“Harnessing the power of nature in cities!” – URBiNAT at the AIPH Green City Briefings 2022/23

September 16, 2022

Sharing and learning on citizen engagement and the co-creation of NBS for inclusive urban regeneration

On the 13th of September 2022, Nathalie Nunes, researcher at the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra and member of the co-coordination team of the URBiNAT project, together with Knud Erik Hilding-Hamann, senior specialist at the Danish Technological Institute and work package leader for citizens engagement, participated in the first Greening City Briefings for 2022-2023, organised by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) and the Worshipful Company of Gardeners.


The Green City Briefings consist of webinars with a presentation by experts describing principles of how urban greening benefits the city, its residents, and nature, as well as a presentation from a city demonstrating how the practice creates transformational change. The presentations followed by questions from participants provide experts from around the world the opportunity to showcase and connect knowledge to practice.

The URBiNAT presentation focused on the work that have been developed around citizen engagement and the co-creation of nature-based solutions (NBS), in particular a framework of guidelines that continues to be enriched and fine-tuned, as living knowledge, through sharing and learning with practitioners from the field inside and outside of URBiNAT. This initial framework has already been published in a scientific paper in the Sustainability journal, and the presentation enabled us to present an update of some results of this living knowledge, namely in terms of learning points emerging from citizen engagement in the co-creation of NBS.

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The webinar was not only an occasion to share the work of URBiNAT, but also to know more about the experiences of other cities, in particular Buenos Aires (Argentina) who was featured as finalist in the Living Green for Social Cohesion category of the AIPH World Green City Awards 2022. The Buenos Aires case focused on the integration of nature conservation in inclusive city planning, particularly participatory and associative co-management that addresses vulnerabilities.

In this context, Delfina Matarazzo and Gabriel Mraida from the Housing Institute shared the policy of social and urban integration of vulnerable neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires, by presenting the unique urbanisation case of Rodrigo Bueno, a slum located next to an ecological reserve and near the centre of the city. The intervention area has been through a participatory process including co-design and co-creation with inhabitants, focusing on three main areas of integration: urban, by connecting the area with the rest of the city and improving mobility; housing, with better habitability conditions; and socioeconomic conditions, in particular regarding the access to formal economy through employment and the creation of productive projects.  

Two projects in Rodrigo Bueno are particularly inspiring: an organic garden and nursery initiated and carried out by 14 local women that began as a community garden and became a self managed workspace; and a gastronomic court that became a tourist point and a boost to the gastronomic entrepreneurship of the neighbourhood.

This case and projects are of particular interest for URBiNAT in the sense that they echo how URBiNAT has been developing NBS to reinforce the dialogue between the physical structure and the social dimension of the public space, which happens through the dimensions of participation and social and solidarity economy.

The discussion was facilitated by Heather Barrett-Mold, an ecologist and environmental scientist, and focused on the challenges of participatory processes in terms of citizen engagement, management of expectations, facing the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown, as well as in implementing NBS. The exchanges were particularly relevant in relation to URBiNAT’s ‘living’ framework of guidelines for citizen engagement and the co-creation of NBS in different aspects, that may also enrich its learning points, namely with respect to:

  • building trust and communication and interaction with citizens and stakeholders, by focusing on short term actions and immediate improvements of basic needs, at the same time that longer term processes are advancing;
  • extensive investment of time to have exchanges with citizens and stakeholders in order to come up with solid consensual solutions;
  • understanding existing social dynamics and supporting emerging ones that will become part of the fabric in the community;
  • small projects with great socioeconomic impact for families;
  • how nature has been used in different innovative ways as a consequence of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Therefore, the webinar was an occasion to stress the greater value of green spaces, society-based and nature-based solutions, specifically in terms of health and well-being. In this sense, URBiNAT welcomes the AIPH’s statement of driving transformative change in cities by harnessing the power of plants and nature.

The webinar is available online on the AIPH’s website and its Youtube channel.

URBiNAT Researchers

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