Rural grassroots partnerships are building new, sophisticated systems to measure and communicate the multiple products and services provided by healthy and productive communities and ecosystems in high biodiversity areas in order to convince donors and impact investors that social capital and the greater natural capital we all depend upon need their continued support.
When the Sierra Gorda won a 6.7 million dollar fund from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) from 2001 to 2009, the non-profit organization, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, scaled up its impact and grew into a regional institution and a national model for participatory conservation management of the most ecosystem diverse (and second most-populated) natural protected area in Mexico. To do so, it raised matching funds of four dollars for every GEF dollar and maintained its frugal methods in order to squeeze out every ounce of worth in order to crystallize deep and rooted change.
Short documentary produced about the the Sierra Gorda GEF project:
The evolution of SierraGorda´s bioregional strategy for long-term sustainability required competing for the ever-more restricted philanthropic funds, building partnerships with governmental agencies and establishing several self-financing enterprise. They rolled out a training center to transfer the lessons learned from a quarter century of experience through the Centro Tierra Sierra Gorda, provide technical support for forestry and micro-enterprise management through Bosque Sustentable, and the Sierra Gorda Ecotours office serves community ecolodges to strengthen the local economy. But it is never enough; conservation is never done.
Ashoka: Innovators for the Public and an anonymous donor provided the means to begin the intense experience of building a new methodology to measure and monetize the tangible and intangible impacts of the 169 activities being carried out in the field. Working with the Social Venture Technology Group in 2007, Sierra Gorda began to revolutionize the way it reports and communicates the values and impacts of investing in social and natural capital through a Social and Environmental Return on Investment analysis. This is a revolution in information management for all three sectors (civil, private and public) and they are responding with interest and support upon receiving the details of how their funding yields greater worth to the local community, the region, and the global ecosystem.
The challenge remains to put natural capital front and center, however. Nature´s absence is loud and clear, even with the new terminology of impact investment. Raising a voice and even a song, Sierra Gorda is making a point that could make a world of difference.