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Engaging the public

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© RMIT Europe and EIT Climate-KIC, EIT Food and EIT Urban Mobility

What collaborations are needed to make NbS a success?

NbS have multiple benefits for multiple stakeholders. In this video, stakeholders were interviewed about who can or should come together to realise nature-based solutions.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

A successful co-design strategy that mainstreams NbS into planning is one that enables outcomes that matter to participants. One that gives voice to all concerned and understands stakeholders’ and citizens’ needs and demands.

Citizen participation at each green infrastructure project stage is required.

  • Early stage engagement focuses on creating shared commitment that legitimises the green infrastructure. It also enables knowledge generation and exchange, mutual learning through social networks and flexibility when it comes to planning decisions and focus over time.
  • During later stages, citizen participation is driven by instrumental motives such as lowering management costs.

Citizen co-design

During project design phase, research indicates that citizen participation is focused on building coalitions, engaging citizens with their living environment, and mutually designing the green infrastructure.

An example of this is Gothenburg’s activation of the Frihamnen area, a former uninhabited harbour area set to be transformed into a residential neighbourhood. The co-design of green infrastructure was used to engage local residents with the area, so they could get to know this currently uninhabited area.

Another example is in Madrid, where artists guided school teams in the co-design of nature-based solutions for their school’s surroundings.

The socio-ecological context is important too. Landscape characteristics including biodiversity and relevant ecosystem services, and the specific social structures in the respective area (including inequities) should be accounted for in the co-design process.

Limitations can arise when stakeholder mapping is too narrow or focuses on certain socio-economic contexts or expectations about relevant groups and their preferences.

Ultimately, successful co-design in transformative urban greening is one that enables an outcome beyond the project, based on citizens’ involvement and demands in order to create a lasting NbS community.

Project delivery

Citizen participation in the project delivery phase requires no or limited community involvement. As a result, the local government leading the project adheres to a more traditional role, in which citizen participation is predominantly an instrumental aim that helps to deliver the project more smoothly. These cases are generally more engineering-oriented, focusing on creating climate adaptation measures and less on community involvement.

Project maintenance

While citizen participation in the design phase is aimed at networking and bridging interests, there are also opportunities to engage the community in the maintenance of the green infrastructure.

In the case of small-scale, concrete infrastructure measures that require more maintenance than traditional grey infrastructure, it provides an opportunity to stimulate communities, such as voluntary groups, to co-maintain the more costly green infrastructure. The benefits of this are lower maintenance budgets and generating social cohesion and stronger social ties.

Citizen science apps

Citizen science apps allow residents to contribute data to research questions about the distribution and behaviour of wildlife in cities. Some examples include:

  • CAUL Urban Wildlife app: record sightings of animals, view all of your previous records, and see a map of where other citizen scientists have recorded sightings in your area. The data recorded about the behaviours of urban wildlife assist researchers to better understand how we can manage native wildlife and their habitats so that their populations can persist and co-exist with humans.
  • Tree Check app: engages the public in urban greenery care in a fun way, by offering the opportunity to help cool down cities by measuring tree cooling and monitoring their condition.
  • MapNat app: enables the mapping of the use of nature’s services in locations, providing access to other users’ records; citizens can map or search for e.g. bird watching spots and report environmental issues such as bad water quality, pests, or plants causing allergies or hay fever.
  • Water the Neighbourhood is an interactive platform that invites users to keep an eye on local trees and in times of need, bring them a bucket of water or splash from a hose. The map displays over 600,000 individual trees (both street trees and park trees), together with up-to-date information on species, age, water needs, and recent rainfall.
© RMIT Europe and EIT Climate-KIC, EIT Food and EIT Urban Mobility
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Bringing Urban Nature Into the Cities of Tomorrow

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