BEGIN is a North Sea Region (NSR) Interreg project that aids cities in dealing with nature`s potential to cope with flooding. This is through implementing Blue and Green Infrastructures (BGI) to support existing grey infrastructure, which in turn will help cities cope with extreme weather events and improve urban liveability. In order to overcome BGI`s implementation barriers, the aim is to use Social Innovation (SI) which will empower various stakeholders to contribute to the design, construction and maintenance of BGIs. The overall objective of BEGIN is to demonstrate how cities can improve climate resilience with BGI. To demonstrate the objective, pilot projects will be held in the city partner’s cities.
In this project, there are 10 leading NSR city partners who are collaborating between themselves, as well as with 6 scientific partners. By working with cities and their councils, there is cooperation with the end-users throughout the project for the reason that the cities are the end-users of the project.
The BEGIN project is currently in the 3rd stage of its process.
Stage 1: Develop the Concept - 4 months
First of all, the consortium, led by the project manager, developed a detailed project plan in order to explore all the possibilities of the project. Next, scientific partners and cities conducted an assessment of their BGI and SI experience so that they could explore the avenues that were known to the partnership at the time.
Stage 2: Evaluate the Approach - 5 months
In order for this project to be successful, scientific partners had to identify and compile insights from state of the art cases from elsewhere with both BGI and SI. A reason for this was that the scientific partners could discover the main foundations of how SI could aid BGI. They serve as inspiration on decision-making processes, methodologies, outcomes, and lessons learned, at the start of BEGIN. This was then mixed with experts compiling a menu from existing material of BGI solutions that have been implemented before. Cities then identified the context drivers and specific flood risk mitigation that needs to be addressed by the pilot BGI project. After the analysis had been completed, the partners produced a detailed strategy and communication plan for different target groups, such as National Policy Makers and Regional Policy Makers.
Stage 3: Designing the Pilots - 1 ½ years
Before the design process formally starts, stakeholders need to co-create a business plan incorporating all the cost and benefits of the BGI project in order for these benefits to be constructing into the design. Scientific partners need to undertake the monitoring of the exchange programme and capture the learning process outcomes from the twinning workshops. Cities will need to develop and or update spatial designs which may then lead to implementation plans and operational programmes.
Stage 4: Building the Pilots - 1 ½ years
To begin the building process, the business plan developers put business plan into practice with each stakeholder groups’ involvement as agreed. City technical experts will assist in the implementation of the design as agreed within each city. After the pilot projects are complete, the partnership need to identify opportunities for expanding project from pilot to a city-wide or regional strategy.
The main tool that was used to enable collaboration was that every six months, the city group and the scientific group would meet either virtually or physically in order to monitor each other’s progress and collaborate to see if they could improve each other’s pilot project. In addition to regular meetings, all the partners engaged in transnational workshops which were facilitated by experts. Consequently, the partners could collaborate and see how the ideas given by the experts could affect each other’s projects.
Touch point 1: GoToMeeting - This application was used for the partners to have teleconferences. Said teleconferences were to organise upcoming meetings and discuss topics about their retrospective projects. One bottleneck with this touchpoint was that there are potential technological problems with this method of communication. For example, the link for the teleconference did not work meaning that a new link had to be created very quickly, therefore some partners joined half way through the conference and missed many details.
Touch point 2: Workshops – During the duration of the BEGIN process, several workshops will take place, whereby the scientific partners will present data, information and expertise on SI and BGI. These workshops can help the partnership improve their pilot projects. A bottleneck which arose from this situation was that due to the high number of partners involved, it was difficult to organise a workshop whereby all partners were available. To overcome this, detailed minutes have been provided for the partners that could not attend any meetings.
Touch point 3: An online monitoring systems was used on the Interreg website to monitor parts progress regarding partnership agreements, grant agreements and other administrative documents. Bac & Company communicated to the partners regarding the documents through the website. Due to the number of documents that had to be submitted, this proved to be a very long process.
From the outset of the project, all partners have had the same overall objectives; to use BGI`s to support existing grey infrastructure, with the help of SI. As a result of this, when collaborating, all partners have the same end goal in mind. Therefore, there has been no issues when it has come to discussions regarding the progress of the project.
Collaboration is a critical factor in the success of the BEGIN project. This is not just between the partners, collaboration with the end users is vital for the reason that it is imperative the end users will help design, construct and maintain the BGI infrastructures. Consequently, through SI, collaboration with the end user is one of the main parts of the success of the BGI.
The main barrier experienced in the BEGIN project is that finding success through SI is extremely difficult. As a result of this, the barrier of maintaining the projects has become a major problem. This is because it can be hard to nudge stakeholders into a sense of ownership. Consequently, using SI to help implement BGI becomes a much more difficult task than first anticipated.
In conclusion, the main reason for the success of the BEGIN project is that despite have a large number of partners, collaboration remained at the forefront of the project. As a result of this, the different partners were able to come up with solutions to each other’s problems. If this project was to be replicated, it could be advised that it would be best to reduce the number of partners. This is because with 16 partners, it would difficult to organises meeting, workshops and teleconferences due to there being many people involved.
- Organise and sign the partnership agreement so that the project does not suffer any delays.
- Have a clear action plan.
- Have regular workshops and meetings to ensure collaboration is at the forefront of the project.
- Define clear objectives from the outset.
- Work completely independently Underestimate the time framework Spend more than the budget given.