Forum Institutional

The rise of Generation Restoration and youth ecopreneurship

Each year, groups of local residents take part in an organized tree-planting effort in the Lares watershed and the Sacred Valley in the Peruvian Andes. Image: Marion del Aguila for One Tree Planted and ECOAN

Florent Kaiser
Executive Director, Global Forest Generation
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This article is part of: The Davos Agenda
  • Sparked by a formidable sense of purpose, urgency and need for action, a new generation of young people are putting the planet’s health at the heart of their businesses.
  • These young ecopreneurs are collectively known as Generation Restoration and are coming together to restore our natural world.
  • This youth-led movement shows the power and ability of an environmentally-savvy generation to bring about real, concrete change towards a healthy planet.

Our team at Global Forest Generation are on a mission to scale up the restoration of ecosystems worldwide. We are a new group with an old soul: seasoned and experienced conservationists teaming up with young ecopreneurs to demonstrate what a youth movement can become when supported and nurtured.

As part of this Generation Restoration, we believe a large part of the solution to our devastated global environment is regeneration, unlimited possibilities for which surround us. Regeneration – characterised by resilience – describes the ability of a cell, a system, a society, even an entire planet, to heal, renew and thrive anew.

Regeneration is increasingly making its way into the mainstream with new projects appearing all over the globe. Young people are developing regenerative businesses – purpose-driven ventures with social, economic and environmental justice missions at the centre of their business models. Other young ecopreneurs are learning, adopting and teaching regenerative agriculture, which reintroduces carbon, nutrients and species diversity into soils while increasing organic food production. Regenerative development – a particularly far-reaching and inclusive framework to foster collaboration for restorative and regenerative action – provides guidance to gradually transform a community, city, or an entire region and country from degraded ecosystems to abundance.

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Local leadership and intergenerational collaboration

At Global Forest Generation, we regard local leaders and their communities as the ultimate ecopreneurs. We see consequential acts of local leadership – and the positive response to grassroots leadership at the global level – all the time within the rural and indigenous communities that comprise Accion Andina, our flagship initiative to restore forests in South America’s high Andes. This initiative is a partnership of local grassroots restoration leaders and communities throughout six countries, with the goal of protecting and restoring 1 million hectares and grow 100 million trees to restore native forests across the high Andes in the next 25 years.

It is profoundly inspiring to see entire communities across several countries collectively involved in reforestation: hundreds of multi-generational families committed to restoring their forests for water security. In the Andes, the Inca descendants continue to practice their ancestral principles of the Ayni, the Minka and the Mita. Ecopreneurs can learn from adopting their indigenous philosophy of common purpose – a profound commitment to work together for the greater good. Today I help you and tomorrow you help me, and the sum of our actions will be far greater. Not just person to person or community to community, but for the benefit of all the people, for the land they live on, with its long history.

A deep belief in the power of the collective, on-the-ground actions of many individuals is making ecosystem restoration a reality in the Andes and beyond, as thousands of youth-led projects take root all over the world.

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What’s the World Economic Forum doing about deforestation?

The process of growing trees and forests can serve as a metaphor for the experience of an ecopreneur. It is a progression requiring patience and long-term commitment: collecting seeds, nurturing their growth, planting young trees and then gathering more seeds to continue the process of creating healthy forest ecosystems.

And just as young trees receive sustenance from older established trees, the nurturing of a young ecopreneur can benefit from older generations of leaders sharing their wisdom and experience as mentors and guides. At Global Forest Generation we have discovered that young ecopreneurs grow by leaps and bounds by working side-by-side with their seniors.

Scaling up ecosystem restoration by supporting a new generation of ecopreneurs

To restore ecosystems on a large, transformative scale, local leadership and entrepreneurship are truly indispensable. The United Nations has declared 2021-2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – a formidable framework to spark commitment and action, and to build a large collaborative movement of young and old to restore our planet. The World Economic Forum’s 1t.org acts in support of the UN Decade and brings together world leaders, businesses and young entrepreneurs to push forward on ecosystem restoration. We at Global Forest Generation are proud to serve on the advisory board, and there are clear next steps for engaging the world’s youth movement:

For ecopreneurship to become the new norm we need to rethink training, education, capacity-building, and promoting business and technical skills. We need to develop local cohorts of young entrepreneurs, mentors and investors. The Forum’s 1t.org, together with Uplink, is working with youth leaders to identify and address needs and run ecopreneurship challenges on global and regionally relevant issues. These actions work to surface bold new ideas, support them, and celebrate ecopreneurship.

As these local ecopreneurs and leaders are engaged, we must make sure to foster strong ties to culture and communities. At Global Forest Generation, we are engaged in an ongoing effort to identify and support a new generation of these young leaders with the energy, passion, endurance and skills to regenerate ecosystems in the long term.

We must recognize and invest in young ecopreneurs in early-stage projects, building a robust support system for these young people to engage in ecosystem restoration over the long term. Ultimately, the success of the upcoming UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration should not only be measured by numbers of trees and forests, but by how many young people have been able to build successful professions, organizations and livelihoods around ecosystem restoration.

Never has it been more urgent – and more possible and promising – for our younger generations to tap into their inner ecopreneur spirit and drive practical action in the world. The task ahead is immense, but our collective future depends on it.

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Forum InstitutionalNature and BiodiversityClimate Action
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