The BEGIN project is providing cities across Europe with lessons on how to best integrate blue and green infrastructure (BGI) for more climate-resilient and liveable cities.
Since 2016, the BEGIN project (Blue-Green Infrastructures through Social Innovation) has been implementing blue and green infrastructure in 10 North Sea Region cities to enhance their resilience to the impacts of climate change, particularly severe flooding. Now the participating cities are sharing their knowledge and lessons learnt with other cities so they too can reap the benefits of BGI through the social innovation approach.
The European Commission defines social innovation as the development and implementation of new ideas (products, services and models) to meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaboration. This is exactly what the partners have done, and their experiences with this multi-stakeholder approach are outlined in a new series: Blue-Green Cities in the Spotlight.
Each partner city is having their moment in the spotlight with the release of their individual city story (or factsheet). These stories summarise the city’s experience with implementing various types of BGI – from green corridors to sustainable urban drainage systems – and the multiple benefits they provide; reduced flood risk, enhanced biodiversity and improved liveability, to name a few.
Throughout the project, the cities have adopted the city-to-city learning approach to accelerate learning and actual implementation. Now the consortium hopes the new series will provide valuable information for other cities that want to enhance their climate resilience and improve liveability for residents.
Kent adopts ‘orphaned’ urban green spaces
In the first story of the series, Kent County Council explains how they combined underutilised or ‘orphaned’ green spaces and good water management to better prepare for intense rainfall, which is expected to increase in severity and frequency across the county.
Kent’s BGI pilot sites were co-designed with local communities. This collaborative approach involving locals has given them a sense of ownership over newly integrated spaces that they can help maintain long-term.
Dordrecht’s politically backed Blue-Green vision
In the second city story, Dordrecht, the lead beneficiary of BEGIN, delves into its integrated blue-green vision to become a more resilient city with a robust infrastructure. This vision not only tackles flooding but incorporates other vital aspects such as biodiversity, health, recreation, mobility, the spatial quality of the city and even agriculture. Dordrecht’s story explores the development of this vision, the task force behind it, and lists its main achievements made possible through the BEGIN initiative.
As well as the realisation of several new blue-green zones, including a tiny city forest, Dordrecht’s vision has received strong political support which has opened up financing opportunities for the Blue-Green network.
Antwerp: Planning for water
The latest instalment of the series takes a look at Antwerp’s Water Plan: a holistic and co-creative approach to tackling the challenges of climate change. One key part of implementing the Water Plan was the re-design of the Scheldt river left bank. As the dikes along the river are being raised to prevent storm tides, the city has decided to use the riverbanks to create a 6 km long climate-resilient park.
The city set up an urban living lab for the Scheldt river pilot project to co-creatively work on innovative solutions and bring together stakeholders with different perspectives. The lab led to a better understanding amongst the different parties involved and a focused ambition for the area: a junction of recreation, nostalgia and a blue-green area that leads you to discover the adjacent natural areas.
Seven more cities have yet to have their moment in the spotlight. The next instalment of the series, to be published in September, will take a look at Bradford’s experience.
If you would like further information on how your city can also reap the benefits of BGI through social innovation, contact:
Ellen Kelder (BEGIN Project Coordinator) – ETG.Kelder@dordrecht.nl
To find out when a new city story is released, follow BEGIN on Twitter.
For further lessons learnt from the BEGIN partners, check out the newly published policy brief, which sets out four recommendations to ensure that BGI and its delivery is included in policies.
About the author
Amy McCready is a Communications & PR Officer at innovation consultancy Bax & Company. She is leading communication activities in the BEGIN project.