Where Ventures Succeed.
Pioneering Multi-Sector Funding Approaches for Exponential Impact.
ENVIRONMENTAL BUSINESS NON-PROFIT PUBLIC SECTOR SINCE 2002
GET TO THE POINT...
...Where Innovation Meets Implementation
At points around the globe, Viability Lab has orchestrated diverse environmental, building, civic, design, and business projects from concept to reality.
GET TO THE POINT...
...Where What-ifs Meet Windfalls
It makes the world go 'round...and an idea go forward. Nothing leaves square one without money moving the pieces of your project across the board to a successful outcome.
Funding is essential. Yet calling Viability Lab's funding solutions "solutions" is like calling quantum physics a science fair project. Our boundlessly inventive approach to finding (and creating) financial catalysts not only propels projects to their goals, but often well beyond them.
GET TO THE POINT...
...Where Problem Meets Possibility
Projects like yours—geared toward making seismic change in organizations, regions, the world—are often littered with roadblocks. Viability Lab has seen, jumped, broken through, circumvented and otherwise conquered them all.
Viability in Action.
Since 2002, Viability Lab has facilitated all kinds of projects in all kinds of places for all kinds of entities. Please review the examples of our past and current projects below to see what we've done, and imagine what we've yet to accomplish.
Past Projects (Please select a project to learn more.)
Viability Lab was able to demonstrate innovative activities and approaches to address climate change and the lack of access to clean, reliable energy in the developing world by working with local microfinance institutions, banks, and distribution partners to access the African market.
Partnering with the Koinonia Foundation’s Beacon Program to design methodologies to address childhood health and education outcomes, all caused by the use of kerosene lamps in their homes that illuminate their studies at night. The fumes caused health issues, which then caused missed school days, and the problems spiraled downward from there. Scores of organizations—governmental and nonprofit, large and small—have expended effort and resources to better Kenyan living conditions with mixed results. Meanwhile, Viability Lab pioneered an unprecedented, innovative approach that continues to impact the continent today.
When the Koinonia Foundation approached Viability Lab for guidance in helping struggling Kenyans modernize their education and living standards, we avoided conventional "find donors, send supplies" models to devise a truly revolutionary system that positively impacted both the environment and on-the-ground living conditions without pestering donors for a dime.
Viability Lab was recognized by the United Nations Development Programme (New York, NY) for its creative and impactful use of Carbon Credit funding to improve rural Kenyan student health and education outcomes, leveraging a partnership with one of its international greenhouse clients from The Netherlands installing renewable energy in one of its African facilities. Viability Lab first directed the quantification and calculation of carbon credits generated by the sustainable practices incorporated into the build project, then managed and oversaw the credits' sale through the European Climate Exchange.
It's here where the singular genius of Viability Lab's approach was fully realized. Note that significant environmental impact had already been achieved. However, through an agreement with the greenhouse corporation, the proceeds from the carbon credit sale were not pocketed by the company, but used to purchase 10,000 solar lanterns for the children and families of Kenya, shedding essential light on evening school studies and household activities, while ridding their homes of noxious kerosene fumes. Students had been studying by kerosene light and the resulting illness resulting in school dropouts. Families with the solar lanterns saw an immediate uptick in health and educational outcomes. Further proceeds went to installing biodigesters to convert organic matter into clean-burning cooking fuel.
The project resulted in the United Nations recognizing Viability Lab's innovation and expertise by inviting a keynote presentation of our firm’s “Leveraging Carbon Finance to Fight Poverty” at the 2010 Africa Carbon Forum in Kenya. That exposure and project success then led the firm to open Viability Africa offices in Nairobi and London, which were spun off to key Viability Lab employees.
In this vivid example of Viability Lab's outside-the-box thinking, a large, multinational corporation building an earth-friendly facility with all of its environmental benefits also funded a project that improved the health and educational outcomes of thousands of rural Kenyan families. Put simply, Viability Lab is the world’s preeminent agency in conceptualizing, developing, and executing these cross-sector impacts that literally create “surplus good” without any additional funding.
Viability Lab designed the platform that has become the Michigan Wetland Banking Fund as one of its early examples of its decades of experience, innovation and success in designing funding mechanisms to complete strategic opportunities. Pioneering new financial tools is a potentially daunting process, which is why Viability Lab’s focus on research, knowledge and creativity are only the beginning. Research and keen attention to detail, has put Viability Lab on the forefront of monetizing environmental services.
To mitigate building construction in wetlands, developers are required to create wetlands elsewhere to offset the elimination of the original. As already demonstrated, Viability Lab doesn't do "typical." So when land developer, HEDCOR (Holland, Michigan), asked Viability Lab to explore wetland mitigation alternatives for an upcoming industrial park construction project, we not only delivered an answer, but a sea change.
The result of Viability Labs’ research and development piloted Michigan’s first Wetland Mitigation Bank (WMB). Instead of fabricating individual wetlands to offset each separate building project, Viability Lab’s Wetland Mitigation Bank developed a large wetlands from which multiple projects could “withdraw” their required acreage, as needed, in the form of mitigation credits.
The WMB benefits developers by reducing permit processing time and costs, and by increasing certainty regarding the availability of adequate mitigation sites. It also benefits the state's wetland resources by establishing new wetlands and consolidating small mitigation projects into larger, better designed and managed units.
This Viability-Lab-created concept was quickly adopted by the state of Michigan, which has since developed it into a statewide program under the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
Designed originally for USAID Development Innovation Ventures with the Aquinas College Center for Sustainability in Grand Rapids, MI, Viability Lab initiated, conceptualized, and designed “SupplyChange” as a global Payment for Ecosystem Services System to fund sustainability initiatives throughout a global supply chain, regardless of project proponents or locations in the world.
SupplyChange has been adopted by Forest Trends to run the world’s largest and most comprehensive database on company commitments to reducing deforestation related to agricultural commodities. While commercial agriculture drives as much as two-thirds of tropical deforestation globally, public information on how corporate commitments translate into action on the ground is scarce. The SupplyChange initiative fills this gap by closely tracking over 700 companies’ progress towards these commitments.
SupplyChange collaborators are Carbon Disclosure Project and World Wildlife Fund, with decades of support to companies making the transition to deforestation-free commodities, SupplyChange combines these assets with long-standing technical expertise in tracking and analyzing environmental markets to make for a robust analysis of these corporate commitments.
Supply Change is an evolving initiative, uniquely designed for partnership and collaboration to ensure it meets the ever-developing needs and interests of its stakeholder network of businesses, non-profits, governments, financial institutions, academic researchers, and the media.
Viability Lab has also applied its cross-sector impact expertise to leverage the power and reach of human interest and passions to further innovative initiatives. Whether it’s huge music festivals or global sporting events, people who are inclined to invest themselves as ‘fans’ are also inclined to become passionate about the collective energy fandom generates, which overflows into passion about maximizing positive impacts and eliminating the negative. Identifying, leveraging and channeling such human passions is a key Viability Lab strategy in making widespread and long-lasting impact.
The Electric Forest Festival draws 45,000 eclectic music fans for a weekend of fun, tunes, and festivities in the forest and fields of Rothbury, Michigan. With plenty of amps, lights, and side venues, it also draws significant electricity. The festival's organizer, Madison House (Boulder, Colorado), seeking to do right by the planet, hired Viability Lab to apply our innovative approach to limit the festival's climate impact. Through detailed carbon footprint calculations, and working with carbon credit provider, Chicago Climate Exchange, Viability Lab's ingenuity provided people-powered carbon offsets for the entire festival.
The creativity didn't stop there. Viability Lab led the design of an eight-person, stationary bicycle/bar, deemed the "V-Bike," that generated renewable, carbon-free power whenever peddlers were peddling. Viability Lab was the most popular sponsor tent at the festival, as fans pedaled the V-Bike powering an onsite digital recording studio and multiple phone charging ports, for the entire festival.
Whether a massive event in Michigan or an entire rural region in Africa, Viability Lab proves that the most valuable type of energy is brainpower.
Current Projects (Please select a project to learn more.)
Not only are marine ecosystem services themselves interconnected; coastal and marine ecosystems are also inextricably linked to the activities on land. Recognizing the impacts terrestrial systems have on coastal and marine areas, marine and coastal conservation strategies are increasingly taking a more holistic, or "ridge-to-reef', approach.
Focusing on the ecological relationships between terrestrial and marine ecosystems, such marine conservation strategies examine the "upstream" agricultural and industrial activities whose impacts flow "downstream" from the watershed and rivers to the coasts and the oceans. As such, effective marine conservation and coastal sustainable development demand this holistic approach be undertaken to identify the full spectrum of threats, impacts, and their causes in marine and coastal ecosystems.
Michigan, in conjunction with Ford, Google and other partners, has just announced Mobility Innovation Corridors for Surface and Air Mobility in the Detroit area, and the Straits of Mackinac are being proposed as the Marine Innovation Corridor. The Surface, Air, and Marine Mobility Corridors will work across state government, academia, and private industry to enhance Michigan's mobility ecosystem, including developing dynamic mobility and electrification policies and supporting the start-up and scale-up of emerging technologies and businesses.
Recognizing the vital need for such a holistic approach, Viability Lab will launch the Mackinac Marine Mobility Innovation Corridor in the Straits of Mackinac.
Just as the land, air, and water work synergistically in nature, this comprehensive corridor approach to our evolving mobility systems will also yield tremendous environmental, economic, and social benefits for the state of Michigan and beyond.
CommonWellth is the supercharged new evolution of Viability Labs' Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) methodologies, SupplyChange and StakeHolder, designed to leverage and integrate the plethora of new valuation systems which account for Natural Capital and Human Capital valuations. Together, the attributes of ecological systems, resources, actors, governance systems and context condition social and social-ecological interactions, captured by CommonWellth.
CommonWellth Market Activations incentivize local actions and investments into locally valued Natural Capital and SocioEconomic Assets. An investment may shape desired environmental changes, yet also create intended and unintended social and economic outcomes. Resulting validated data on these impacts and outcomes is accumulated as Asset Value, which CommonWellth monetizes to incentivize and fund on-going Asset Reinvestment.
One key innovation is the transition to strategic public development and management of assets which would normally be privately owned, such as buildings leased to a business. This concept is promoted by the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University, mirroring traditional Sault Tribe community asset beliefs and recently integrated into the Mackinac Island Transportation Authority Strategic Plan in Mackinac County. Further, the federal Economic Development Administration confirms rural communities may utilize an expanded classification of such public infrastructure to drive economic and community development. Measurable outcomes include new commercial starts; growth in total taxable value; and Opportunity Zone total investment.
An Innovation Center concept is also proposed as an outgrowth of several technological solutions and new business models which form the cornerstone of the Mackinac Economic Alliance Strategic Plan. The plan was recently adopted following research and development funded by a $70,000 feasibility study grant received from the federal Native American Business Development Institute in partnership with the local Sault Tribe in early 2021.
The Great Lakes freshwater system is the largest on planet Earth, and in one of the nation's most iconic, strategic, and sensitive waterways in that system-the Straits of Mackinac-Viability Lab is fostering systemic change to restore health to multiple ecosystems and initiate environmental education and restoration, impacting residents, visitors, and the land and waterways of northern Michigan.
While we may not be as salty as our ocean-sailing counterparts, the Straits are the epicenter of the Freshwater Sail Racing World, hosting the world's two longest, most celebrated freshwater sailing races. While #RaceToMackinac is the global call for freshwater sail racers, we're thrilled at the possibility of adding the moniker of SailGP's #RaceForTheFuture by aligning and with an organization that shares our commitment to making every marine system clean, healthy, and sustainable for all.