Figure 1. Glasgow's Open Space Strategy showcasing how nature-based solutions can be interwoven into the city's urban fabric


Figure 2. Glasgow Open Space Quantity Standard showing a measure of the quantity of accessible open space across the wards in Glasgow. Figure 3. Dawsholm Park open space. © Glasgow City Council. Figure 4. Nature-based Academy participants visiting Toryglen Woods. © Glasgow City Council. Figure 5. Nature-based Academy Participants visiting Urban Roots Community Garden. © Glasgow City Council. Figure 6. Growchapel Garden - Community Area. © Glasgow City Council. Figure 7. Growchapel Garden Therapy plaque. © Glasgow City Council. Figure 8. Growchapel rainy but packed opening day. © Glasgow City Council. Figure 9. Glasgow City Council spatial data dashboard

Meeting these multifaceted demands on Glasgow’s open spaces is going to be important in ensuring that Glasgow is well-equipped to deal with the challenges of the 21st century and to enhance the attractiveness of the city as a place in which to live and invest.

As part of the Connecting Nature project, the City of Glasgow’s ambition was to develop, and begin to deliver, an Open Space Strategy for the city to help address this changing context and the changing demands on open space. The aim was for the Strategy to be used to establish an approach for considering the different ways in which the people, flora and fauna of Glasgow will need to make use of open space, now and in the future. By adopting a nature-based solution approach to this challenge, the ambition was to not only understand these competing demands, but to also consider them in relation to how open spaces are funded, managed, and created to deliver multifunctional environmental, social, and economic benefits. Such an approach was intended to underpin decision-making in relation to how open spaces are resourced during a challenging financial climate that is delivering fewer resources to create new open spaces, or to enhance and maintain existing ones.

The Open Space Strategy was developed to set out an overarching approach to the city’s open spaces, providing strategic direction that would guide the work, policy-making, and investment decisions of all Glasgow Council services and other members of the Council family, to deliver an effective and fully-functioning green network of open spaces and other green/blue infrastructure interventions. Once developed, this network would help to make Glasgow more resilient in the face of challenges such as climate change, more liveable, and more effective at unlocking the value of its natural capital. Ultimately, helping the City of Glasgow to continue to flourish.

Specific sub-objectives in relation to these overarching ambitions include:

  • Ensuring that greenspace is valued in terms of its function within the larger green-blue system, including increasing awareness amongst local community of the contribution these spaces can make in relation to large urban-generated environmental problems.
  • Increased local stakeholder-led engagement and entrepreneurship in relation to open spaces.
  • Green networks delivering greater positive outcomes such as jobs, safety, physical and mental health.
  • Greater financial investment in green/blue water management solutions and greater recognition of the value of urban water as a resource.
  • Unlocking of previously contaminated and inaccessible areas.
  • Broader mechanisms to activate ‘stalled spaces’ and to drive scaled-up urban agriculture.
  • Positive secondary impacts (co-benefits) such as safer streets and public spaces, physical and mental health has been improved.
  • A collective sense of the value of Glasgow, at a city scale, as a connected city.

Technical Solutions:

  • The NbS exemplar has been developed, peer-reviewed, and adopted by the council. It is now shaping urban planning and development activities across the city, using nature positive approaches to enhance the environmental, social and economic value of it open spaces.
  • An Open Space Quality Assessment was developed and carried out on all amenity greenspace, parks and public gardens and other open space types that can have multiple uses and are >0.3ha across the city. This provides a foundation for understanding both the current state of open spaces and the future potential.
  • A Connecting Nature spatial database was developed to map the social, economic, and environmental context across Glasgow. The Open Space Quality Assessment was included in the database which is now being used as a tool for understanding the local
  • context needs when planning optimal nature-based solutions design, delivery, and stewardship. The tool is being used across departments/themes including the Development Plan, playspace revitalisation, urban agriculture, water management, and the Woodland Strategy.
  • Building from the spatial database development, Glasgow City Council (GCC) is partnering with NatureScot, the Scottish Government, and Dark Matters Labs to develop TreesAI: an open-source platform to map, value and finance urban forests. This will underpin better decision-making in relation to tree planting, management, and stewardship. The project will be piloted at COP26 and will subsequently represent a funding stream for mainstreaming nature-based solutions across the city.
  • The Open Space Strategy is also being rolled out incrementally through individual projects. For example, the – a co-created community allotment facility recently launched in the city to promote social interaction within the community and with nature, healthy eating, outdoor activity and other health and wellbeing impacts.


  • Innovation actions in relation to governance focused on developing an interdepartmental approach for the Open Space Strategy to provide a framework for collaboration and co-financing across the city council and externally.
  • The Open Space Strategy has contributed to the restructuring of the Sustainability and Planning departments to align them with the Development Plan group. Also, with the declaration of a Climate Emergency and Ecological Emergency by the council.
  • A Climate Plan was developed alongside the Corporate Climate Liaison Group. Both of which were co-led by the Glasgow Connecting Nature team lead.
  • An additional governance action was the production of an Elected Members Briefing on nature-based solutions, developed jointly with COSLA, The Improvement Service, and Nature Scot.
  • The Scottish UrbanByNature Hub also represents a governance action in development. The Hub will drive knowledge exchange and build capacity in relation to nature-based solution implementation. The Glasgow Connecting Nature team engaged several stakeholder organisations including statutory nature, environment, and planning organisations, and local authority network representatives, to co-create this strategic knowledge exchange platform.
  • The Connecting Nature Framework was used as a tool to review and then relaunch the Strategic Stalled Spaces programme that has been running in Glasgow for the last 10 years. It identified the need to provide more support to communities around the key areas identified within the framework and that project identification, mapping and signposting were critical. This opened discussions with Community Land Scotland around community ownership, and the Scottish Land Commission. It was also used to leverage £150k of Vacant and Derelict Land funding in Drumchapel.

Financing and business models:

  • A key focus of the Corporate Climate Liaison Group was exploring the finances necessary to deliver the Climate Plan. Resources are coming through the climate plan to the Sustainability team that will be used to deliver on the Open Space Strategy.
  • Work is ongoing to secure resources for roles extending beyond the duration of the Connecting Nature project for delivering the Open Space Strategy and nature-based solutions.
  • As proof of concept for the Open Space Strategy approach, £500K has been secured from the Scottish Government through Parks & Operation Department to deliver and update playspaces across the city. The project will be developed as a pilot for the Open Space Strategy approach, with the intention that this will be mainstreamed for the subsequent £5m that the Scottish Government will be investing in open space improvements. The Parks & Operation department are collaborating with the Connecting Nature team by using the NbS spatial dataset to better understand locations with the potential to deliver the greatest benefits to local communities, and the co-benefits that can be delivered through nature-based solution approaches.
  • Trees AI represents a public-private funded collaboration to develop a tool for scaling private sector investment in urban nature-based solutions in Glasgow. The tool uses an intelligent system of understanding and valuing carbon credits and ecosystem service provision to unlock delivery and stewardship funding.
  • £150k has been allocated from the Scottish Government financed Vacant and Derelict Land (VDL) fund to use Nature Based Solutions to unlock the development of VDL in Drumchapel. This has been built on the use of Open Space Strategy data, and is being used as a pilot for upscaling.

Nature-based Enterprises:

  • The initiating action for nature-based enterprises was to map the current innovation ecosystem and to consider where innovation in nature-based entrepreneurship/enterprise (NBE) might fit.
  • Following this, Glasgow City Council partnered with The Melting Pot’s Good Ideas and Glasgow Caledonian University in establishing to an NBE accelerator pilot programme to support early-stage nature-based businesses, with a view to developing an nature-based economy around NbS stewardship and use. With 40 quality applications for the initial 10 places, the programme was heavily oversubscribed. Due to this demand, enrolment was increased to 15 high potential start-ups, all of which undertook the accelerator programme, graduating in September 2021. Following this success, there are now plans to develop this programme further.


  • Co-production was delivered at two levels. Firstly, at strategic level in relation to the Open Space Strategy. For this, co-production was used as a method to engage with various stakeholders at multiple levels of the process of developing and implementing the Open Space Strategy.
  • Open Space Strategy co-production included public consultation using a blend of innovative approaches for the council including online questionnaires, public exhibitions, and key questions on postcards distributed through the city’s Library and Council Office network.
  • Secondly, co-production was focused on a nature-based solution strategic pilot project level, demonstrating the rollout potential of the Open Space Strategy. This included co-production workshops as part of the development of Growchapel (including applying the Nature Based Solutions Business Model Canvas method), the redevelopment of the Burrell Museum in Pollok Park, and the next iteration of the city’s Stalled Spaces programme to include a greater focus on nature-based solutions.
  • Co-production approaches were also used for the development of the new Food Growing Strategy. The Nature Based Solutions Business Model Canvas was used as the catalyst for this, creating a narrative around which potential social, environmental, health and economic benefits could be better articulated and realised.
  • Co-production approaches have led to the co-development of Every Tree Tells a Story: a social cohesion and lived experience NbS project to capture and map tree stories across the city. Co-designed with Strathclyde University and GCC Education Improvement Service, it seeks to empower communities to use creativity to capture stories about the trees and the spaces in which they sit.
  • The co-production skills developed by the Connecting Nature team have also allowed them to support and partner in the Hidden Environmental Histories of the Clyde project.

Impact Assessment:

  • The Glasgow Connecting Nature team have worked to develop a suite of indicators to evaluate the impact of nature-based solutions at both a city level (to monitor the incremental impact of the open space strategy) and at a local level (to monitor the impact of individual nature-based solution pilots). Research was undertaken in the summer of 2019, to identify potential data sources for the indicators and to build a baseline for the City of Glasgow. This led to new interdepartmental collaborations across Glasgow City Council and external collaboration with partners including the National Health Service Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the Biological Record Centre, Glasgow Caledonian University, and the Scottish Government. For some indicators, it was not possible to identify a partner able to supply the data. For these, it was necessary to implement new evaluation processes, some of which are expected to be picked up following the end of this Horizon 2020 project.
  • In parallel to the indicator development, a dashboard was created as a way to map and represent some of the existing baseline of health, social, environmental and economic trends across the city. The aim being to provide a baseline for comparison of the future outcomes of the City’s Open Space Strategy and the impacts of NbS implementation across the city. The dashboard allows viewers to visualize the interplay of different indicators (e.g. health status, social deprivation, greenspace distribution) in a particular city location. As such, it is a useful instrument for identifying types of indicators and data that might be missing, thus orienting future impact assessment decisions. It is also valuable in terms of informing strategic planning of nature-based solutions design and management, in order to meet local needs.
  • The development of the suite of indicators has supported knowledge sharing with the local universities and has allowed co-production of a Research Council bid called Gallant.
  • Connecting Nature brought in a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) officer to support this evaluation impact indicator and dashboard development, and to implement a programme of evaluation on the exemplar rollout. Work is ongoing to secure the legacy of this GIS position to ensure continuity of the spatial analysis and impact evaluation components of the Open Space Strategy through the Glasgow City Dashboard.
  • Working with Connecting Nature partners, Glasgow City Council also co-developed an interactive evaluation impact planning tool (Co-Impact). A prototype of the tool has been developed and tested, and a version for launch is underdevelopment. The
  • tool supports users in identifying appropriate indicators for impact evaluation and provides links to appropriate metrics for implementing these.
  • Development has begun on a Scottish UrbanByNature Hub. This will include a focus on impact assessment to align with the Scottish Government priorities in relation to Digital Planning and Data

Reflexive Monitoring:

  • Reflexive Monitoring methodologies were adopted and adapted by the Glasgow Connecting Nature team to support the development and implementation of the Open Space Strategy.
  • Key learning outcomes from the Reflexive Monitoring process included recognition of the value of developing a business model canvas to improve communication to colleagues in relation to exploring and communicating the nature-based solution exemplar aims.
  • Reflexive Monitoring also raised awareness of the barriers related to Glasgow City Council procurement and recruitment practices when developing nature-based solutions.
  • Reflexive Monitoring methods were adapted by the Glasgow Connecting Nature team in order to simplify the process. This further encouraged the participation of key colleagues in different services and helped to reduce silo-working practices.
Lessons learned: 

Based on the Reflexive Monitoring Learning Experience Workshop outcomes (WP2 Task 2.2)

Technical Solutions:

  • Site visits are a very effective mechanism for evaluating the topography, constraints, access, etc, when planning nature-based solutions. However, they also have a greater value: site visits can be an effective mechanism for strengthening relationships with, and learning about projects from, colleagues from other departments. Such face-to-face conversations provide opportunity for more informal conversations that can strengthen collaboration between colleagues from different departments.
  • Strategically, using high-level initiatives such as COP26 and the Climate Emergency announcements can be an effective way to increase awareness around the multifunctional benefits of nature-based solutions.
  • Technical demonstrators are also an effective way to raise the profile of nature-based solutions by demonstrating what can be achieved in a local context.
  • Another effective mechanism for engaging others in Technical Solution delivery was aligning with the National Park City campaign. The campaign involved a network of delivery actors who represented key contacts for nature-based solution delivery.


  • There was a lack of consistent, established, and agreed internal cross-service governance structure at management/senior management level. A novel Open Space team meeting was established to address this. The meeting comprised key officers at operational management level focused across the 15 themes of the Open Space Strategy. The meeting formalised what was previously an informal networking process.
  • Collaboration for the Nature-Based Enterprise accelerator programme represented governance innovation for the City Council Connecting Nature team as it partnered with the Centre for Civic Innovation and utilised their networks.
  • A shift towards co-productive model working with ‘Friends of’ groups represented a governance shift in relation to delivery. Out-sourcing delivery and providing support in the form of capacity building resources, represented a new way of working.
  • Delivery of the Open Space Strategy also required new ways of governing how the council managed their assets across departments. Property Sales, in particular, required the creation of new relations (less formal, better working relationships) between the departments at strategic levels and new practices for collaboration.
  • Story mapping methodology was used to showcase funding opportunities, to share learning, and as an engagement tool. Visually representing nature-based solution concepts helped underpin discussions with other policy makers.
  • The focus on using the Open Space Strategy to inform the development of outdoor play and learning spaces also represented governance innovation for the city, due to the cross-departmental collaboration and support processes.
  • The Glasgow Summit has partly led to the team being more easily able to improve and work on governance structures because of the senior management involvement and elected official support (for the summit and then subsequently firmed up for the project as a whole too).

Financing and business models:

  • The Open Space Strategy provides a mechanism for combining departmental budgets under the new governance structure. This facilitates easier access to multiple budgets and better value for money across budgets.
  • Capacity-building of community groups also included a focus on financing to support out-scaling of nature-based solution delivery beyond the Glasgow Connecting Nature team. This focused on unlocking different kinds of funding that would not beaccessible to the council.
  • Participation as hosts of COP26 has brought much focus on Glasgow and haspresented broader opportunities in relation to pilot/proof-of-concept financing. Similarly, participation in the National Park City campaign has opened additional new funding opportunities.
  • Story mapping was an effective mechanism for showcasing funding opportunities.
  • Going forward, the team hopes the elevation of the project’s profile through the Glasgow Summit and the positive feedback and legacy from the summit could help with pulling in more finance for open space projects. Particularly as we were able to present our Growchapel demonstrator, albeit virtually which demonstrated how we applied co-production tools such as the business model canvas and have tried to leverage and maximise funding opportunities.

Nature-based enterprises:

  • The Open Space Strategy provided an effective framework for generating a nature-based economy around nature-based solution planning, delivery, and stewardship.
  • The Nature-Based Enterprise accelerator programme was an effective mechanism for knowledge transfer to nature-based enterprises in relation to how enterprises could source funding and what sort of business modelling they could adopt.
  • The Nature-Based Enterprise accelerator programme partners have recently been awarded research resource from a Glasgow School of Art research team to carry out a systems-led review of the pilot. The aim of this is to assess the progress of the Nature-Based Academy participants as well help to begin to forge a local Nature-Based Enterprise ecosystem in Glasgow.
  • COP26 networks provided connections to multiple nature-based enterprises.
  • A novel collaboration with the nature-based enterprise - Urban Good - expanded the Open Space Strategy to more layers, e.g. showing uses of open space. Urban Good also produced offline paper maps, making them accessible to different audiences.


  • A co-production approach was effective for producing the teaching programme for the Nature-Based Enterprise accelerator. This was done through collaboration with the Glasgow Connecting Nature team and local partners.
  • Learning from the way communities organised themselves during COVID around local challenges provided important lessons in terms of the need for Nature-Based Solutions in specific areas.
  • The pandemic did not mean an end to co-production with ‘Friends of’ groups. Instead, it represented a new way of establishing these community groups. Virtual and hybrid approaches were effective, and sometimes meant greater engagement. It also led to the creation of videos for supporting capacity building which were a more sustainable legacy compared to one-off workshops.
  • Co-production processes can provide a valuable source of knowledge/data when mapping local environmental, social, and economic context.
  • Steering committee approaches to pilot project delivery with community representatives on the committees was an effective foundation for facilitating co-production processes with local stakeholders.
  • The Glasgow Summit also made it easier to work on the team's entrepreneurship strategy. For example, setting up the partnership and attracting participants for the nature-based accelerator was easier partly because partners became aware of Connecting Nature by attending the summit earlier in the year and so were keen to work with the team.

Impact assessment:

  • If carried out at a city scale, the value of impact assessment extends beyond just evidencing the impact of a nature-based solution pilot. By bringing disparate datasets together into a central resource it is possible to also support more integrated and targeted decision-making for Nature-Based Solution planning by promoting data sharing and interdepartmental working.
  • In addition to city-scale indicators, local scale evaluation of pilots can be used to raise the profile of central strategy, enhancing the ability to continue Nature-Based Solution delivery beyond the Horizon 2020 project funding.
  • Moving from informal evaluation to formal evaluation helps to mainstream Nature-Based Solution implementation from one driven by anecdotal evidence to a robust science-based approach based on robust data.

Reflexive monitoring:

  • The structure of the Open Space meeting was inspired by the Reflexive Monitoring process, the learnings sessions, how the team internally discussed the tracker, and how they prepared for the reflexive monitoring meetings.
  • The Glasgow team discovered that it was best to simplify the Reflexive Monitoring process when carrying out these meetings. They identified a team member to undertake each Reflexive Monitoring role and to undertake the tracker updates and structured notes post-meeting, to avoid complicating the process for colleagues who only engaged with matters on an ad-hoc basis. The Connecting Nature team also found it valuable to discuss how the process worked with other colleagues who expressed an interest in adopting Reflexive Monitoring as a method for use in other projects.


Strategic project financing:

  • Financing has been focused at two strategic levels. The first level was targeting strategic funding for city-wide rollout of the Open Space Strategy. The second level was the establishment of strategic pilot projects to showcase what can be achieved using a Nature-Based Solution approach to Open Spaces.
  • At a city-wide level:
    • £500K was secured from the Scottish Government through Parks & Operation Department to deliver and update playspaces across the city. The project represents a steppingstone to accessing a future Scottish Government fund of £5m for Open Space improvements.
    • The Trees AI project represents a public-private funded collaboration which secured support from The Impact Challenge on Climate: a £10m fund supporting 12 challenges across Europe.In Glasgow, the collaboration will develop a tool for scaling private sector investment in urban nature-based solutions in Glasgow.
  • Pilot project funding included:
    • £3k seed funding to kick-start the Bellahouston Demonstration Garden opened in 2017;
    • £70k funding for the Growchapel Community Garden from a range of sources;
    • A combination of Glasgow City Council (£35k), Glasgow Housing Association (£15k), and an additional £10-15k from external parties to fund the revised Stalled Spaces programme with a greater focus on sustainable nature-based solutions projects. This revised programme included funding engagement of an NGO (The Conservation Volunteers) to increase the capacity

At their most basic level, the key impacts from the Glasgow City Council Open Space Strategy nature-based solution exemplar will be:

  • A raised awareness across the city of the value of a nature-based solutions approach to the planning, delivery, and stewardship of the city’s Open Spaces.
  • Silo-busting through a shared recognition of common goals and opportunities across the City Council’s departments, and a pathway for collaboration with external stakeholders across the city through a shared vision.
  • More integrated planning decision-making linked to spatially explicit and accessible data on needs, pressures, and opportunities.
  • More integrated financing through the delivery of shared goals and opportunities.
  • Creation of a stronger link between Glasgow’s Open Spaces and the needs of the communities using them.
  • Adoption of nature-based solution approaches to other grey/green/blue infrastructure components across the city.
Table 2 - NBS Multiple Benefits**
Enhancing sustainable urbanisation: 
Changing image of the urban environment
Creation of green jobs relating to construction & maintenance of NBS
Improve air quality
Improve water quality
Increase accessibility to green open spaces
Increase amount of green open spaces for residents
Increase awareness of NBS solution & their effectiveness and co benefits
Increase communities’ sense of ownership
Increase population & infrastructures protected by NBS
Increase social interaction
Increase stakeholder awareness & knowledge about NBS
Increase well-being
Increase willingness to invest in NBS
Provision of health benefits
Reduce costs for water treatments
Social inclusion
Restoring ecosystems and their functions: 
Greater ecological connectivity across urban regenerated sites
Improve connectivity and functionality of green and blue infrastructures
Increase achievements of biodiversity targets
Increase Biodiversity
Increase quality and quantity of green and blue infrastructures
Increased cultural richness and biodiversity
Developing climate change mitigation: 
Carbon sequestration and storage
More energy efficient buildings
Developing climate change adaptation; improving risk management and resilience: 
Flood peak reduction
Increase infiltration / Water storage
Reduce flood risk
Reduce load to sewer system
Reduce run-off
Reducing temperature at meso or micro scale
Multiple Benefits: 

Due to the nature of the Open Space Strategy and the almost universal potential to shape nature-based solution delivery across the city. The potential benefits will be far reaching.

Impacts of EU research and innovation projects: 

Innovations developed as part of the Glasgow Open Space Strategy NbS mainstreaming process have relevance to cities globally. In particular, they have direct relevance to large cities struggling with the challenges of siloed working across disparate teams and operating with diminishing and isolated funding streams. By using nature-based solutions to promote shared delivery on strategic priorities and underpinning this with an evidence-base to inform decision-making and to promote interdisciplinary planning across the public administration, the Glasgow Open Space Strategy represents an excellent template for maximising the value of public authority resources.

Glasgow is creating a place-based approach, with a nature-based lens, to work with their citizens to make the city more climate adaptive. This approach is transferrable to cities globally.


Stuart Connop

Further information

Area characterisation: 

Situated on the River Clyde in Scotland's West Central Lowlands, Glasgow is one of the UK’s largest cities with over 600,000 inhabitants. The expansion of Glasgow’s population was the result of a history of industrialisation which, at its peak, attracted a population of greater than one million residents. The rapid rate of urbanisation in Glasgow’s past led to a range of social, environmental, and public health issues which the city attempted to address by delivering a range of municipal services and facilities. These included a public water supply and the construction of public parks on an unprecedented scale. The legacy of these public parks still serves large parts of the city well.

Following its population peak, a substantial decline in the city’s industrial heart, meant that Glasgow had to transition to a new post-industrial future. With this transition came a variety of challenges at the heart of the city’s DNA. This included:

  • a large portion of the city’s inhabitants being represented on the Scottish index of multiple deprivation.
  • the Glasgow Effect, related to a significantly lower life expectancy in Glasgow than other urban areas in the UK and EU.
  • Geographically-irregular changes in population, meaning that some open spaces became less frequently used and less valued.
  • A post-industrial landscape that left a network of derelict contaminated and underused spaces.

Since the beginning of the 21st Century, the city’s population has started to rise again and is expected to grow to 640,000 by 2039. This expansion is focused largely around tertiary sector industries such as financial and business services, communications, biosciences, creative industries, healthcare, higher education, retail and tourism. With this increase in population comes new demands on the city’s open spaces. These include the use of open space for:

  • dealing with surface water flooding, especially during and immediately after heavy rainfall events.
  • providing habitats for nature, helping to enhance biodiversity.
  • providing opportunities for delivering better, more coherent, and connected walking and cycling networks.
  • providing convenient opportunities for outdoor recreation, sport, food growing, and general relaxation.
  • mitigating poor air quality.
  • contributing to a sense of place and a more attractive urban environment.

Nature-based solutions represent a viable solution for dealing with all of these demands on open space.