Figure 1. Eco-garden installed at one of Poznań's kindergartens as part of the Connecting Nature exemplar.


Figure 2. Areas of greenery and recreation across the City of Poznań, showing the green wedge system. Figure 3. Natural playgrounds and eco-demonstrators in Poznań’s preschools (© Miasto Poznan) Figure 4. Floating garden on Cybina River in Poznań. © Michał Strokowski

The challenge for Poznań is to improve the quality of life in those areas that do not have equitable access to greenspace due to being very urbanised and with higher population densities. By focusing on nature-based solution approaches to deliver this, it is possible to reverse the city’s trend towards a rate of high soil sealing in the city centre’s densely built-up residential areas, which exacerbate climate change impacts, particularly during heat waves and episodic flooding from intense rainfall.

The City of Poznan Connecting Nature team identified pocket parks and urban gardens as a mechanism to deliver these objectives. The Poznań nature-based solution exemplar aims to implement small-scale nature-based solution interventions across the city with a particular focus on those areas that are densely urbanised and inhabited by citizens who currently have limited access to greenery. Such an ‘out-scaling’ approach relies on replicated small interventions, rather than requiring substantial individual areas of land. Out-scaling also enables the extension of the network of green infrastructure in Poznań, complementing the green wedges which run through the city, from north to south and from east to west. Creating these nature spaces will increase the stepping-stone connectivity between existing key green infrastructure assets to facilitate the movement of biodiversity, in addition to people, across the city.

The initial focus of this out-scaling was on the delivery of a series of eco- and social-gardens at kindergartens across the city. Kindergartens were identified as a key objective as these represented a pre-existing network across the city at which nature-based solutions would deliver accessibility and climate change adaptation targets. Also providing play and educational benefits to local kindergarten children. Poznań’s nature-based solution exemplar represents a unique challenge given the large scale of the city, and the balance the city needs to strike between the multiple demands on its open spaces. In this respect, nature-based solutions represent functional solutions that can be integrated into the existing urban structure and functions of the city.

Creating attractive nature-based solutions in the city centre (close to the historical centre of the city) is also expected to increase tourist attractiveness. Regenerating other centrally located green spaces (e.g. the Warta river valley) have shown to increase the flow of people in these areas and prompts an interest in neighbouring areas that result in a collaborative desire to regenerate old, abandoned, or neglected spaces. This is a vital factor in place-making. These improvements can also attract new inhabitants. Improved districts are now becoming fashionable and many new business endeavours of local collaboration are emerging.


Technical Solutions:

  • Technical Solutions delivery has focused on the multifunctional design of the NbS exemplars to balance trade-offs in relation to delivering local benefits (based on the immediate needs of the users and locality) and broader benefits (based on key strategic needs of the city). This has included a design focus on the creation of aesthetics balanced with functional spaces that attract a high degree of activity, daily interactions, and social gatherings. A series of different nature-based solution spaces have been delivered across the city:
  • Current status of spatial transformation projects –
    • – are elements made of natural materials (plant, wood) representing ecological and environmental phenomena. For example: insect houses, garden wooden pots/flower beds filled with compost soil for planting, live willow huts, numerous climbers (plants) or fruit bushes. Education class scenarios were also prepared, to be used by teachers in conducting ecological education classes with the use of eco-demonstrators installed in preschool gardens. These nature-based solutions have been successfully out-scaled since the start of Connecting Nature. Overall, at least ten pre-schools have received eco-demonstrators in their playspaces each year since 2018. In total, there are now 46 pre-schools with eco-demonstrators/
    • Natural playgrounds - the nature oriented-playgrounds are unique places created for pre-school children, where alongside the play equipment you will find elements of nature. This includes sandy hills, live willow huts, and paths made from logs and stumps. These are supplemented with green flowerbeds, fruit bushes, and houses that allow children to grow their own plants or observe insects. These "play gardens" are more than just a playground, giving children and their guardians the opportunity to experience nature directly, and creating additional accessible greenspace in the city. As part of the Connecting Nature project, three nature-oriented playgrounds were created in gardens of nursery schools No. 42, No. 46 and No. 87 in 2017-2018. since this initial success, a total of twenty-one nature-orientated playgrounds have now been installed in Poznan kindergartens.
    • Floating gardens - in partnership with the OnWater Foundation, five floating gardens have been completed in Poznan (two on Cybina River, three on ponds in parks in Poznan). The floating gardens improve the river/water ecosystem, introducing more biodiversity into the city by providing shelter, feeding, and breeding opportunities. The vegetation cover on them is predominantly native species, supporting local biodiversity targets, but with the potential for additional colonisation. The gardens also impact on water quality by providing a filtration/water purification function.
    • Open gardens – One of the pre-Connecting Nature actions: the Open Garden at Kindergarten No. 42 in Wilda was a pilot project implemented by the Project Coordination and Urban Regeneration Office in cooperation with Kindergarten No. 42 and the NGO’s (Zieleniak Project) initiative. The aim of the project was to develop a garden which would be opened for both the kindergarten children and also for residents of Wilda District in Poznan. The Open Garden is a combination of the idea of a social garden and a natural playground, open to children and adults, especially those using the kindergarten, the neighbouring nursery and primary school, as well as residents of nearby tenement houses. It is a place where children can experience nature, adults can rest, and people can get actively involved growing plants. The project was initiated in 2017 and the garden was finally opened in March 2018. In the period from April to June 2018, a series of weekend family workshops was held in the garden, engaging the residents and promoting the idea of the open garden. Due to necessity, the garden had to be closed to residents during the COVID19 pandemic. However, this provided space for the team to develop new ideas for open gardens at kindergartens in Poznan. There were some interesting collaborations, but often due to lack of finances, organizational barriers, and a pandemic, it was not possible to open new open gardens in the city. At the time of writing, there is only one open garden at preschool no. 42 in Poznan.


  • A focus of governance innovation for the exemplar has been on identifying, engaging, and facilitating the smooth cooperation and transfer of information between different departments and partners engaged in the process. Central to this was facilitating a collaborative approach between the Project Coordination and Urban Regeneration Office (design part in the frame of CN), the Department Of Education (managing budget earmarked for investments in kindergartens on the basis of multiannual programme created by Poznan City Council), and the individual kindergarten leads (responsible for applying to the Department of Education for the grant for investment, and choosing the way of designing and maintaining their investments).
  • Co-governance approaches are being developed with the private sector to increase capacity for delivery and stewardship of natural playgrounds
  • In order to ensure the engagement of senior decision and policy-makers, it was also critical to map the expected benefits of the Open and Social Gardens programme onto key city strategies (Development Strategy for the City of Poznan 2020+; Development Strategy of the Warta River in Poznan; Study of Conditions and Directions of Spatial Development of the City of Poznan Environmental Protection Program for the City of Poznan; Municipal Revitalization Program for the City of Poznan; Plan for Sustainable Development of Public Transport for the City of Poznan for 2014-2025; Plan of Adaptation to Climate Change for the city of Poznan to 2030) to demonstrate how the NbS exemplar would deliver on these.
  • The “Open Garden” located in densely urbanised district of Wilda represented another governance challenge. In this case, exploring how the attractive greenspaces associated the many public institutions in the city could be expanded for use beyond the “usual users”. Governance innovation comprised a collaborative approach towards partial opening of such spaces to citizens who are usually restricted from coming to their premises. A balance of openness and flexibility from the public institution and respect for rules of conduct defined by the users was necessary, which was achieved using co-creation approaches.
  • In parallel to the technical delivery of the natural playgrounds, a series of information activities promoting the idea of natural playgrounds were organised. This included a seminar on "Natural playgrounds in pre-school gardens" at the Poznan International Fair as part of a two-day conference "Education for public space". The workshops included activities in which the directors and teachers of nursery schools tried their hand at designing their own kindergarten natural playgrounds, under the supervision of an expert. These events were designed to build awareness of, and demand for, nature-based approaches to playspaces at kindergartens and schools, both at an academic and political level.
  • This approach has been supplemented with the production of a locally-contextualised catalogue of NbS to raise awareness of the approach in Poznan.

Financing and business models:

  • Initial financing focused on innovation in relation to a hybrid model of financing nature-based solutions by combining different departmental budgets, with external kindergarten budgets, and with resources from the Connecting Nature project. In order to scale finances to include implementation at primary schools additional EU external funding is being sought.
  • To continue scaling of nature-based solution approaches it was necessary to expand financing. In order to open up new external funding opportunities, the Connecting Nature team uses their NbS catalogue to engage civil servants and civil servants and developers, raising their awareness of the tradition of nature-based solutions in Poznan, and the benefits that can be achieved through such approaches.
  • To exploit diverse funding opportunities, the Connecting Nature team are also exploring cooperative approaches with the private sector through a sponsorship-based approach.


  • The City of Poznań developed an Entrepreneurship Programme launched at the . The programme comprised of two parts, with the aim of supporting the rollout, design, and stewardship of their nature-based solution exemplars:
    • Education for decision-makers.
    • Training on good practice for contractors/NBEs.
  • In addition, technical training materials were produced that could be shared with city and district councillors responsible for making budget decisions on a district level. This is being supplemented with an additional training cycle in relation to animating and maintaining natural playspaces. This approach to engaging entrepreneurship with nature-based solutions is being expanded to include other type of NbS (e.g. Floating gardens or rain gardens).


  • The process of co-production was not a commonly used method in project work, especially in public administration institutions, such as city halls. The innovative method had to be learnt. Many of the principles were already implicitly known, but they were not used on a daily basis and as operating practice.
  • The introduction of open gardens at preschools and other public institutions plays a central role in the place-making process. As such, cooperation between different stakeholders is a key part of the design process for these green interventions. Novel co-production processes (based on the principles of initiating, consultation, implementation and a continuous process) were trialled to support collaborative working between the Connecting Nature team, the Education Department, the Kindergarten managers, and the nature-based solution designers. For the ‘open gardens’ the local community user groups represented an additional stakeholder engaged in the co-production process.
  • For the novel nature-based solution approach to conserving and broadening participation in the allotment gardens, the organisation ‘Go and Sow’ were contracted to spearhead this. Their actions included engaging a broader representation of the community in allotment use through a co-production approach. Allotments in the city centre are in competition from other types of greenspace which are more open to citizens. The co-production process has been exploring how allotments can be opened up as more accessible greenspace, to ensure that they are protected as a key component of Poznan’s green infrastructure, removing any risk of redevelopment as grey infrastructure.

Impact Assessment:

  • Poznan’s approach to navigating the challenges of evaluating impact was addressed through strong partnership working with Adam Mickiewicz University. Through this partnership the Poznan Connecting Nature team were able to implementenvironmental, social, and economic indicators for capturing the multifunctional value of their nature-based solution exemplar:
    • Environmental impact monitoring focused on aspects including direct measurement of temperature and humidity combined with an index for evaluating biodiversity net-gain in the open garden, preschool gardens and pocket parks.
    • Social indicators represented a unique challenge due to Covid limiting the occupancy of the kindergartens, and therefore the use of the natural playspaces. However, some surveys were able to be conducted among teachers, directors and parents.
    • Economic indicators were focused on ‘value’ for money. This has included interviews with contractors and ecosystem service valuation.

Reflexive monitoring

  • Represented a new method for the Poznan City Connecting Nature team. Problems and difficulties in different aspects of our work were analysed in team meetings, but no specific tools were used to monitor them.
  • Reflexive Monitoring proved to be a useful process for supporting coordination of this complex, multifaceted project. It provided a mechanism for managing strategic sub-projects, analysing gaps, and identifying resources and activities to address them. It also provided a strategic overview of the situation within the lead organisation, reflecting the context of exemplar implementation and goal attainment through associated activities of other city units.
Lessons learned: 

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

Technical Solutions:

  • Learning associated with nature-based solution implementation is incremental.
  • Lessons learned from the multifunctional development of areas at risk of flood along the River Warta, including the creation of city beaches and recreational facilities at the previously neglected riverside sites provided inspiration for increasing the social and ecological potential of areas of the city centre, including strengthening the ‘green wedge’ (by consolidation and de-fragmentation of urban green).
  • Opening collaborations with different departments has the potential to impact the type of technical solutions that are implemented, bringing in greater multifunctionality.
  • Sometimes what appears to be a setback can become a step forward: Only securing budget for two playgrounds instead of five ended up being a benefit. It provided an opportunity to deepen and enrich the co-creation process to find more innovative solutions. It also led to a focus on developing other types of playgrounds for older children.
  • Nature-based solution technical design out-scaling is not a copy and paste approach. Each time the concept is replicated there needs to be consideration of the local context. For example, older children have different learning and playspace needs that need to be reflected through technical designs.
  • Challenges like COVID-19 can be used as an opportunity to build capacity when implementation is not possible. For example, multimedia resources showcasing the eco-demonstrator approach during lockdown represented a technical solution themselves in relation to unlocking broader rollout and ensuring the quality of the approach beyond the Connecting Nature team and project.
  • Interdepartmental collaboration towards a particular technical design for nature-based solutions can open up opportunities for collaboration in other contexts and locations.


  • Interdepartmental collaboration has been key to mainstreaming NbS and increasing the human and economic capacity for delivery.
  • Expanding funding to new sources and departments leads to new relations. By opening up new collaborations with other departments to city districts and inhabitants to also include enterprises it is possible to change a city team’s practice, potentially broadening the discourse on how other partners use nature-based solutions.
  • Looking at a city through a nature-based solution lens can lead to identifying new typologies and a history of nature-based solution use in urban planning. This can lead to opportunities to change the discourse around nature-based solutions and open the opportunity or new collaboration.
  • Scaling-up interventions like the nature-oriented playgrounds requires a novel process to ensure the quality of the intervention and new skills for the team are also scaled.
  • Identifying ‘green’ agents across city departments can be an effective method to generate influence beyond the immediate team.
  • Organisational innovation can be necessary if silos are to be burst. Breaking open silos can raise awareness in relation to new initiatives that can adopt a nature-based solution approach.
  • New legal regulations can be required to facilitate collaboration with commercial enterprises under new governance models. Working with commercial partners can be time-intensive at first but can lead to more-efficient practices and new financing opportunities in the long-run.
  • Even a failed funding bid can lead to new collaborative ways of working, if it is based on a new working model between departments/stakeholder groups.
  • Looking at your city through a nature-based solution lens can provide opportunities to talk and work with different departments and change the governance of nature-based solutions.
  • EU projects can provide opportunities to develop new organisational structures and collaborations between departments.
  • Lobbying politicians can be a useful governance practice for the Poznan team to high-level support for budget decisions.
  • Once successful pilots have been implemented, it is possible to change governance structures towards promoting nature-based solutions among other partners that can bring additional capacity for mainstreaming.

Financing and business models:

  • Complex technical designs can represent a barrier in relation to tenders/applications as it can be difficult to fit design proposals into the tender/application system.
  • It is possible to engage commercial enterprises to co-finance public initiatives through linking civic budgets with corporate responsibility/sponsorship processes.
  • Linking investment with educational value can be a mechanism for securing financing for nature-based solutions.
  • Opportunities for sharing funding across departments and with district councils should be explored.

Nature-based enterprises:

  • Part of scaling nature-based solutions includes scaling the nature-based economy associated with implementation. Sourcing financing to fund the projects may not be enough if there is not sufficient private sector capacity to design and develop the spaces. It may also be necessary to stimulate the development of nature-based enterprises to be able to deliver the new market demand.
  • By changing the discourse and stimulating others to think about their work in relation to nature-based solutions, it is possible to create new opportunities for nature-based enterprises.


  • Actor-mapping is a key preliminary step in co-production.
  • Mainstreaming nature-based solutions needs collaboration with other city hall departments in order to maximise the multifunctionality and unlock the necessary expertise and capacity.
  • Co-production can introduce changes to systems that will lead to the ongoing review, development and delivery of new forms of support. Co-production therefore benefits from a culture of continuous learning about what has worked and what has not worked.
  • When forming collaborations with private sector investment, there needs to be a clear offer for sponsors/businesses to be involved, but also the flexibility to co-create the offer with the schools and potential sponsor.
  • Co-production is not a one-size-fits-all process. Involving primary school kids in the design, delivery and stewardship of nature-based solutions requires a different co-production process with novel tools (e.g. digital).
  • Communicating about projects can be used as a catalyst for internal co-production.
  • Co-production tools developed to increase knowledge/capacity for nature-based solution implementation can also be used as educational resources for schools.

Impact assessment:

  • Indicators are vital for communicating the effectiveness of nature-based solution processes to colleagues and external stakeholders.
  • Exploring evaluation already undertaken across city departments, and supplementing this through partnerships with academia is an effective way to implement impact monitoring.

Reflexive monitoring:

  • The process of reflexive monitoring helped to break through barriers that the organisation encountered by providing a strategic overview of the situation, analysing gaps, and identifying resources and activities to fill them.
  • Reflexive monitoring was a useful tool for managing scaling-out of nature-based solution project implementation across the city.
  • Reflexivity helps users to see the broader picture of nature-based solution activities within the organization structure – the reflexive monitoring scheme gives a broader picture, both for the topic of nature-based solutions, and the scope of the organization.
  • Reflexive monitoring helps to track all the different activities in teamwork. It allows time to reflect on the different collaborations and to make sure the short-term actions are aligned with the long-term goals of projects.
  • – in 2018-2019, the project of eco-demonstrators was financed from Connecting Nature project budget (20 preschools). In the second half of 2019 and in 2020, these were funded through The Regional Environmental Fund in Poznań (21 preschools). This was not a sustainable source long-term though, so the financing approach needed to be diversified. A City budget was used in 2021 to fund eco-demonstrators project in 5 preschools.
  • Nature-orientated playgrounds – the modernization of pre-school gardens was carried out by the Department of Education Poznań City Hall and the Poznań Civil Budget. This included a partnership financing approach combining the Dept of Education and City Civic budgets. The five-year programme from the Department of Education has now ended, so alternative budgets need to be identified. This year, one natural playground was funded directly by the council. This was due to the very limited budgets caused by the COVID19 pandemic. A new approach is currently being developed which uses alternative financing from the private sector to ‘sponsor’ the creation of the nature-orientated playgrounds.
  • The floating gardens – in 2018-2019 the project of floating gardens was financed using the Connecting Nature project budget. From 2020, floating gardens were funded using the city budget – out-scaling floating gardens across the city.

Planning, delivery, and stewardship of the nature-orientated playgrounds and open gardens generated a diversity of benefits. Firstly, those related directly to the impacts from the gardens themselves: to the children playing in them, the teachers using them, and the local communities benefiting from them. This included providing relief from thermal stress, creating more permeable spaces better at managing rainfall, educational benefits, active play spaces, increasing biodiversity and the human connection to this nature. Secondly, benefits more broadly to the city in terms of raising the profile of the value of a nature-based solution approach to urban design. Such has been the success of this project that proposals are underway to expand these approaches to other school settings and to deliver nature-based solution approaches to other spaces including more floating gardens and urban allotments.

Long-term impacts of the continued scaling of nature-based solution approaches in Poznań would include increased climate adaptation measures, greater opportunity for relaxation and experiencing nature, increased awareness of, and engagement with, active travel and the environment.

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
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 social interaction
Increase stakeholder awareness & knowledge about NBS
Increase well-being
Increase willingness to invest in NBS
Restoring ecosystems and their functions: 
Improve connectivity and functionality of green and blue infrastructures
Increase Biodiversity
Increase quality and quantity of green and blue infrastructures
Developing climate change adaptation; improving risk management and resilience: 
Increasing infiltration
Reduce drought risk
Reduce flood risk
Reducing temperature at meso or micro scale
Impacts of EU research and innovation projects: 

A key outcome from the City of Poznan’s involvement in the Connecting Nature project was the implementation of evaluation to understand the benefits and co-benefits of the approaches implemented. Previously in the city, evaluation of nature-based solution pilots was less structured. By formalising the evaluation and expanding it to include evaluation of environment, social, and economic benefits, it was possible to build a stronger and more communicable evidence-base for the benefits of the approach taken.

Within the City of Poznań, the results from the open and social gardens are already being transferred to other contexts. For example, expanding from the focus on kindergartens, to include primary and, potentially, secondary schools. Initiatives like the NbS catalogue are also being used to transfer nature-based solution approaches to other sectors, including housing developers. Expanding the approach to financing the nature-based solution gardens to include the private sector, also represents a transfer of approaches to different sectors, and an increase in the capacity being brought to mainstreaming nature-based solutions in the city.

In terms of transfer beyond the city, Poznań’s approach to focusing on the transformation of educational establishment grounds, the collaborative approach between city departments and external stakeholders are all easily transferrable. This includes to other types of nature/play/learn spaces, and for other types of nature-based solutions.


Stuart Connop

Further information

Poznan lies on the Warta River in west-central Poland, in the Greater Poland region. With a population of 533,000, it is the fifth largest city by population in Poland. In terms of footprint, however, it is a relatively compact city. Poznan is an important academic site, with about 130,000 students and the third largest Polish university. The city has often topped rankings for very high quality of education and a very high standard of living. It also ranks highly in safety and healthcare quality.

Poznań is a city rich in green spaces.             The morphology of the city is still marked by a system of green rings and green wedges proposed by the urbanist Wladyslaw Czarnecki in the 1930s. The green wedges roughly follow the existing natural geographical structure of the city where smaller rivers (the Bogdanka, Cybina and Główna as well as the Głuszynka and Michałówka) meet up with the Warta River streaming from south to north. Today, the majority of the green wedges are covered with forests which under current zoning plans cannot be used for construction. On the suburbs of the city, the green ring-wedge system has a forest character and connects with regional forests in a larger scale. Inside the city boundaries, there are also around 8,500 hectares of agricultural land that has less strict protection in planning, especially if left fallow after the collapse of collective agriculture in the early 1990s. The green wedges provide value and function for the city of Poznan.

The system has come under a lot of pressure during recent years from development with a rapidly expanding retail market that creates demand for housing development. In addition to the housing, associated population increase, and the need for new infrastructure, creates additional pressures in relation to the need for stormwater management, and the pressure for additional parking spaces. The green wedge design also means that greenspace is not equally distributed in the city. Despite the green wedges penetrating deep into the city, dense built-up districts in the historical areas lack greenspace and key challenges that the city faces, like noise and pollution (associated with traffic), rainwater management (sewage overflow and flooding), and temperature swings (from Urban Heat Island Challenges in summer to extreme cold in winter) are exacerbated.