Social innovations for delivering Blue and Green Infrastructure: connecting multiple benefits, multiple stakeholders, and multiple disciplines

Policy Brief from the Interreg North Sea Region BEGIN project

Dr. Jannes Willems, Prof. Richard Ashley, Dr. William Veerbeek, Dr. Sebastiaan van Herk & Ellen Kelder (July 2020)

Background on BEGIN

The Interreg North Sea Region project BEGIN (2017-2021) aims to deliver Blue and Green Infrastructure through Social Innovation. The project is a unique partnership in which 10 cities and 6 research institutes combine forces to develop Blue and Green Infrastructure (BGI) solutions and exchange experiences. The urgency to construct BGI is growing, because climate change and urbanisation impact the resilience of our cities. To illustrate, we are faced with the increasing risk of local floods impacting our communities and urban environment, because drainage systems are struggling to cope with more frequent and intense rainfall. Moreover, cities increasingly experience a loss in biodiversity, feel the urgency of addressing heat stress and periods of drought, and want to promote citizens’ health and wellbeing, to which BGI can contribute.

The utilisation of BGI can provide numerous opportunities when compared with traditional grey infrastructure to capitalize on co-benefits and engage stakeholders, since BGI integrates (urban) drainage into and with disciplines such as urban design, city planning, environmental management, and public health. Through BEGIN, 10 cities in the North Sea area are developing and implementing social innovation approaches in order to pursue the opportunities BGI offers in different BGI-oriented cases of varying scale and function, since up until now exploitation of these opportunities has been often overlooked. The BEGIN-project helps cities to identify, plan, value and deliver the benefits to those that could get the most from them. Likewise, BEGIN has supported cities in engaging stakeholders, including citizens, in a design process that could significantly enhance the liveability of their neighbourhoods.

The main lessons from the social innovation initiatives developed in the BEGIN-project are used to support this policy brief. We set out four recommendations to ensure that BGI and its delivery is included in policies.

BEGIN’s recommendations

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Let’s start a conversation

If you have any questions or remarks about the policy brief, get in touch with the authors: