Five P’s of Innovation in Landscape Repair
What lessons can we learn from three key innovative programs in Australian landscape repair in the last decade?
The Whole of Paddock Rehabilitation (WOPR) approach, the Grassy Groundcover program, and the Mulligans Flat Woodlands Sanctuary bring new hope for the scale and quality of landscape restoration in Australia.
On the one hand, WOPR has halved the cost of broadscale landscape repair – rebuilding the landscape matrix can now happen twice as fast as a decade ago. At the micro-end of the scale we now have the capacity to dramatically enhance the quality of the restoration we undertake. Now Mulligans is building a vision for the community for what our woodlands could be like.
A vision, a step-change in the scale of what we can do, and a demonstration of the possible.
Taken together these are a potent mix of inspiration and application.
What are the common threads to the development of these projects? How has the innovation come about?
There are five ‘P’s in the mix that have consistently lead to the successful emergence of innovation from these programs:
Partnerships: each of these projects has involved enduring and meaningful partnerships between non-government organisations, universities, investors and landholders. With the exchange of resources has come exchange of ideas, better understanding and acknowledgement of the challenges faced by each partner, and the shared responsibility and ‘cover’ of taking risks together.
Passion: without a doubt, central to each of these programs includes passionate values-driven people – sometime eccentric, sometimes visionary, and sometimes frustrated. As process continues to drive our activities, it sometimes takes a lot of passion to believe and move forward. Sometimes people burn-out, but through the process the passion is often infectious and the vision becomes a shared one.
Persistence: none of the programs have been overnight successes. They have endured different funding cycles, changes of government and investors preferences, changes of personnel, and changes of external opinion about the value of the endeavor. Through the changing contexts the shared vision has carried the innovation forward.
Pressure: each of the programs faces and has faced its own unique pressures – external and internal. WOPR is addressing the pressure of managing food production in degraded landscapes, Grassy Groundcover emerged in response to development pressure and the need to better-repair our vegetation, and Mulligans, the sanctuary and the species reintroductions, are a response to expanding urban development at the local scale and the need to re-inspire and educate the community at the national scale. An element of pressure is required to keep people focused and targeted on the outcomes – and convince investors ‘now is the time’ to support projects.
People: at the end of the day, people who turn up make the world go round. Each of these programs has had key individuals who have provided the inspiration and the leadership to put-it-out-there. The leadership has come from scientists, Ministers, landholders and practitioners – all willing to risk success to try to deliver their shared vision.
Ultimately these innovations have succeeded – had they not – the leaders involved might have carried the responsibility themselves – because they have succeeded, we can all share in the success of their efforts and look forward to a brighter future for the Australian landscape.
Is an innovation culture transferable? Can it be built elsewhere?
For me the jury is still out on whether an innovation culture can be transcribed or copied. Certainly with the right actors, addressing a shared problem at the right time and with support, innovation will unfold. There are things that leaders can do to build a culture of innovation, but I think it might be about a mixture of organic opportunity and applying the textbook which enables innovation to emerge successfully.