Congratulations on your new role at the World Bank! Tell us about it.
Adrian Vogl: I’ve been working with the World Bank for years as a NatCap scientist, along with many other people on our team. This new position is a natural step forward that builds on that work, especially in developing support for effective natural capital approaches within the organization. There are champions within the Bank who really see the value of NatCap’s approach and tools, including InVEST, for designing successful projects. But there aren’t a lot of projects actually using those tools.
My role is to assemble a team of experts to address this gap, so we can upstream ecosystem services assessments (that use InVEST and other NatCap approaches) into Bank-wide project conception and development in the earliest stages.
The team will be made up of GIS specialists, economists, and capacity building experts. We’ll work with a few Bank projects that are currently in development to apply the natural capital approach. We’ll create a portfolio of case studies that demonstrate how this approach can add value to the Bank’s project development process. And, we’ll work to build internal capacity at the Bank and external capacity with country government stakeholders, at places like Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, and Finance.
Overall, the goal is to make natural capital tools and approaches more visible and easier to access, while creating a standardized set of content that we can use to further increase uptake and impact of these methods.
What excites you most about this work?
Vogl: The reason this work is new and exciting is not just because we’re creating more opportunities to apply NatCap's tools with the World Bank, but also because we’re creating a new system in which science-based approaches that include natural capital and ecosystem services in project design are mainstream.
In the past, most ecosystem services work at the Bank has been in the context of developing environmental impacts assessments, or else paid for by small internal grants after a project has been initiated. It’s been reactive, rather than proactive. We’re trying to change that approach, so that countries recognize the value of the work and factor it into their loans and big projects with the Bank from the very beginning. That means moving from a tiny pot of technical assistance money to hundreds of millions of operational dollars per project. We’re trying to prove that there is value in — and demand for — natural capital approaches. And the great news is that we’re already seeing success with projects and countries committing their own funds to ecosystem services analyses, and it’s only been two months.
How will your two positions — with NatCap and the World Bank — overlap?
Vogl: There are three reasons why I’m glad to remain in my position with NatCap. First, I just really love the people of NatCap, and being able to stay connected to the heartbeat of the ecosystem services community is really important for me — both personally and to be successful in my role at the Bank.
Second, my heart is still in Latin America and the Amazon, and I plan to keep working on my projects in Bolivia and Peru. We’ve just hired some wonderful new postdocs and I’m excited to see that work move forward.
The third reason is because the overlap between the two roles has potential to amplify both organizations. At NatCap, we’re always looking for ways to mainstream our work through high-impact partners like the World Bank. The initial focus of my work with the Bank is going to be in Africa, where I can build on and apply the successes from NatCap’s ongoing work greening sustainable development finance in Colombia, Costa Rica, Belize, and other countries.
I’m going to be developing a strategy that brings more visibility to these approaches within the World Bank, but also uses our lessons and insights to help NatCap further refine our strategy for engaging with multilateral development banks more broadly. I’m looking for leverage points, so that these funders consider ecosystem services in all their operations.
Are there opportunities for people in NatCap’s network to join your team? If so, how?
Yes, in two ways. I’m currently looking for an environmental or ecosystem services economist who knows NatCap’s tools and approach to help develop and apply rapid assessment methods for valuations. [Job posting here]
Additionally, my team will be looking for consultants to do some project-specific work, because we can’t fulfill all the demand we’re seeing from the Bank. The more we can mobilize the NatCap community to fill these consultancy positions, the more impact we’ll have together.
I’m really hoping we can make connections around the world using the NatCap network. If people are interested, they should follow me on LinkedIn, where I’ll post upcoming opportunities.