I was talking to my former colleague and long-time friend Tom Dillon of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the conversation came around to the topic of how we scale our efforts for addressing climate change. Our inability to scale will mean that those people, who are most vulnerable to our changing climate and are being disproportionately affected, will suffer more. As we are starting to see with increasing frequency, this leads to migration, civil unrest, and calls for the north to step up its efforts to help the global south. We created Nature For Justice (N4J) with the goal of supporting people and communities here at home and around the globe as they apply nature-based solution to achieve equity and justice.
Our scaling efforts are taking shape. In just 9 months of existence, we are working in 13 countries, including the initiation of a major project with Black, Indigenous, and people of color landowners in the U.S. Collectively, we have the potential to impact 25 million acres and 3 million people. Selected examples are highlighted below as we seek scaling that connects these communities with much-needed access to capital, markets, technology, knowledge, and secure land to achieve their goals of resilience in the face of climate change.
N4J’s strategy for scaling has 5 elements:
Our experience over decades and nearly 100 countries has demonstrated that there are people and organizations that have developed trusting relationships with communities. We use the term ‘organization’ in the broadest sense as these might be NGOs, communities of faith, co-ops, and businesses. We refer to these as Trust Networks, as they represent the underpinning of a relationship that basically states “we are in this together.”
The example we often cite at N4J is our partner Nature Conservation Research Center (NCRC) in Ghana. Under John Mason’s leadership, NCRC has built trust relationships with hundreds of communities over decades. Our role is to help NCRC access the capital and technical resources to build on this trust for very large landscape changes.
We cannot achieve our goals on donor capital alone. Of course, donor capital is needed in many instances to identify and begin to build on the Trust Networks, but the goal is to leverage these funds with private capital, when we can, over time. N4J acts as a bridge between these organizations and the communities they represent and donors, companies, and investors. Our FinTech partner, Cultivo, helps us build this bridge. (Their 2 minute video is excellent.)
A particularly timely opportunity we are working on is with NIHT and Cultivo in Papua New Guinea (PNG). This partnership has the potential to become a model for all of PNG based on feedback that NIHT has received from the government. But, let me be clear, unlike NIHT, all projects are not ‘bankable’ but without that initial investment, we’ll never know. Furthermore, a project that raises the quality of life for a community and achieves some improvement in resilience has enabled dignity. When bankable projects are identified, donor capital can be leveraged up to 20 to 50 times.
At N4J we do not aspire to be the nexus of all information coming from these Trust Networks. The hyper connectivity of our world creates a platform for enabling our partners to learn from one another. Furthermore, supporting means to enable our partners to visit one another and learn on-the-ground greatly accelerates learning and relationship building.
Government policies at the regional or national level set the context for either facilitating change or stifling it. Quite often, the organizations that have built the Trust Networks have the relationships with government to advocate for policy change. N4J’s role is to assist them in identifying these policies and helping them lay out the case to government for why a specific policy or regulation will serve both the people and government.
Steve Nitah is a former Chief of The Luksel K’e Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories of Canada. We are working with Steve, who has become a formal advisor to N4J on indigenous issues, and the Indigenous Leadership Initiative and International Boreal Conservation Campaign to help shape Canadian carbon market policy.