Part of the solution: ENABLE

Part of the solution: ENABLE

Interview with Eva Rood, Project Leader of ENABLE

How did the ENABLE project start?

The grounds for the ENABLE project were laid when Commonland founder Willem Ferwerda became Executive Fellow of Business and Ecosystems at RSM and to help fulfil his vision that economy and ecology needed to join forces in order to tackle the grand challenge of land degradation and restoration. After a couple of years of developing our collaboration, we felt we were ready to submit a proposal to the European Union and we found great partners from our joint networks. The proposal was granted, and we are really grateful for the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union for having accelerated our collaboration.

What are the greatest challenges of combating land degradation and how is ENABLE striving to address them?

What all of the partners of the ENABLE consortium realise is that we need to join forces in order to figure out the approach for this wicked problem of land degradation. It’s a typical problem where ecology and economy need each other and this is where the four returns models comes in. So we are trying to jointly come up with models that deliver the financial, social, natural return and return of inspiration instead of only financial capital or only natural capital.

What can students expect from the MOOCs?

Our first MOOC explains the basics of land degradation, ecosystem services, the economics of ecosystem services and also some business modelling and partnership dynamics. So it shows how the different disciplines relate to land degradation and land restoration. The second MOOC digs a bit deeper into how to design a sustainable business model that addresses all of the four returns. And we illustrate how this works by talking about three different landscapes: Iceland, Portugal and Spain. It’s an intriguing process to be involved in because we realise that we speak different languages and we are trying to design one common language, which is both super exciting and a super challenging endeavour.

How do you envision the new generation of professionals?

What we hope to achieve is that we educate business and environmental professionals to become aware of the theories that are going on in other disciplines than their own expertise. Moreover, professionals who are wise enough to ask the other disciplines for help or for contribution. So creating awareness on the added value of collaborating with experts from different disciplines is the key to raise a new generation of professionals equipped with the skills and knowledge required to restore landscapes.

What is your I will statement and how does it relate to this project.

I formulated my I WILL statement at least 10 years ago, maybe even 15... . It has always been "I WILL connect" and that's exactly what I'm doing now, connecting disciplines and connecting the ENABLE consortium partners. Connecting relates to the core of the ENABLE project, to find connections and to design a common language, a common understanding.

How do you hope the ENABLE project contributes to positive change?

I know the ENABLE project contributes to positive change because – that’s what I love about it – it’s a hopeful approach. We are dealing with a gigantic problem and we offer hope and solutions and possibilities. We know it's a challenge, we know it's really hard to tackle. But we focus on how we can make it happen considering all those difficult aspects. And it's tough because it will take a generation to restore land and it will take many stakeholder meetings and tough negotiations about trade-offs. But we will also deliver results. And that's really inspiring to work with a consortium that can deliver hope and results. So in that sense it delivers the return of inspiration. So I think it's an excellent example of positive change.

ENABLE is one of your projects. What else are you doing?

I am director of RSM's Positive Change initiative which is finding ways for RSM to live up to the mission to be a force for positive change.

And what is next?

Our finance ends in September 2019 and we are exploring the possibilities to find new funding. If people have tips, you can contact us at [laughs]. The ENABLE consortium is constantly looking for partners to collaborate.