Regenerative Economy Lab - Capacity Strengthening Program
To enable a regenerative economy through strengthening the capacity of local project leaders and matching capital to projects
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
I am 18 years old or older.
Initiative's representative name
Jennifer Menke - President of Regenerative Earth
Initiative's representative date of birth
May 7th, 1981
Initiative's representative gender
Headquarters location: country
Headquarters location: city
Where are you making a difference?
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
Website or social media url(s)
Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan going forward)
Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?
1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.
I spent a week in solitude in the Osa Peninsula rainforest and fell in love with the beauty and abundance of this forest. Recognizing its biological significance for the world I had a strong vision to protect it from unsustainable development and illegal logging, mining, and poaching. Local community members also approached me and asked for help to protect this rainforest and support the indigenous and local populations within, who are living in poverty and under threat of loosing their cultural heritage.
2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
35% of the local population now lives in severe poverty, which in turn threatens the terrestrial and marine ecosystems, as people resort to any possible means to make a living, often at the expense of the ecological wealth. Without regenerative alternatives, people have turned to destructive practices such as deforestation, poaching, mining, unsustainable agriculture, and other illegal activities, and/or sell their land to unsustainable developers, leaving irreversible effects on the ecosystem.
3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Over the past four years, alongside this looming threat, a powerful local movement to design a regenerative economy that protects and enhances the environment, creates health and wellbeing for communities and defines the cultural identity of the people has emerged in the Osa Peninsula. A major outcome has been the collaborative creation of the Osa Systems Map led by a diverse group of local leaders who conducted a systems analysis of the region to better frame how their projects, initiatives, and governance can move towards a regenerative economy, ideally as a model for other communities in Costa Rica and around the world. Having supported this process from the onset with facilitation and technical support, Regenerative Earth (RE) knows this change is entirely possible and timely.
As one of Regenerative Earth’s core partners, INDER has requested that the RE team co-design and implement a capacity strengthening program to develop and de-risk projects to greatly increase the quantity and quality of projects INDER and other investors can fund, and to build livelihoods based on the protection of biodiversity and preservation of local culture for this globally-significant region.
4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?
We are taking a systems approach to solve the problem of poverty and unsustainable development that is driving environmental destruction. Through a systems lens we are able to address drivers of this destruction at its root and select projects from a systems criteria that would shift the current vicious cycles to virtuous ones. We are also innovating by bringing financial partners of both private and public sectors together in collaboration to finance projects in a way that supports the shared vision of the local people and promotes the future health of the ecosystem and communities within.
5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?
We have already brought key civic and government leaders of the Osa Peninsula together around a shared vision, shared understanding of the dynamics, and shared plan of action in the peninsula. The capacity strengthening program would take this collaboration to the next level by bridging the gap between projects and finance. We will bring funders together to collaborate in a systems financing strategy for projects that are identified and pre-approved by the civic and government leaders and councils.
6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?
The systems map we did of the Osa Peninsula is the most comprehensive analysis of the region. Local leaders are using the map for strategic action. They used it to design a sustainable development plan for the peninsula. They've used it to select high impact projects. They've used it to communicate their story and the reasoning behind their projects to national and international funders and groups. We are now using it to select high leverage projects for the capacity strengthening program and design a systems financing strategy for the region. We plan to measure this progress and future progress through a monitoring, evaluation, and learning platform called Blue Marble.
7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?
We are already being asked to consult in other regions of Costa Rica, primarily in conducting systems analysis's and developing blue/green economy business strategies and plans. We are also collaborating with international networks that are looking at our project in the Osa Peninsula as a leading example in regenerative economies. We are open sourcing our learning and plan to take our learning, if successful, to other parts of the world, so that we can help enable the conditions for transformation, health and well being for all species and ecosystems.
8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?
We are creating value for society by modeling a pathway for a new economic system that supports the regeneration of life rather than destroys it. Our learning can be exponentially scaled to shift the vicious cycles of economic and social forces to ones that are positive and virtuous for all. The primary components of value are in the systems based approach, showing how regenerative enterprises increase the wealth of a place, and how collaborative capital can move a region towards regeneration and it's a smart investment.
9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?
We plan to raise philanthropic money for the next 2 years in order to launch and implement the capacity strengthening program. During this 2 year term we will design a finance vehicle (trust fund, endowment, etc) that will pay for the program after the 2 years. This fund will also invest in projects with low interest loans or for equity. The repayment on the loans will regenerate the fund over time. We also have committed capital from the government branch of INDER for this program and we are working on partnerships with 3 other Costa Rican foundations to commit funding to this program.
10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
Jennifer Menke - project coordinator
Alejandra Gonzalez - local lead from Costa Rica, background in systems thinking & sustainable development
James Honey - from Mexico and has 20 years of experience in community based conservation
Mario Jimenez - INDER president
Joe Hsueh - expert in systems mapping
Glenn Page - expert in monitoring and evaluation
We will be hiring 2 Costa Rican capacity strengtheners who will be training project leaders and we will grow our financial advisory team
11. How did you hear about this challenge?