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Erasmus University Rotterdam

Business Model Innovation for Sustainable Landscape Restoration

Erasmus University Rotterdam via Coursera


Land degradation is a widespread problem across the globe with serious consequences for the environment and all of society. Worsening land degradation caused by human activities is undermining the well-being of two-fifths of humanity, driving species extinctions and intensifying climate change. But there’s a huge potential for restoring landscapes: around two billion hectares of land, about two times the size of China, can be restored.

In this MOOC we focus on the potential of business model innovation for the challenge of large-scale landscape restoration. We take a partnership approach and make a bridge between ecology and economy. Learners get to design their own innovative business model for landscape restoration with 4 returns: return of natural capital, return of social capital, return of inspiration and return of financial capital. You move from ideation towards successful implementation. Each step is illustrated with three real-life cases of landscape restoration in Spain, Iceland and Portugal.

We highlight the following elements over a period of 8 weeks:
1. Vision Formulation
2. Systems Analysis
3. Stakeholder Analysis
4. Opportunity Analysis
5. Business Model Design
6. Solution Validation
7. Assessment & Monitoring
8. Reflection & Iteration

This MOOC provides you with a meaningful opportunity to start contributing to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration ( ), which aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. Your participation is more relevant now than ever!

This MOOC builds on the MOOC "A Business Approach to Sustainable Landscape Restoration" but can also be followed as a stand-alone. In the first MOOC you get comprehensive knowledge of landscape degradation and landscape restoration from both the perspective of natural science and from an economics and management perspective. ( )

These MOOCs are designed by ENABLE, a consortium of: Erasmus University Rotterdam, Commonland, United Nations University Land Restoration Training Programme, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC-CEBAS), and Nova School of Business & Economics. ENABLE was co-funded by the Erasmus+-programme of the European Union.


  • Vision Formulation
    • Welcome to this 8-week course on ‘Business model innovation for sustainable landscape restoration’! Your teachers will introduce you to the process of business model innovation, the concept of landscape restoration and to 3 real-life cases of landscape restoration projects. For each step of the innovation process, we zoom in on those landscapes to show you how the theory looks in practice. By doing this, you will apply the “4 returns” thinking (returns of inspiration, natural capital, social capital and financial capital). Week 1 introduces you to the problem of landscape degradation and the process of landscape restoration. You will also learn about the role of business models in landscape restoration and how important visions are for sustainable business model innovation. We will introduce you to our 3 practical example cases of landscape restoration. Each of these cases has encountered different problems related to landscape degradation and formulated innovative solutions by using the approach set out in this MOOC: the power of sustainable business models to successfully restore natural environments. You will choose a land degradation challenge and formulate a vision and key question.
  • Systems Analysis
    • Week 2 is all about systems thinking and systems analysis. In our practical example cases you will see how diversified crop systems can help in Spain, and how birch woodlands can improve the resilience of the system in Iceland. You will learn how to conduct a systems analysis for your chosen landscape degradation challenge by identifying boundaries and key factors, creating a system map, constructing a central narrative and determining points of intervention.
  • Stakeholder Analysis
    • In this week you will learn what stakeholders are and why they are important. You will see the application of the main concepts in two of our landscape examples. At the end of week 3 you can conduct your own stakeholder analysis of your chosen landscape degradation challenge.
  • Co-Creation and Opportunity Analysis
    • In week 4 we enter the second phase of the sustainable business model innovation process: designing. In this phase we move from forming an understanding of the problem and what means we have available, to generating ideas for new business model solutions. Now you will actually start working with your stakeholders to analyse opportunities for value creation based on common goals and commitment. In week 4, the focus is on co-innovation networks and captured and destroyed value. You are going to build your co-innovation network, validate your current understandings, identify opportunities to add value and generate first business model ideas.
  • Business Model Design
    • In week 5 you will learn about business models and the triple-layered business model canvas. You will also see the triple-layered business model canvas applied to all of our three cases. You reach the point now where you will select a business idea and complete your own triple layered business model canvas.
  • Solution Validation
    • Week 6 is about assumptions and methods and how to validate them. You will see what methods the practical example cases in Spain and Portugal used. This week then allows you to start testing your own business idea on a small scale. You will identify your own key assumptions, design the testing of those assumptions and actually test them. At the end you will iterate or pivot your business model.
  • Assessment and Monitoring
    • In week 7 we enter the third phase of the sustainable business model innovation process - implementing. In this phase your business model moves from being a design concept to an implemented practice that is helping to restore landscapes. We will consider how we will manage the finances, understand if we our business model is delivering its intended value, and forecast potential outcomes. We will also reflect on our constructed business models to consider how they could be scaled-up or scaled-out, and what next actions we need to take to make them a reality. You will learn about assessment and monitoring tools such as financial analysis, 4 Return Model (20 years outcomes & value creation in 3 zones), key performance indicators and scenario analysis. The cases in Portugal and Iceland serve as examples of how these can be implemented. You will make a financial analysis of your business model, set specific KPIs to measure the success of your business model for four returns in 20 years, evaluate how you can involve the stakeholders that are impacted through the 4 returns and do a Scenario Analysis.
  • Reflection and Iteration
    • In this last week you will learn about key leadership principles, our Community of Practice and the nexus challenge of the SDGs. You will read about the application of concepts in practice in all of our landscapes. You will review your exercises of the past weeks, reflect about what you learned and forecast your next actions. If you want you can also connect to a global community of practitioners.

Taught by

Berglind Orradóttir, Steve Kennedy, Joris De Vente, Isabel C Barrio, Rob van Tulder and Simon W. Moolenaar


4.7 rating at Coursera based on 39 ratings

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