The Mississippi River program’s Theory of Change centers on the incentives that drive decisions impacting the river.
Our approach is based on an understanding that long-term change relies on a virtuous circle: As new practices and products are adopted, they begin to transform markets, policy, and cultural norms. Over time, these transformations provide ever-stronger incentives for adopting new practices.
This self-reinforcing dynamic brings new practices to the scale needed to improve the quality and resilience of the Mississippi River system. This can eventually turn into common practice.
Portfolio of proven practices. We seek out and encourage the adoption of practices that reduce impacts to the river and restore its function. Demonstrating the viability of this emerging portfolio helps overcome people’s natural risk-aversion to new products and practices. It also encourages further innovation.
Enable market and policy environment. Individuals and organizations whose decisions and behaviors impact the Mississippi River are strongly influenced by markets and government policies. We seek to create new market opportunities and policy incentives that encourage adoption of undervalued products and practices.
Focus on incentives. Changing incentives over time relies on a virtuous circle. We focus on the economic returns, risks, regulatory requirements, culture, and community values that drive decisions impacting the river.
As new markets mature and become more predictable, risks become better understood. Markets and policies adapt to manage those risks. New rules gain acceptance as common practice. Companies and organizations accept new ways of doing business, and communities come to expect emerging practices. Those are the long-term dynamics of our Change Engine.
Outcomes. As new farming and land practices are adopted at scale, nutrient loads in agricultural runoff are reduced, changes in drainage systems preserve wetlands, and the natural hydrologic function of the watershed is restored.
The cumulative impact is improved water quality and resilience of a river system as large and complex as the Mississippi.