The Wyss Academy Approach
We want a just and mutually beneficial relation for nature and people.
Our planet is facing existential challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty, and inequality. In an increasingly hyperconnected world, these issues cannot be addressed separately. They are interconnected and may have multiple causes. There is no silver bullet answer, as one being's solution can be another being's burden. Meanwhile, untangling those knots may bring surprises and unexpected side-effects. These are known as “wicked problems”.
To deal with these complexities, a new approach is needed. We must address the driving forces behind these challenges by overcoming the dysfunctionalities of the main systems that determine the relationship between nature and people – such as food, the economy, energy, or urbanization. Simply producing more knowledge or making rigorous plans will not do the job.
At the Wyss Academy for Nature, we pursue a novel approach to overcome the growing gap between understanding problems and implementing concrete action. In our four regional hubs in South America, East Africa, Southeast Asia, and Switzerland, we develop our unique method: our “solutionscapes”. Taking a living lab approach that brings global solutions to local landscapes, we create opportunities to move from insight to action. Researchers and other knowledge holders engage with multiple stakeholders to co-design, test, and incubate solutions that have the potential to enable and drive systemic change.
We develop and catalyze solutions that transform the relationship between people and nature. We use the power of knowledge and the creativity of engagement to empower agents of change.
We help create a shared vision and a coalition for change. The co-design process involves all relevant stakeholders, from science and government to businesses and local groups. Special attention is given to engaging different actors and ensuring that marginalized groups, as well as their interests and topics, are heard and included in the debate. Relevant insights are shared with global partners.
Developing a shared understanding of the socio-environmental system, including its dynamics and trajectories, is an important basis for negotiating a common vision of the future. This understanding is based on scientific research and on local knowledge.
Catalyzing Solutions Through Incubators
Guided by our vision of the changes needed today to achieve a better future, we run incubator projects to catalyze solutions. These are designed and tested within our solutionscapes. They may consist of economic, technical, social or policy-related innovations. But innovation is not limited to a single project; it also arises from the interactions happening within a system. By avoiding unintended trade-offs and maximizing synergies between projects, we aim to set the system on a trajectory toward environmental and social justice.
Coined by the Wyss Academy for Nature, “Solutionscapes” refers to a unique approach to solving the challenges that currently define the relationship between people and nature in landscapes under pressure. Its fundamental goal is to achieve concrete and positive impacts on landscapes – on the ground, by taking into account the specificities of the region, and beyond, by transcending geographic boundaries and assuming a holistic view and reach of global interactions.
Solutionscapes are the Wyss Academy’s answer to today’s wicked problems. The way of developing new solutions to complex challenges – by breaking down silos and engaging local communities, policymakers, and scientists to jointly transform ideas into action. Taking the form of a living lab, this experimental approach tests potential solutions in real-life environments. It includes establishing a coalition for change with key stakeholders, co-creating a shared vision based on scientific understanding of system dynamics, testing incubators and triggering feedback loops for system transformation, as well as monitoring, evaluation, and learning to enable adaptation and scaling of promising innovations.
Navigating change in a world full of wicked problems can only succeed if we learn from failures and from the unexpected. We continuously need to improve, adapt our understanding, and search for innovation. This is why the Wyss Academy is setting up a system for learning, monitoring, and evaluation that will enable us to measure our progress and the achieved impact.