Most conservation enterprises start with an business idea to test, but how do you know that this idea is the best possible strategy? if possible, it’s good to step back and choose an idea to develop based on the particular assets and resources of the place and the community dependent upon it.
Getting to know your place (Asset Mapping)
Using a formal asset mapping process, even if it’s familiar to you, allows you to reassess and uncover hidden information about what is there, what is special, and what has the potential to be the basis of a successful business. There’s a number of existing approaches out there, such as Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) and Participatory Appraisal of Competitive Advantage (PACA). Neither perfectly fit the conservation enterprise context because the first is used for community development and the second is used for economic development at a larger scale, although both benefit from being a participatory approach. Here I present my my own asset mapping framework. I have listed the types of assets within each category, ensuring you don’t miss any potential resources.
It is also a model of dependency and linkages, based on levels, each dependent on the one below, but with their own aspects and needs. Resources ultimately come from the environment and are transformed by each level. Without each level, production cannot occur – for example, without organisations to organise people, the productive capacity of individuals is limited, and without connections, products cannot be sent to market.
Successful resource production requires that all of the assets are “line up” between levels to transform resources from landscape to market, helpful for assessing the capacity of a place to develop economically. Each level is dependent on the one below it to provide it with resources (“flows” in system dynamics language), and at the same time needs to sustain lower levels through money, labour and so on in order to maintain the assets (“stocks”) at the lower level – flows are usually two-way.
For example, A in the diagram represents a sustainable resource exchange, with a product created for the market and then income is distributed as benefits back to all the levels to maintain the assets of each. B represents a non-market resource exchange in which people harvest a product for personal use that sustains cultural practice but degrades the environment. Mapping flows can be used to understand resource movement, blockages and sustainability.
P.S. The main picture shows one of my colleagues at CIRUM, having conducted an asset mapping process in the Y Ty area of northwest Vietnam, presenting back to our group.