The story

This story is part of a series on business-driven landscape restoration. If you’re just joining, go back to the intro story to learn more.

One business cannot achieve the 4 Returns alone. Sometimes business-driven landscape restoration is initiated by organizations with little prior business development experience. Holistic transformation of a landscape is a process of collaboration between diverse groups, sharing skills and knowledge.

Define clear roles

Business can drive change but they cannot be the only driver. Landscapes are big and thus require constant nurturing and activation of the local business opportunities and markets. In the landscape, there are different roles related to business development including landscape organisations, entrepreneurs and other value chain/network partners. A clear distinction in roles between ‘Landscape NGO’ and ‘Business Developer’ is key and can be beneficial to how you partner up, organise the roles, and agree on the 4 Returns shared impact you want to have. Without a clear distinction, your role as a non-business actor active in business development becomes ambiguous and could create false expectations.

Innovation networks

Landscape organisations can set up self-propelling co-innovation networks of entrepreneurial partners who, in turn, set up and develop regenerative businesses. As a landscape actor not specialized in business development but wanting to mobilise business development for restoration, you can become smarter and better in co-developing these business cases.

For example, through collaborations with existing partners/ventures in the field and by providing small innovative grants to start-ups connected to your mission, attracting new partners. This includes supporting initiatives with ‘external’ entrepreneurs, with a product linked or coming from the landscape and providing a plus to the farmer, while also improving biodiversity. In fact, example ‘4 Returns businesses’ can attract other entrepreneurs – instead of having to build new businesses from scratch.

“AlVelAl is creating a coordinated team with ventures like La Almendrehesa, Habitat, AlVelAl Foods and other 4 Returns businesses, to work as close as possible. The message that AlVelAl shares is inspiring and very useful to companies when selling. They are part of the success of AlVelAl and they cannot go separate ways.” Clara Egea, Business developer AlVelAl

Habitat is a business setup to sell regenerative produce together with farmers collaborating with AlVelAl (Image credit: Habitat).

Creating business impact through partnerships

In these examples, existing businesses in the landscape ‘simply’ founded themselves and have connected to landscape organisations to become part of a bigger network. The creation of a sense of community is needed, people need to believe in their possibilities and the value of their land and products. The sense of community is more important than ever. In fact, often there is a need for a dedicated person in charge of connecting with the businesses in the area to build stable and trustful relationships with the companies and create those collaborative relationships.

Ecosystem of partners

Wide Open Agriculture established a partnership with Commonland in 2015 to develop and deliver on the 4 Returns for the West Australian wheatbelt. One of the biggest lessons learned in that partnership is that one organization or business cannot be responsible for delivering all 4 Returns, you are more effective in partnership with an ecosystem of partners in a landscape. Each partner has a specific expertise and impact profile that can help create impact on one or more of the 4 Returns. This reflects the complexities of natural ecosystems which partnerships are restoring. Moreover, if you have a lack of focus in your business, or sustainable financial returns, you make it difficult to have any sort of success.

Creating an ecosystem of partners in a landscape allows each organisation to focus on a specific element.

The company La Almendrehesa was established next to AlVelAl (landscape association) with technical and financial support of Commonland. As such, the two were not as well connected from the beginning as they could have been. La Almendrehesa farmer-shareholders only became AlVelAl members in 2017 or 2018. And only then could the farmer shareholders make use of the knowledge and instruments offered by AlVelAl. This was also hampered by a vacancy for a new business developer at AlVelAl, which was not easy to find in the region. By jointly developing the business development strategy today, La Almendrehesa and other 4 Returns business developed by AlVelAl are now positioned aligned to AlVelAl’s mission and objectives to transform the Altiplano and co-create a way forward.

Read on and continue learning with Lesson 4: Entrepreneurs accelerate the agricultural transition

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