1. Transnational city-to-city learning and transnational expert teams:

The BEGIN project will bring together 10 Local Authorities across the NSR that are planning large investments during the project’s timeframe (Antwerp, Ghent, Aberdeen, London Enfield, Bradford, Kent, Dordrecht, Hamburg, Gothenburg, Bergen) with 6 leading research institutes (CIRIA, UNESCO-IHE, University of Sheffield, TUHH, Royal College of Arts and Erasmus University), which are frontrunners on the project ́s thematic areas.

Transnational cooperation between these Local Authorities is facilitated by a novel approach used from the start to the end of the project: City-to-City learning. In months 1-3 BEGIN sets up an exchange programme and organises twinning workshops based on needs of cities’ and demonstration projects. Joint design workshops and personnel exchange will be organised in a direct city-to-city format, and transnational expert teams of scientific and local professionals from host and visiting cities will facilitate implementation of BGI. City-to-city learning accelerates learning and actual implementation.

2. Pilot projects demonstration and large-scale replication:

The approach of BEGIN is to demonstrate the effectiveness of BGI and implement viable BGI solutions in pilot projects. Rather than taking a narrow financial approach, BEGIN uses

  • 1) value- based decision-making and
  • 2) socially innovative governance processes that empower citizens and businesses during the design, implementation and maintenance of BGI. BEGIN tests and improves methods developed in previous Interreg projects (MARE, SAWA, SKINT, CAMINO) in schemes that are actually being built and maintained during BEGIN.

BEGIN pilots already have replication potential within partner cities. The pilots are carefully selected from multi-million euro investment programmes. E.g., in Ghent, the pilot is one of 8 green axes planned. The experience from BEGIN can be applied in replication potential which will be mapped in a later stage.

3. Mainstreaming multi-benefit, more adaptive solutions:

The BEGIN demonstration projects will incorporate BGI solutions into these schemes to also deliver drainage management and other multiple benefits. E.g. the Shipley & Canal road corridor in Bradford has approx. £50M budget for a transport scheme, but thanks to BEGIN it will also establish a multi-functional linear park to cope with high levels of flood risk, poor water quality (EU WFD), and contaminated land and air quality.

4. Value-based decision-making, implementation and monitoring:

BEGIN will demonstrate the value of ecosystem services using innovative economic valuation tools. The valuation of the inherent economic, environmental and social benefits of BGI is the basis to create shared implementation and financing plans. Once benefits are explicit, stakeholders including local citizens, businesses, organisations, and local government agencies, are more likely to commit support (e.g. funds, time, capacity). BEGIN aims for 20% stakeholder contribution to whole-life maintenance costs of pilot projects, committed through Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs).

BEGIN adapts an internationally harmonised approach based on TEEB’s (The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity, developed by UNEP, DEFRA, RWS, et al.), BeST (by CIRIA) and Selling Sustainably (NSR SKINT). Transnational expert teams support implementation of BEGIN pilot projects following 4 iterative phases: 1) EXPLORE 2) ANALYSE 3) DESIGN 4) BUILD. E.g., BGI experts apply a flood model to analyse the drainage performance of a proposed BGI measure and communicate the quantified benefits to stakeholders.

5. Social innovation & collaborative governance strategies:

Different from traditional processes which merely inform or consult stakeholders, BEGIN will co- create, co-finance or self-organise pilot projects. Practically, cities start from planned investment projects and invite stakeholders using the most appropriate method from the Social Innovation toolbox. Transnational experts help facilitate the process: e.g., design workshops where a landscape architect facilitates incorporating ideas from community stakeholders, or valorisation based on interviews and workshops where stakeholders score alternatives and benefits and indicate willingness to contribute. Interreg funding (approx. 100k per city) is used to facilitate social innovation by local and transnational professionals, rather than physical investments as proposed in the first application.

For example, in Dordrecht, a group of citizens has plans to renovate an unattractive square that has flooded three times in the last two years. The citizens and an NGO have applied for a seed fund of 20k Euro that they intend to use in the design of the square with support from a landscape architect. The plan was adopted by local parliament and will be built and maintained with contributions from the citizens.

RCA+Bradford Healthy Space and Resilient Communities from RCA Service Design on Vimeo.