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Engage with and activate municipalities and regions to protect and restore soil health


In line with the European Green Deal priorities, with the European Commission’s commitment to democracy and equality, and the role that Horizon Europe Missions play in engaging citizens in R&I activities dealing with grand societal challenges, the successful proposals will involve and activate local, and regional (when applicable) authorities to co-design strategies and actions for the protection and restoration of soil health with citizens and stakeholders, including through social innovation. The successful proposals should contribute to the soil mission specific objective 8 soil literacy [[https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/research_and_innovation/funding/documents/soil_mission_implementation_plan_final_for_publication.pdf]].

The main objective of this topic is to create spaces and practices for regional and local dialogues on soil health and land management, in order to develop a shared understanding of the nature of the challenges and co-create public (including policy response) and private solutions for the protection and restoration of soil health.

Creating effective and societally desirable ways of changing land use to achieve soil health outcomes will necessarily be locally specific, dynamic and allow for co-design, co-implementation and co-assessment with citizens and relevant stakeholders to make solutions more aligned with societal needs, values and expectations and ensure longevity.

Proposals should enable citizen participation both in the local and regional (when applicable) decision-making process and in the implementation of activities related to soil and land management.

The proposed activities will:

  • support a large number of municipalities and regions throughout Europe, and related networks, including across borders, to identify, mobilise and engage a critical mass of relevant actors, stakeholders (e.g. farmers and farmers’ association, foresters, land managers, urban and spatial planners, civil society organisations, bio-industries, market actors and research institutions), citizens and existing networks of citizens for substantially stepping up the protection and restoration of soil health in all ecosystems (natural, managed, rural and urban);
  • explore with regional and local authorities opportunities for making better use of EU financial instruments for sustainable soil management, taking into account programming options taken at the level of Member States and regions;
  • enable and support municipalities and regions to co-design strategies and actions for the protection and restoration of soil health with citizens, in coherence with EU soil policy and regional strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3[[https://s3platform.jrc.ec.europa.eu/home]]) and for smart specialisation for sustainability (RIS4[[https://s3platform.jrc.ec.europa.eu/s4]]) as applicable;
  • develop and implement effective participatory processes which enable and stimulate an extensive dialogue on soil and land related activities at local and regional (when applicable) levels. For these processes to be effective, participants should be equipped with appropriate tools and information, they should be strongly connected to decision-making bodies and they should be empowered to reflect, deliberate and propose public (including policies) and private solutions for sustainable land management and spatial planning at their local or regional levels;
  • enhance knowledge sharing among municipalities and regions on best practice processes and outcomes, matching knowledge needs with knowledge produced;
  • strengthen inclusive and extensive European networks of municipalities and regions (e.g. the European Land and Soil Alliance[[https://alpinesoils.eu/gspesp/elsa/]]), in interlink, synergy and complementarity with other relevant networks, pursuing citizen-identified soil related objectives, engaged in peer-to-peer learning and co-implementing the co-created solutions;
  • substantially increase the capacity of these networks to contribute to meeting the objectives and targets of the Soil Mission;
  • include a task to collaborate with the other projects funded under this topic to ensure complementarities, synergies and clear communication to stakeholders around the open calls for third party funding.

The successful proposals will ensure that regional and local governments and administrations are closely associated from an early stage in the projects’ lifetime. The involvement of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), as well as of other relevant networks representing regional and local governments should be sought. Clear channels for the uptake of participatory outcomes in decision-making processes should be identified at local, regional (when applicable) national and/or EU levels and feedback to citizens should be ensured.

Proposals should seek for a balanced representation of regions across Member States and Associated Countries, covering a wide range of geo-climatic zones, socio-economic conditions and land uses. Vulnerable and marginalised categories of the population, minorities and various age groups, including both youth and the elder generation, in urban, peri-urban and rural areas, should be adequately involved and engaged in the process. Gender balance should be ensured in all activities.

The proposals selected under this topic should dedicate the necessary resources to work closely together to maximise synergies, in particular with regard to the geographic coverage of regions. They should cooperate as well with the mission secretariat and the project funded under HORIZON-MISS-2021-SOIL-02-07. In addition, proposals should take stock of publicly available results obtained by the EJP Soil[[https://ejpsoil.eu/]] on the knowledge and use of citizen science across Europe and engage with relevant innovation networks (e.g. Smart specialisation platforms[[https://s3platform.jrc.ec.europa.eu/]] EIP-AGRI[[https://ec.europa.eu/eip/agriculture/en]] Climate-KIC[[https://www.climate-kic.org/]], EIT FOOD[[https://www.eitfood.eu/]]).

Consortia must apply the multi-actor approach to include expertise in deliberative democracy, civic participation and public engagement. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) may participate as member of the consortium in particular to bring in expertise from its Competence Centre on Participatory and Deliberative Democracy[[https://knowledge4policy.ec.europa.eu/participatory-democracy_en]].

Applicants should be flexible enough to accommodate for some adjustments that may be requested by the Commission before the grant agreement signature to ensure complementarity of activities between the three selected projects.