Blog 12/19/2023

One year in: Building communities and crafting Nature-Based Solutions

Juha Hiedenpää’s blog post

COEVOLVERS is one year old. During the first year, we delved into the realm of nature-based solutions (NBS) with an attempt to understand the current state of NBS by applying theoretical insight, empirical explorations, and collaborative inquiry. Our transdisciplinary approach is poised to unfold the complex socio-political dynamics shaping the effectiveness of NBS and offer practical improvements for NBS design and implementation.

COEVOLVERS aims to address a critical gap in current NBS endeavors—ensuring inclusivity and resilience in communities. We recognize that existing solutions often fall short, failing to encompass all human communities and neglecting the integration of non-human actors, such as other species and their living environments into design and implementation. Our challenge is to comprehend the socio-political conditions underpinning these shortcomings and, in turn, design or modify conditions that render NBS more effective and fairer.

At the heart of COEVOLVERS lies the establishment of Living Labs in seven distinct settings in Europe. These Living Labs are co-creative spaces where local communities and their members engage in a collective pursuit of enhancing the relationship with nature and improving nature-based living conditions. Currently the experiential potential is not identified and developed to its fullest. Living labs—by bringing communities together with researchers and administration—become communities of inquiry are preparing to find solutions for improvement.

The crux of the work in Living Labs lies in three types of NBS—existing but ineffective, underdeveloped solutions, and ones whose need is evident, but a viable solution has yet to emerge. The approach is both critical and pragmatic. Living Labs scrutinize current socio-political conditions from unconventional angles, while maintaining a practical focus on improving the well-being of both human and non-human entities in each of setting. The task is not easy, but how could it be.

As we have reflected on our first year it has become clear that the joint journey has just begun. We have sharpened our conceptual tools, clarified our theories and initiated empirical work, the first year has also revealed some critical challenges present in any transdisciplinary research – how to integrate different scientific disciplines, methodologies, and personal research styles creatively and effectively. To coalesce research styles so that scientific creativity is boosted is the COEVOLVERS way.

The next three years hold the promise of refining our society-relevant perspective, making key concepts fit for the job, and, consequently, delivering impactful insights into the practice of nature-based solutions. Our humble commitment is to unfold the complexities surrounding NBS and offer a trustworthy hope for more inclusive and resilient communities. And this could be achieved by keeping COEVOLVERS’ first key finding critically in mind: personal styles matter in transformative change.