Regenerative Economy Lab - Capacity Strengthening Program

To enable a regenerative economy through strengthening the capacity of local project leaders and matching capital to projects

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Eligibility Criteria

  • 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

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • United States

Headquarters location: city

Boulder, Colorado

Where are you making a difference?

Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Website or social media url(s)

Date Started

September 2016

Project Stage

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan going forward)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €50k - €100k

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

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?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far


Yes, absolutely! - 25%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 25%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


5 —Absolutely! It’s crystal clear how the solution is directly contributing to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity. - 50%

4—Yes, it establishes a clear connection to biodiversity. - 25%

3—Somewhat, the entry speaks to biodiversity but the direct impact is not well established and/or it is focused on a single species without considering its impact on the broader ecosystem - 0%

2—Not really, the connection to biodiversity is weak - 25%

1—No. The entry does not reference the solution’s impact on biodiversity. - 0%

3. 3) Is this entry IMPACTFUL?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 0%

4- Yes, I think so. - 75%

3- Maybe. - 25%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

4. 4) Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4- Yes, I think so. - 50%

3- Maybe. - 25%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

5. 5) Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4- Yes, I think so. - 50%

3- Maybe. - 0%

2- Probably not. - 25%

1- No. - 0%


5 -Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4- Yes, I think so. - 75%

3- Maybe. - 0%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

7. 7) Does this entry value COLLABORATION WITH OTHER STAKEHOLDERS in its approach?

5- Yes, absolutely! - 75%

4- Yes, I think ko. - 25%

3- Maybe. - 0%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

8. 8) FEEDBACK – Highlights

INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions - 66.7%

IMPACT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 66.7%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: You have a thoughtful plan for growth and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 66.7%

VIABIBLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 100%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You value thinking around how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 66.7%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: You have a clearly defined plan on how to maximize shared value across multiple sectors and stakeholders - 33.3%

WRITING STYLE: Your writing style is concise, descriptive, clear, and specific - 33.3%

Other option - 0%

9. 9) FEEDBACK - Areas for Improvement

INNOVATION: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 50%

IMPACT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 100%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 0%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 50%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: your plan can benefit from more thought on how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 100%

WRITING STYLE: Try to be more concise, descriptive, clear, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 50%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 50%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming - 0%

Other option - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Richard Okoe

Great work you are doing Jennifa. Keep it up.

Photo of Jennifer

Thank you Richard!