From the Earth
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From the Earth

Ben Riddle

Aug 7, 2018

7 min read

Changing the Game: An Inside Look at the WWF Sustainable Landscapes Challenge

In the wake of the WWF Annual Conference, the Sustainable Landscapes ACAI and the Landscape Finance Lab came together to galvanise support for the landscape approach. Inspired by gamification and innovative approaches to capacity building, they determined that a Sustainable Landscapes Challenge would be a fresh way to mobilise many people around landscapes at once. In this interview, Claire Bramley (Coordinator of the WWF Sustainable Landscapes ACAI) and Deesha Chandra (Community Lead of the Landscape Finance Lab) give us the backstory behind the Challenge.

If you were to explain the Sustainable Landscapes Challenge in simple terms, what would be your “elevator pitch”?

Claire: The Sustainable Landscapes Challenge is an initiative within WWF run over the course of 9 weeks that helps people learn about landscape approaches. From week to week, landscape teams complete 5 different tasks and learning activities. These activities included things like filling out questionnaires and reading reports to watching videos and sharing what they are learning with others — all things that help build knowledge. Teams that complete each activity successfully are awarded a certain number of points and advance to the next phase. At the end of the challenge, we add up the points and the winning team stands to win 10000 Euros that they can put towards their landscape program.

Deesha: The challenge also helps us garner information about what WWF teams are working on, and compile stories that will help us connect them with relevant partners. In total we had 23 teams participating from around the world, from Myanmar to Slovakia and beyond, with around 120 people taking part in total. Some teams had 10–15 people, whereas others only had 2 or 3. We also were surprisingly pleased to see landscape teams forming in nations that aren’t usually known for landscape work. Each team is coming from very different starting points, but they are all working in a landscape context.

Claire: Every team that participated was working on a landscape, but not all were practicing the landscape approach. One of the purposes of this initiative was to raise awareness around what we mean when we talk about the landscape approach. Just because you are working in a landscape and have a number of projects there does not mean that you are practicing a landscape approach. This challenge helped us further define the langauage of landscapes in the network.

From your perspective, how would you define a landscape approach?

Claire: At WWF, we are often working in a landscape on multiple projects covering topics like protected areas, human-wildlife conflict, working with communities and so on. There might be multiple things happening because there are multiple needs, but they are often not all connected. A landscape approach refers to a specific methodology for engaging stakeholders at a landscape level. It brings stakeholders together to explore ways to work together, talk about what decisions need to be made, what situations need to be addressed and come up with a shared vision. It moves beyond talking to action by helping stakeholders develop a plan, deliver on that plan and monitor results collaboratively. In this way, it is a multistakeholder approach to landscape management.

Deesha: From my perspective, the landscape approach helps bring uncoordinated projects together into one piece, where they are all purposefully connecting to and feeding off of each other.

What was your inspiration for creating the Sustainable Landscapes Challenge?

Claire: The Lab and the ACAI work together with the same motivation: to foster a common understanding of the landscape approach. In that sense it is really easy for us to work together because we have the same goal in mind. Through the Sustainable Landscapes Challenge, we harnessed funding from across the network in a creative way that allowed us to leverage network resources to build capacity and share existing knowledge. For me, the inspiration came from thinking off creative ways to build capacity at virtually no cost.

Deesha: My inspiration came from innovation challenges in the startup world. In my previous work, we did lots of time-constrained startup challenges where teams would come up with an idea and go through a certain number of phases and complete a certain number of activities in order to secure mentorship and funding. I find that when you give people a time-bound activity, they are more likely to respond than something that is open-ended. We found that to be true with the Challenge.

What was the experience of someone who took part in the Challenge?

Deesha: We set out to make it really easy to take part and get started. The first activity was to simply nominate yourself and list your landscape, and we used Workplace as a space for engaging teams around this phase. The second activity was to share information around your learning needs, which helped the ACAI build their learning agenda. The third activity was to watch a set of videos and fill in a questionnaire with your team. The fourth activity was to read the Landscape Elements report and join a web chat or a call to discuss them, and the final activity was to develop a concept note for the Landscape Finance Lab, or to develop a case study on your work. Successfully completing each activity awarded you with a certain number of points, with the last activities having the most points.

We wanted this to be really social and interactive. From the start, the Challenge has been very visible to the Sustainable Landscapes community in WWF so that people can follow progress even if they are not taking part. We have also seen people join in activities even if they are not signed up for the challenge, which shows that people are eager to learn and get involved.

Claire: We have had a lot of interaction and engagement on Workplace over the course of the challenge, which has been a great way of creating visibility around landscape work in the network We also found that many teams took the activities and the points very seriously, because they were all in the running for 10000 Euro.

Deesha: Having a points system allowed for each team to keep track of their own progress as they moved toward the goal of winning the money. At the end of the challenge, the winner was be determined by the number points awarded to the team from week to week and the quality of their concept notes and case studies.

What are the outcomes of the Challenge?

Deesha: Our hope for the Challenge was to help a large number of teams come to a common understanding on where the WWF network stands on the landscape approach and how we are working to apply it. We also hope people walked away with an understanding of how they can partner with the Landscape Finance Lab to develop their programs, and feel confident enough to share more about what is happening within their landscapes. We intentionally designed the challenge to bring to life one of the networks key ways of working, “collaborating openly”. Each activity was intended to help people start “working out loud”, so that landscape teams can benefit from and learn from each other. From week to week we saw an increase in people liking and commenting on each other’s posts on Facebook Workplace. This positive feedback hopefully will help motivate people to keep sharing what they’re working on for the benefit of everyone.

What do you hope happens as a result of the Challenge?

Deesha: From a WWF network perspective, we hope that the network continues to use gamified challenges as an approach to building community, building capacity and sharing knowledge in an engaging way. We found that this Challenge offered participants a chance to take a risk, work together and share their work in process, which helps to foster collaboration and innovation needed to make an impact. For the Lab, we hope that the landscape concept notes and case studies created during the Challenge will mature to become large-scale investable landscape programs. We’re excited to see what happens next!

Congratulations to the eventual winners of the Challenge…

The DTL team put together a great idea note with clear goals and a strong set of achievable deliverables. They will use the prize money to further develop their landscape and multi stakeholder platform. You can read more about the region here.

For more information on the Sustainable Landscapes Challenge, contact Claire Bramley:

The Landscape Finance Lab is an initiative of the WWF (the Worldwide Fund for Nature) and made possible through support from EIT Climate-KIC and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).