How to think about your candidate project

This guide is to help you shape and understand your candidate project as you start your Riverwoods journey. These are some of the key things it might be useful to think about as you go along.


How to be a Pioneer

As a Pioneer, your candidate project is not about delivery yet.

At this early stage, your project is about innovation – thinking through new ideas, with new people, which address nature restoration and community well-being. Think about who you might reach out to, to start thinking and sharing ideas with.


How to plan your time

The Pioneer stage is time bound, ending in February 2023.

There are two main phases, each linked with funding opportunities to support projects become investment ready.

  • Phase one – June – October 2022
  • Phase two – December – February 2023

Plan your activity around these phases.


Understanding the support available

Offer for investment readiness support
Riverwoods Investment Readiness Pioneers
Pre-application support
One to one support, workshops, toolkits, guidance and specialist mentoring to develop your project concept
Application support
Website, and one to one support to clarify the application process and develop your concept
Up to five selected candidate concepts will get £4k to £5k cash support for developing their concept into a full development business plan
Application deadlines
Concept submission form by 31st Oct 2022
Development business plan by 28th Feb 2023
Notified by 15th Mar 2023
Grant available per application
Up to £125k for 2 projects
(up to 100% costs covered)
Note: This is in addition to the application support grants above.
Number of grants available
Up to 2 projects
Grant purpose
To nurture prospective commercially viable river woodland restoration initiatives with the best solutions to accelerate positive change towards nature restoration.
Grant restrictions
Anywhere in Scotland
Riparian restoration that meets the grant purpose
Grantholder can be any organisation, unless:
  1. The level of personal benefit to public/environmental benefit involved to individuals leading the application is deemed to be too high by us.
  2. Your financial arrangements or governance arrangements are not robust enough for our grant processes.
Eligible costs for grant
Internal organisational capacity
Specialist consultancy and technical advice
Any other costs which contribute to your project’s investment readiness as specified in your accepted business plan.
Assessment criteria
  1. Technical feasibility
  2. Engagement with community
  3. Partnership potential
  4. Level of public and environmental benefit
  5. Right intervention in the right place
  6. Additionality to statutory responsibilities
  7. Commercial potential


Have you identified the building blocks for your project?

The following are some suggestions from the Riverwoods team and some of our partners:

If you have further ideas or suggestions, please add them to our Ideas Wall.

Your unique offer

What is the unique selling point of your project? What makes it particularly exciting and inspiring? What is the commercial angle to your initiative that might attract investors?

How to think differently when shaping your candidate project? – This is all about Discovery – finding out what has happened before, what has worked, what hasn’t worked and what your level of ambition is. Try to make space for new ideas, different directions or how you might build on existing ideas.



What existing legal, planning, technical, scientific expertise do you or your team need? And what do you already have access to directly or indirectly? What kind of expertise can you draw on to engage with communities, statutory agencies and landowners?

How to think about your candidate project as long-term, scalable, and durable? – To attract investment, your candidate project will need to demonstrate that it will have an impact which goes beyond a quick win.

Think about revenue scenarios and what investors might be interested in.

Examples are:

  • Carbon management
  • Natural Flood Management
  • Water quality and temperature
  • Employment opportunities
  • Community health and wellbeing

Your candidate project will be a good proposal if it has the potential to have a long-term impact on nature restoration and community wellbeing.



Do you have a good understanding of who will benefit from your project, your potential beneficiaries? Have you reviewed the four existing restoration pilot projects in England designed to raise new money for nature? Are you familiar with SEPA’s Water Environment Fund guidance for river restoration? Have you explored the kind of information that investors might need?

How to think about financing models?

Here’s a simple four-step process:

  1. What do you want to do for your candidate project?
  2. What are the benefits and outcomes?
  3. Who are the beneficiaries?
  4. Who are the beneficiaries who might pay for your candidate project – the purchasers?

If you get stuck on any of the steps, shout for support.

How to think innovatively? – As you start to share your thinking with others, concentrate on exciting ideas, and stretch what’s possible. Research what others have done and spark your imagination for how to develop a fresh approach.

How to think about your candidate project and learn at the same time? – The whole project is about discovery, exploration and innovation. Learning is at the heart of this, so everyone benefits from taking part.

Learning will be at all sorts of levels:

  • Personal, individual
  • Subject specific
  • Local, community
  • Organisational, Partnership
  • National, International



Have you identified the specific location(s) for your intervention? Beneficiaries and revenue streams will depend on where the projects are. Have you considered the documentation you will need such as a clear business plan, governance documents and partnership agreements? Who will your team of Pioneers be? Will you have a bank account or partnership agreement with an existing organisation or mechanism to hold the finances for your project?

How to explore options? – Within your innovative thinking, keep a focus on the investment angle. Is your candidate project something investors will get excited about? How can you build this in?

Also keep a note of what you need, to support how you develop your candidate project. This can be added along the way.

For instance:

  • Bringing different skill sets into your thinking
  • Expert input from scientists
  • Advice on reaching investors
  • Guidance on how to form partnerships
  • Support to spark your imagination


Purpose, process and partnership

Do you have a clear overall purpose for your project, the outcomes you aim to achieve and an overview of the steps you need to take to get there? How will you decide what type of Riverwoods intervention is suitable for the purposes you are considering, working in a partnership with the community, land owners and other stakeholders?

How to be participatory and inclusive? – Include a range of perspectives to add depth and diversity to your candidate projects. Reach beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and bring together people who may not usually get involved.  Make sure that everyone has an equal voice and that everyone feels valued for their all contribution.

Give considerable thought to accessibility and ensure that every element of involvement is open, welcoming and free of any barriers to participation.


Your Pioneers Team

As a minimum, a Pioneers Team will include local community members and landowners or land managers. Community members could be local residents or community-based groups.

Think about how you will work together on design, delivery and assessing your impact as a team. Also, how will you communicate, where will you meet, how will you make decisions together? – Bringing lots of perspectives together will add dimension to your candidate project. You can add other stakeholders and partners as you go along.

How to work with multiple stakeholders? – You may need to think about the best ways to do this – practically (including where and how you will meet) and what you may need to help you communicate equally. This could be a loose agreement on how your communication or meetings will happen, or a more formal partnership arrangement.

Think about who needs to be part of your candidate project:

  • Local residents
  • Local community members
  • Voluntary organisations
  • Farmers or landowners

Who will benefit from your restoration project?

For example:




  • Salmon/Trout fisheries and angling clubs – improved stock
  • Community land trusts – resilience of community assets
  • Community access to nature – regeneration especially in deprived areas
  • Community groups – active travel, quality of life, mental health
  • Community empowerment – greater engagement and influence over local projects




  • Insurance companies – reduced flood risk pay-outs
  • Commercial reputation – listing on ethical funds
  • Landowners – improved land quality and valuation


Public sector agencies


  • Transport operators – reduced flood risk
  • Local Authorities – natural flood management and storage
  • Scottish Water – cleaner water, reduced treatment requirements
  • SEPA – non-statutory River Basin Management targets
  • NatureScot – urban and upstream wildlife protection
  • Regional planning authorities – generating better evidence for planning