News

28.04.2021.

Involving citizens in urban nature-based solutions strategies

On the 22nd of April, IUCN hosted a webinar for the GrowGreen project to explore options for achieving successful citizen engagement for Nature-based Solutions, building on the experiences of the GrowGreen project as well as other European cities.

Citizens are key actors in the development and implementation of Nature-based Solutions. The contribution from citizens, their ideas, active engagement, and stewardship make a difference in achieving positive impactful results for liveable and resilient cities. Carrying out successful citizen engagement is one of the main ambitions of the GrowGreen project.

Iñaki Romero Fernández de Larrea from Paisaje Transversal, presented the GrowGreen approach to citizen engagement at a city scale with experiences from Valencia. He explained that Valencia followed the ‘Listen and Transform the City’ as explained in the Citizen Engagement report. Other tools called ‘Doing cities with people’ and Dissemination, Citizenry and Participation (DCP) helped to understand the needs and ideas of the community for the planning of a community orchard. These consultations also with less accessible groups, like the elderly and the youth, resulted in a number of extra green-blue corridor improvements.

Iñaki Romero Fernández de Larrea from Paisaje Transversal, presented the GrowGreen approach to citizen engagement at a city scale with experiences from Valencia. He explained that Valencia followed the ‘Listen and Transform the City’ as explained in the Citizen Engagement report. Other tools called ‘Doing cities with people’ and Dissemination, Citizenry and Participation (DCP) helped to understand the needs and ideas of the community for the planning of a community orchard. These consultations also with less accessible groups, like the elderly and the youth, resulted in a number of extra green-blue corridor improvements.

Malgorzata Bartyna-Zielinska, Greenery Coordinator of the Nature and Climate Protection Bureau in Wroclaw & Seeing is Believing, presented some of the experiences in Wroclaw with co-creation and engaging citizens.  The Wroclaw GrowGreen demonstration project hosted a number of events to engage with the community on the topic of nature-based solutions. These aimed at gaining an understanding of how the citizens were using the existing courtyards which were going to be used as NBS demonstration sites, and to learn about their expectations of GrowGreen demonstration projects. During the Nature-based Solutions implementation the GrowGreen team also involved citizens to plant the courtyards with flowers and shrubs. She added that several education programmes and tools were created, which promoted Green Infrastructure, such as the ‘I like rain’ which encouraged children to create raingardens and aa manual on rainwater management.

 Ms. Bartyna-Zielinska noted that involving citizens in the development of strategic planning documents, such as Wroclaw’s climate change adaption plan was much more challenging than the demonstration sites engagement events. Often NGOs and Charities are involved in the development of such documents but communities are less engaged.  

Michaela Howell, Head of Communities, and Amy Wright, Community Project Lead for Groundwork Greater Manchester have been leading the GrowGreen citizen engagement activities for the West Gorton Community Park. They began by showing an introductory video which can be found here.

Ms. Wright discussed the citizen engagement approachthat the Manchester demonstration project has followed. West Gorton was facing a number of challenges, such as high poverty and health and wellbeing. She explained that the community was divided across two estates and there was a real lack of belief that their voices would be heard, which presented barriers to be overcome, but also offered a lot of potential. Groundwork Greater Manchester focused its citizen engagement programme on ‘Building interest and Involvement’, ‘Co-design and Ownership’ and ‘NBS Education and awareness Raising’using consultations, open events, involvement in the design and planting of the park.

Ms Howell, spoke about an ongoing project ‘Our Rivers Our City’ and how Groundwork handled community engagement during COVID-19. Instead of face-to-face consultations as seen in the West Gorton project, Groundwork hosted a number of online workshops, and online surveys. From these consultations Groundwork created a project bank of community lead ideas, which are combined with the action plan. It is hoped this will build momentum for working on the river banks within the community. Ms. Howell also highlighted the difficulty of engaging communities in action plans. For example, the team has 185 responses on how other cities used their rivers, which indicated that the team was only reaching people who were already engaged in this type of conversation and that this did not reflect the whole picture. Local conversations are key, they might not provide strategic priorities but they create a volume of comments that influence those priorities.

Rinske van Noortwijk, Co-Founder of Greenwish in the Netherlands, demonstrated that there are two kinds of citizen engagement in GrowGreen: Citizens cooperating with institutions and institutions cooperating with citizens initiatives. This is important because we need innovation and innovation comes from these forms of initiatives, for example: Waterweg. For this project, two students from the Technical University of Delft developed water-permeable tiles from dredging canals and rivers. One of the problems she highlighted is the lack of support for social initiatives, which unite businesses and people, which means there is no level playing field when setting up green initiatives. Ms. van Noortwijk recommended organisations: ‘Do not do it yourselves but make sure that others (society) can do it better’. Social initiatives can be used as signals for better policies, and to help understand what is no longer needed within a community.

Full Recording of ‘Involving citizens in urban nature-based solution strategies’

The sessions presentations and recording of the event are available here:

The GrowGreen approach to citizen engagement at city scale and experiences from Valencia: Iñaki Romero Fernández de Larrea.

Co-creation for engaging citizens, lessons learnt from Wroclaw and Manchester: Malgorzata Bartyna-Zielinska, Michaela Howell and Amy Wright.