The second step – which takes 15% of the time and effort – consists in creating a prototype, pilot project, or experiment, and inviting everyone to experience it.
Doubling the amount of nature in the Netherlands consisted of reclaiming land next to the great rivers, making it possible to walk from Germany to Rotterdam. A prototype area was created near the border, as far away as possible from the political seat of power in The Hague. Experiments can benefit by being held far away from the watchful eye of the authorities, as innovation often happens in the margins. The small prototype area was also purposefully named Gelderse Poort, the Gateway to Gelderland, suggesting a grand entrance to the Netherlands, thus building on the foundational myth of the country.
The prototype area involved dyke authorities, farmers, conservationists, and house owners. These four different stakeholders were at each other’s throats and terminally stuck. The dyke authorities needed the dykes to be raised in case of flooding, which threatened owners of century-old cottages on the dykes. Farmers that had farmed there for generations fought nature conservancy groups to protect small wetland areas by the river.
The sensing phase is key. It involved listening a lot, bringing people together, consultation on the ground, and consuming, according to Woldhek, “lots of coffees and lots of beers”. The WWF found a way to turn this situation from a quadruple-lose situation for all concerned into a quintuple-win situation by bringing in an additional stakeholder to break the deadlock.
The solution was to bring in the clay and brick companies. They were commonly seen as the bad guys who dug up the best piece of topsoil and left a trail of waste behind. Instead, they would be given access to the clay in the farmlands and allow farmers in financial difficulty to sell their land. The dyke authorities had extra space to strengthen the dykes without destroying the houses, which also solved the problem for the homeowners. The conservancy groups lost their small wetlands near the dykes but gained a massive new area of nature bordering the river. The money to pay off the farmers came from the brick industry, which got the clay in the area in return for digging the new riverbed. This time it left behind an extensive trail of nature.
By bringing in a fifth stakeholder, the four parties stubbornly protecting their own misaligned goals turned into an alliance of five stakeholders. The World Wildlife Fund team helped start that conversation by bringing in the fifth stakeholder.