The hands-on guide for the 4 Returns approach to holistic landscape regeneration

Over the course of the past seven years at Commonland, together with our partners we have tested and developed our approach to holistic, large-scale landscape restoration based on sustainable business cases. During those years, we have gained many insights into what works in certain contexts and what does not. Although we recognise that in landscape restoration there is no one-size-fits-all, many lessons apply more universally. By sharing this knowledge, we hope to help you move faster in your initiative and create a bigger impact as a community.

There is no blueprint approach guaranteed for success. This is why we call this a ‘guidebook’ rather than a ‘manual’. Determine for yourself if these guidelines will work in your context, and how you can adapt them to make them work for you.

Each module covers a step in the process. It presents best practices in a high-level, easy overview. For a higher level of detail and more practical pointers, a host or tools, videos, stories and other resources are connected to the modules to help you dive deeper and apply the knowledge in practice. You can go through the modules one by one or dive right into those most relevant to you.

1. Introduction to 4 Returns thinking

What is the 4 Returns framework, and what do we mean with the 5 elements, 4 Returns and 3 zones? What are key principles to keep in mind when working with the 4 Returns approach? This module will help...
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2. Selecting and defining the landscape

This module will help you select and define the boundaries of your landscape. Whether you have or have not already selected your landscape, it will help you to clearly define its boundaries and guide you through the scouting process...
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3. Understanding the landscape

Every landscape has its unique history and state, including a.o. its people, politics, economy. ecology, and climate. This module will teach you how to investigate and understand this context with a landscape and stakeholder analysis.  ...
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4. Getting started

Time to put words into action. Where do you start? How do you build a coalition of likeminded organisations?  This document gives some pointers on how to do this. ...
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5. Creating a landscape plan

A landscape plan is the landscape's strategy and plan for the coming 20 years. It includes an identification of the 3 zones and planned activities for each of the zones....
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6. Monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL)

MEL is a vital part of successful landscape restoration initiatives. Monitoring involves collecting data, evaluation is an assessment of these data, and learning is using this assessment to improve your approach where needed. MEL is a continuous cycle carried...
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7. Working in a local team

Local ownership of a landscape initiative is key to sustainable solutions. So, whether the initiative is convened by an external organisation or not, we believe that local coordination should be organised as much as possible from the beginning. This...
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8. Regenerative business as a driver for landscape restoration

In order for restoration of degraded lands around the world to accelerate, we need the power of business to transform toward more regenerative business cases and business models. But what is a regenerative business, and what are its common...
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9. Inspiring local communities

A healthy landscape provides us with food, resources, fresh air, well-being and a stable climate. Yet, many people are disconnected from their landscape. How can we bring back hope and inspiration into a landscape? How can we truly connect to...
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10. Fund mobilisation for landscape restoration

Mobilizing different funding streams is essential to allow 4 returns landscape initiatives to grow, implement landscape-level interventions and develop 4 returns business cases. In this module we'll share our insights in fundraising, monetisation, carbon financing, and other forms of...
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11. Connecting to a global movement

This module will help you tell your landscape's stories to inspire, influence, and connect to the world outside of your landscape: including the restoration movement, funders, policy makers and fellow change makers. We're also introducing the 4 Returns learning...
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