Taking nature-based solutions to the next level

The climate crisis is impacting cities and communities across the globe. As extreme weather events become increasingly frequent, cities must work together to find effective nature-based solutions (NBS) to adapt to their changing climates. The Dutch city of Dordrecht – a region with a long history of climate adaptation solutions – welcomed cities, practitioners, researchers, and citizens to join the conversation on the future of liveable cities at the NEXT LEVEL 2021 conference on the 20th of October (see programme).

This hybrid event was the culmination of BEGIN, an urban innovation project funded by the Interreg North Sea Region Programme. Since 2016, 10 cities and 6 research institutes have co-developed Blue and Green Infrastructure (BGI) solutions and exchanged best practices to better deal with extreme weather events, enhance climate adaptation, and improve the use and design of BGI through social innovation within their urban areas. Now, these partners are looking to take their work to the next level with exciting new ideas and collaborations.

As the lead partner in BEGIN, the city of Dordrecht hosted NEXT LEVEL 2021 to celebrate the project’s close and to look ahead at future collaborations for climate adaptation and liveable cities. 

Dordrecht provided a fitting setting for the in-person conference, as the city has dealt with extreme flooding for over 600 years. That’s why the city has created a Green-blue vision for climate adaptation and liveability and continuously practices innovative ways to involve citizens in decision-making processes on climate issues.

Bax & Company is proud to have been a driving force behind the BEGIN project and the NEXT LEVEL 2021 conference. Alongside Dordrecht, we brought together some of the field’s top experts in nature-based solutions to start planning for the next level of liveable cities. Our own Dr. Sebastiaan van Herk, Managing Partner and Director of Environment, and Sofia Aivalioti, Innovation Consultant, co-hosted the event as facilitators in the opening session, interactive talk show, and project pitches.

Experts convene to explore nature-based solutions for more liveable cities

We were delighted to kick-off our event with a warm welcome from the Alderman of the City of Dordrecht, Rik van der Linden, followed by a keynote presentation from Dr. Anjes Tjarks, Senator for Transport and Mobility in the city of Hamburg.

To open the floor to discussion with the audience, we then had an interactive talk show with a variety of experts. Ellen Kelder (City of Dordrecht), Magnar Sekse (City of Bergen), and Lien Engels (City of Antwerp) joined our panel to engage with presentations on nature-based solution use-cases from Eva Naessens (City of Ghent), McKenna Davis (Ecologic Institute), Paul Sayers (Sayers and Partners), and Jens Thoms Ivarsson (Rain Gothenburg).

Following our talk show, attendees were given the choice to join one of four parallel hybrid sessions to dive deeper into key sub-topics.

In our first parallel session, ‘Climate Change Adaptation & NBS’, we discussed how to deliver effective nature-based solutions projects in an increasingly complex and changing context and recognised the need for revising our design approaches, processes, and methods. Our second parallel session ‘People, Society, & NBS’ looked at the challenge between needing both strategic goals and flexibility when it comes to citizen engagement and social benefits from nature-based solutions. Participants in our third parallel session, ‘Health Wellbeing, & NBS’, focused on maximising opportunities to improve health with nature-based solutions and explored ideas for supporting engagement and wellbeing before, during, and after interventions. In our fourth session, ‘Re-greening cities for multiple benefits’, we discussed some of the practical ways nature can be included in decision making for cities, which supports citizens and biodiversity, and can perform some of the functions traditionally provided by grey infrastructure.

Pitching the next level of nature-based solutions initiatives

The core purpose of this event was not only to celebrate nature-based solutions for more liveable cities, but to start building the next generation of projects and expand on BEGIN’s legacy of harnessing nature-based solutions. Christian Byrith (Interreg North Sea Region) and Albin Hunia (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland) joined us to share their insights on EU programmes and funding opportunities before we opened the floor to participants to pitch their own project ideas to the audience.

Many innovative ideas were shared that looked at bringing people and nature closer together, delivering services beneficial to both stakeholders and the environment, and harnessing digitalisation for a healthier and more sustainable city. If you want to explore the new up-and-coming projects and get involved, you can watch all project pitches and surrounding discussions on our YouTube channel.

What is the next level for liveable cities? Reach out to a member of our team to join the conversation and find potential collaborators!

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