I recently read the report by CIFOR on Ecosystem Services Certification. The problem with certification seems to be finding a system that is not easy to cheat but also affordable enough for smaller players to participate. A certification system like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is hard to cheat but small players cannot afford to be certified and tracking the chain of command is nearly impossible in some countries. Other certification systems are not stringent enough and anyone can be certified leaving the public confused about how much they can trust certification. But what if we let the public help certify ecosystem services? What about trying to crowd source ecosystem services certification? It is completely different from all current certification systems but I think there is potential for such a scheme. Smaller players may not generate as much interest from the public and therefore would not have to spend as much time and money on certification while larger more controversial projects may need to do quite a bit of work to gain public approval.
There are many ways it could be arranged and I don’t have a perfect solution as it is not being done for ecosystem services but it is obvious that there are a wide range of needs and none of the current certification models seem to work for all groups. There are lots of modern examples of crowdsourcing and all have advantages and disadvantages. But looking at all the other examples I think you could come up with something that would fit. Some examples that I think have elements that could be included in an ecosystem services model include Kickstarter, Open Source Science Project, Crowdspring, StackOverflow or Wikipedia. I like Wikipedia because there are many mildly interested users that participate and then are a core group of people who really seem to defend the topic and help keep out trolls. StackOverflow is interesting because users have to put their own reputation on the line to make comments which seems to encourage intelligent ideas.
The general idea is that there would be some loose guidelines (think of it as a constitution) for ecosystem services certification created by CIFOR. Communities or organisations would submit their projects for certification and the public could ask for clarification, provide scientific input or ultimately reject projects they felt did not meet the criteria. As people participated in discussions on more projects the weight of their opinion would increase. One advantage is that as projects become larger or more controversial they will naturally generate more input and concern from the public and will therefore be challenged to a higher standard than smaller less controversial projects. This will allow communities with fewer resources to participate without the administrative burden of larger projects. In addition, smaller communities could ask for input from the crowd for ideas on projects or help (for example, a smaller community could ask for assistance in mapping the project).
There are certainly lots of other ways you could organise it and I have other ideas of how it would work but I see lots of potential for it in Payment for Ecosystem Services and REDD+ projects.