the landscape, its challenges, and 4 Returns opportunities, ensures all voices are heard.

Developing a shared understanding within a landscape partnership is essential for uniting stakeholders, aligning interests, and collaboratively developing and implementing a landscape plan. Stakeholders might have fragmented knowledge about the landscape, and it is important to see where information overlaps and identify gaps. Achieving a shared understanding from the 4 Returns perspective involves grasping the root causes of the 4 Losses resulting from degradation: loss of purpose and hope; loss of jobs and prosperity; loss of biodiversity, soil, and water; and loss of long-term income. These are intertwined with factors such as the landscape’s history, culture, location, and political context. At this stage, it can be helpful to engage a neutral facilitator, who will guide stakeholders in generating and analysing landscape information, leading to a comprehensive and evidence-based understanding. 

The chapter Defining the landscape delves into the factors that shape a landscape and the importance of defining boundaries. It examines geological, ecological, and human influences critical for effective management and restoration. The 3 Zones provide insight into landscape dynamics. Through hands-on exercises, you will learn to define these zones in order to make informed decisions about spatial design and foster a shared understanding of the landscape. 

The chapter Understanding the landscape suggests two ways of improving your shared understanding of the landscape, the 4 Returns diagnosis and a landscape and stakeholder analysis. The 4 Returns diagnosis provides a snapshot of current conditions, identifying focus areas and interventions. Landscape and stakeholder analysis blends desk research with fieldwork, engaging diverse stakeholders. These analyses inform decision-making and restoration strategies, resulting in a comprehensive understanding of the landscape’s state, needs, opportunities, and potential partnerships. 

Envisaged outcomes

  • Reached a thorough understanding of the landscape’s history, characteristics, and current state. This includes identification of land uses (the 3 Zones) and assessing the state of the 4 Returns in the landscape (including the root causes of degradation and future challenges), commonly referred to as the 4 Returns diagnosis.
  • Attained insight into stakeholders’ interests. Acknowledging stakeholder perspectives and negotiating an inclusive future for collaboration in the landscape is an essential part of the process.
  • Gained awareness of key restoration and regeneration opportunities in the landscape. An assessment of landscape opportunities (including carbon projects) and future scenarios for optimising the 4 Returns will help ensure a programme’s success.

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