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Assessing the socio-politics of nature-based solutions for more inclusive and resilient communities

Nature-based solutions (NBS) are already being delivered with increasing evidence on their effectiveness, but implementation issues persist, hindering NBS uptake and upscale. There is a need to move beyond seeing the implementation challenge as primarily a technical issue, to develop our understanding of the economic, social, political, moral and cultural dimensions of designing and implementing NBS[[The economic aspects of NBS are the focus of HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-05: The economics of nature-based solutions (NBS): cost-benefit analysis, market development and funding.]].

Most of the available approaches seem inadequate to fully take into consideration synergies and trade-offs among different actions, notably in what concerns the social and cultural benefits of NBS. They often also fail to understand the social, political and institutional contexts and the material and discursive elements that shape NBS implementation. This, in turn, affects the long-term success of NBS, notably in contributing to the transformative change needed to address the biodiversity and climate crises. This understanding is particularly crucial when implementing NBS to support vulnerable communities and regions to cope with transformative change in old-industrialised, low-income, outermost or disaster-hit areas. NBS can also contribute to addressing inequities and well-being in communities and regions who need it most, especially in terms of the post-COVID19 recovery. Additionally, our understanding of how diverse actors – who may operate at different scales and through multiple networks – are engaged in the development and implementation of NBS is still limited, especially when the deployment of NBS implies collaboration across different regions, administrative areas or simply different types of land owners.

The successful proposals should:

  • Gain a wider understanding of the role of actors involved in NBS, considering: a) particular groups of actors that have been under-researched (e.g. land holders such as churches, charitable organizations, educational establishments, utilities, etc.); b) sectors of the economy (e.g. agriculture, forestry, tourism, finance, etc.) and c) landscapes (e.g. coastal areas, river catchments, wetlands, etc.);
  • Investigate how different NBS designs and governance can contribute to environmental justice, prevent environmental racism and gentrification, insure the inclusion and active participation of women, youth, minority groups, immigrant communities, etc.;
  • Develop innovative governance models: a) exploring different forms of engagement, inclusion and stewardship; b) enabling the breaking of silos in public administration and between different administrative domains; and c) tackling other legal, management and administrative issues;
  • Propose ways in which NBS governance and design can contribute to transformative change and to a just transition in support of the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Understand and propose solutions to functional conflicts in land-use for better and more integration between NBS, land-use planning and other (possibly conflicting) sectors, their policies and planning processes;
  • Explore governance techniques (e.g. standards, certification, incentives, subsidies, etc.) that develop private and voluntary governance alongside formal regulatory and planning powers, with a view to mainstreaming NBS in the public and private sectors.
  • Identify the possibilities for, and limits to, the full co-creation approach in NBS (including co-design, co-implementation, co-maintenance and co-monitoring), their underlying governance arrangements and instruments;
  • Provide approaches based on citizen science, big data or artificial intelligence tools to better communicate the science of NBS and promote citizen engagement in the co-creation, co-implementation and co-monitoring of NBS;
  • Understand how the meanings and values attached to nature in urban, rural, coastal, periurban or post-industrial areas affect the long-term success of NBS. To this end, investigate what counts as nature, what is valued and why this varies amongst individuals and communities as well as how this can be taken into account in the development of NBS.
  • Investigate the impact of citizens’ perceptions and expectations towards NBS on management decisions and delivery of ecosystem services, while considering also the role of NBSs in generating new kinds of connections and values for nature and with what consequences.

Proposals should address all of the above points.

Proposals should bring together from the start multiple types of scientific expertise in both natural sciences and social sciences and humanities (e.g. geography, sociology, political ecology, behavioural sciences, anthropology, philosophy, etc). In particular, this topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines.

Projects should seek to contribute to the New European Bauhaus initiative by supporting the green and digital transitions in communities’ living environments through merging sustainability, inclusiveness and quality of experience. Small-scale pilots could be envisaged to explore NBS which are innovative either in their functional scope, socio-economic reach, integrative approaches or application in new settings.

Applicants should create synergies with projects under the same topic and other relevant ongoing or up-coming projects, notably the Horizon 2020 NBS project portfolio and its task forces; HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-05: The economics of nature-based solutions: cost-benefit analysis, market development and funding; HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-06: Nature-based solutions, prevention and reduction of risks and the insurance sector; HORIZON-CL6-2022-BIODIV-01-03: Network for nature: multi-stakeholder dialogue platform to promote nature-based solutions; HORIZON-CL6-2022-COMMUNITIES-02-02-two-stage: Developing nature-based therapy for health and well-being; HORIZON-CL6-2021-COMMUNITIES-01-06: Inside and outside: educational innovation with nature-based solutions. To this end, proposals should include dedicated tasks and appropriate resources for coordination measures, foresee joint activities and joint deliverables.

Proposals should ensure that all evidence, information and project outputs will be accessible through the Oppla portal (the EU repository for NBS)[[https://oppla.eu/.]].

Social innovation is recommended when the solution is at the socio-technical interface and requires social change, new social practices, social ownership or market uptake.

In order to achieve the expected outcomes, international cooperation is strongly encouraged, in particular with the Latin American and Caribbean region and the USA.