Commitments to carbon neutrality are leading many companies to invest in carbon offset projects. How do you manage the risk associated with these long-term, high ticket, high profile, no-kidding-our-kids-are-counting-on-us investments?
Here’s how: pick a capable local partner, assess their managerial and technical capabilities, and invest to make them better. It’s a win all around: projects are more durable, companies are de-risking their investments, local people benefit from building their skills and ability to take more on, and, most important, we can look at our kids and say “Yeah, we did the right thing.”
Why this approach? In our decades of experience, N4J’s principals have seen that local organizations span the spectrum of capabilities with regard to management, technical expertise, and financial accounting. But “fly in/fly out” approaches that typically do not build local capacity do not lead to durable solutions.
Just as large companies and organizations do not hesitate to invest in their staff, serious investors in carbon offset projects (e.g., REDD+, landscape management, restoration) need to be committed to long-term change, and that will require building local capabilities. Building the organizational capacity of in-country organizations will be more cost-effective, more durable, and more impactful in both the short- and the long-term.
N4J takes a 4-stage approach:
- Stage 1: Identification and “Fit Analysis”
The initial step is to identify high-performing organizations working at the nexus of climate/livelihoods/conservation in target geographies. Three fundamental factors affect the analysis of “fit” with potential partner organizations: existing trust networks, organizational capacity, and climate justice impacts. Based upon a screening process, N4J seeks agreements with those organizations to engage in a collaborative assessment and planning process.
- Stage 2: Organizational Capacity Assessment and Planning
Once we have created the agreements, N4J and the partnering organization will collaboratively assess the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan to build upon those strengths while simultaneously addressing gaps that will be critical to scaling efforts for greater impact.
- Stage 3: Program Implementation Support and Monitoring
Based on joint assessments with partners, N4J will work with them to develop a strategic plan to improve their overall organizational capacity and ability to seek resilience at the community level through Nature-based Solutions (NbS), climate-smart agriculture, and natural resource management. This will include discussion and joint decision making about the organization’s vision for growing the scale of its current operations and impacts over an agreed initial period (most likely 3-5 years, with a more detailed annual plan).
- Stage 4: Access Resources to Accelerate Scaling
N4J will work with its partners to design and implement a suite of actions that will accelerate the partner’s ability to successfully scale their success. Based upon mutual agreement, N4J will work with partners over a multi-year timeframe to help them access the financial, technical, and organizational resources necessary to replicate and scale solutions that get the triple benefits for the climate, community, and ecosystem.
A growing number of organizations are seeking “high quality” carbon offset projects, with a number of “co-benefits”, such as biodiversity conservation and improved community livelihoods and wellbeing
At N4J we believe, in general, that it is essential to focus on support for the organizations on the ground which are committed to the issues over the long-term, understand local conditions and realities, and can support the local community. Doing so helps manage the risks of credible carbon projects.