WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 7, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — In an effort to build on its history of transparency and reflection, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) today released three reports that “look back” on selected significant investments in its programmatic portfolio. Each report is designed to learn from previous successes—as well as missteps—by analyzing impacts, collecting stakeholder feedback, and reviewing lessons learned.

The projects reviewed reach coast-to-coast and cover over seven years of collaborative efforts between the Endowment and some of its many partners.

“We strive to be a risk taking organization that advances systemic, transformative and sustainable change for the good of America’s forests and the people who depend upon them for the myriad of benefits they yield,” said Endowment President Carlton Owen. “While I would welcome the chance to report that everything we do pans out according to plan, nothing could be further from the truth. These reports shed light and learnings for our staff, Board, and we hope others, who are committed to keeping working forests as forests and to advancing family-wage jobs in forest-rich communities,” he continued.

Today’s reports include:

The Forest Investment Zones: A Final Report to Our Stakeholders, looks at a five-year initiative to take the field of sustainable community forestry to a new level of practice and impact, where the Endowment directly invested more than $6 million in three “zones” across the country. All three zones generated significant accomplishments, particularly noteworthy for a grant period that coincided with a global economic recession that hit the wood products industry hard. The report shares that “each zone took on innovative and difficult on?the?ground projects that required securing new expertise, financing, and public acceptance.” The report seeks to share the wealth of insights, data, and stories generated from this work with the philanthropic community as well as with practitioners and policymakers from the fields of forestry, conservation, and community and economic development.

ShadeFund: A Report to the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, reviews a partnership between the Endowment and The Conservation Fund to create an internet-based crowdfunding mechanism to provide financing for small-scale forest products entrepreneurs. The combination of the Great Recession and declining markets for lumber and traditional forest products left small wood-based business owners with few options to obtain needed financial resources. The report takes a candid look at what obstacles prevented ShadeFund from achieving original objectives in its crowdfunding model and outlines shifts made to continue to inject resources into wood-based economies. The report notes,

however, that “every one of ShadeFund’s borrowers has repaid its loan or is current on repayment. They have created new jobs and generated tax revenues in forest-dependent communities, and the economic ‘multiplier’ effect means their overall impact is even greater.”

Fallen Star: Case Study and Learnings from a Public-Private Partnership for Economic Development and Community Change, provides an extensive autopsy of one of the Endowment’s most innovative projects to date: a for-profit wood-to-energy plant that would address a forest health problem, provide jobs in a rural area, and create an incentive for area children to stay in school. The project foundered, but the lessons learned will undoubtedly help others succeed. “We are willing to take risks—and by definition, risk taking means that failure is possible,” the report states, “but knowing when to admit failure and cut your losses is always difficult.”

These releases build on the Endowment’s commitment to both ‘do what others can’t or won’t’ and to offer a fully transparent reflection on these attempts at effecting change in forest communities.

Practitioners in the field note the significance of this step by the Endowment. Speaking of Fallen Star, Endowment Board member Andrea Tuttle said, “This report really tells the tale in an honest, introspective way, while still being proud of the effort and making the best of the exit.” Tuttle, former State Forester for California, added that these reports “will be tremendously helpful to other non-governmental organizations in explaining the lessons learned.”

Although the Endowment completes follow-up reporting on all of its funding initiatives, these three projects provide a broad view of the life of a project in the organization’s portfolio: starting with a proposal, tracking through funding, and moving into the important phase of learnings and reflection. “Our hope is that other organizations—both our peers in the field and those in other philanthropic and policy arenas—will glean both guidance and caution from these reports,” said Owen.

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For more information contact:
Carlton N. Owen, President & CEO, 864-233-7646, carlton (at) usendowment (dot) org
The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) is a not-for-profit public charity working collaboratively with partners in the public and private sectors to advance systemic, transformative, and sustainable change for the health and vitality of the nation’s working forests and forest-reliant communities – www.usendowment.org


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