My initial intention was to express 10 lessons I learned from participation in the Center for Collaborative Conservation Ecosystem Markets Workshop. I soon realized the list below evolved into a summary of “thoughts” developed or reinforced by the conference, rather than lessons.
1. Simplify, Simplify. The meeting rooms were full of experts from respective ecosystem markets. Although each individual understood their own market, comprehending the other markets (including mine) was difficult at best. If professionals in this industry have trouble grasping these projects, how will the public fare?
2. Language is key. In continuance of #1, applying clear and consistent language is critical to the future of these markets. Buyers don’t purchase products they don’t understand.
3. Can we scale? Each of these markets are highly localized and fragmented. As a result, scalability remains a challenge. For broader success, these market solutions must become scaleable.
4. Demand drives markets. Supply and demand are critical components to market emergence. Of the two, I believe demand is the most important. If an individual or entity is willing to purchase a product, the supply will take care of itself.
5. Cash is King (and queen and prince too). In a similar vein to demand, these markets will flourish when they are profitable. Because of their social values and passionate leadership, they will most likely exist and survive without profitability, but they will flourish with it. Take for example the “internet”, once it became profitable, the creativity and growth exploded.
6. Iron fist or fluffy bunny? There were some great discussions around regulatory vs. voluntary markets. I see a combination of the two in the future ecosystem markets. For voluntary markets to survive, they need clearly defined “products” that potential buyers can easily identify as adding real value. Otherwise, the most robust ecosystem markets will remain under regulatory caps and government funds.
7. Trust me… The Ecosystem marketplace trades “Eco assets”, and in this developing market trades are personal. They require a good deal of trust and relationship building. Developing and respecting the trust of landowners is critical…actually, essential.
8. The Bundle. Just as diversifying a portfolio is considered a sound investment strategy, bundling ecosystem assets decreases investment risk. Furthermore, leveraging multiple private, public, and non-profit partners diversifies stakeholders and increases the likely hood of overall success.
9. It takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this wasn’t the first ecosystem markets conference (surely won’t be the last). These markets take time and are still in their infancy.
10. Start. Right now. One of my favorite quotes is: “It’s better to vigorously execute than perfectly plan.” I find this especially true in these emerging ecosystem markets. Rather than discuss the potential, execute and evaluate. Then do it again, and again, and again.
11. I like Fort Collins. I’m a big fan of college towns and Fort Collins is no exception. With the Rockies in the back yard, a vibrant downtown, and no shortage of craft breweries, what’s not to like?
12. Thank you. On a final note, I’d like to express another thanks to the Center for Collaborative Conservation and all the attendees for the opportunity to participate. It was fun, engaging, and educational. I hope to see you all soon.