WYSS ACADEMY FOR NATURE
A visionary approach
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.
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.
The Wyss Academy is committed to identifying and implementing local solutions to urgent global challenges. For this purpose, it breaks down the silos of research, policy, and practice, and offers pathbreaking opportunities for collaboration. In 2022, we started to pursue our strategy and to put in practice a detailed plan for our activities.
In the period between 2022 and 2024, three strategic goals are guiding our work. Being closely interconnected, they are equally important and essential in fulfilling our mission. These overarching goals comprise twelve key objectives that guide our projects and actions toward achieving concrete results in the coming years. Our strategic goals are also important vehicles for collaboration in self-managed and adaptive teams that connect business units and external partners and include different cultures. The implementation of these goals is ensured through our joint work streams.
Goal 1 – Demonstrating new pathways for mutually beneficial impacts
Our first strategic goal is to find solutions to conflicts between nature and people within twelve different landscapes around the world. We co-design pathways for the transformation of systems – such as food and energy – by promoting innovations that may be useful for other environments and at a global level.
We are convinced that the conservation of nature must go hand in hand with improving people’s livelihoods. Therefore, we want to create prototype solutions capable of transforming vicious cycles that lead to increasing environmental and social degradation into regenerative, virtuous cycles.
Monitoring and evaluating processes and failures ensures that we constantly learn and adapt. Lessons are shared among our regional hubs and across different networks.
Goal 2 – Inspiring a new social contract with nature
Our second strategic goal is to inspire a new deal between people and nature that encompasses civil society, the economy, and politics, from local to national and global levels.
This means that people and organizations from all parts of society increasingly understand that reconfiguring our relationship with nature is a vital survival strategy for humanity – and that we need to act now.
Our aim is to engage people from society, business, and politics in a science-based dialogue to establish a shared understanding of challenges and a common vision for the future. On that basis, we establish strategic alliances for systems change, share and scale up available solutions and pathways, and influence policy.
Goal 3 – Global enabler of innovations
Our third strategic goal is to establish the Wyss Academy as a global enabler of innovations that will help transform the relationship between people and nature in order to create a world that is more sustainable and just.
We believe that innovative solutions also require new and innovative organizations. The Wyss Academy has the opportunity to bring together interdisciplinary research and innovation teams, policy shapers, and action at the regional hubs within a single organization. It encourages these units to collaborate directly and in new ways, creating added value.
We want everyone to work productively and with joy in an adaptive and entrepreneurial spirit, focused on innovation and learning. Moreover, we share our discoveries, knowledge, and practical expertise with all our stakeholders, and create a culture of innovation.
Our aims are to build trusted partnerships, to become a key reference for sustainability science, and to be a role model in how we organize ourselves, how we implement innovation, and how we foster people and culture.
At the Wyss Academy for Nature, we work on developing, testing, and scaling up innovative solutions that advance nature conservation and human wellbeing at the same time. Our organizational structure reflects our belief that the disruption we seek can be unleashed by a new and innovative form of organization. We have the opportunity to bring together research and innovation teams, policy shapers, and action at our regional hubs on four different continents. All units are encouraged to collaborate directly, with flat hierarchies and in role-based ways. Together, we strive to become a role model in terms of corporate governance.
Explore more of our structure - and get to know the people behind it:
Our values serve as a guiding star for our daily interactions at work and for taking decisions that affect the success and impact we strive to have as an organization, in collaborations and partnerships, and in our everyday work life. They are derived from the Wyss Academy’s mission and were defined in a number of iterations and consultations across the staff members, the directorate, and the board of the Wyss Academy.
We are convinced of their potential to shape our actions for the better. Through continuous reflection and adaptation of our behaviors according to our values, we can ensure that we stay on track in our efforts to achieve a more harmonious and sustainable relationship between human beings and nature.
Therefore, at the Wyss Academy, acting in accordance with our values is expected at all times. We especially respect them in our social interactions – formal and informal – with colleagues and partners, in meetings, throughout project design and implementation, and whenever we represent our organization.
We encourage and support diversity, wellbeing, and personal growth, promoting talent and fruitful partnerships.
Respect | Empathy | Inclusion | Wellbeing | Meaningful relationships
We courageously and responsibly harness opportunities and find innovative ways to accelerate our impact, while remaining adaptive and resilient in the face of challenges.
Vision | Responsibility for actions | Adaptability | Efficiency and Effectiveness | Courage
Transparent and fair
We apply the highest ethical, scientific and technical standards throughout our work and communicate openly, truthfully and respectfully, exchanging and sharing knowledge for empowerment.
Openness | Truth | Reflection | Justice | Empowerment
We strive for our ambitious goals collaboratively, with enthusiasm and perseverance, leaving positive imprints on the planet.
Accountability | Evidence | Experimentation | Systems oriented | Transformation
In reaching out to others, we co-create with curiosity, discover, foster creativity, and communicate our successes and failures so that we can learn from them.
Curiosity | Co-creation | Creativity | Prototyping | Learning