13 May 2022
Paula Vandergert EM|Path

We have been delighted to take the Connecting Nature project on tour in April 2022! We visited five cities in total, finishing in our Front Runner City Genk for the Connecting Nature Impact Summit, the last major public event of our project. Before reaching this final milestone event, our Roadshow travelled across Europe stopping in four different cities to share some of the Connecting Nature innovations with the public, policy makers and businesses.

The Connecting Nature Partners who delivered the roadshow

The Roadshow was delivered by three of the nature-based enterprises who are partners in Connecting Nature. Horizon Nua is a new social enterprise set up within Connecting Nature that has co-ordinated the Connecting Nature Enterprise Platform (CNEP), the world’s first global network for nature-based enterprises and those researching and delivering nature-based solutions. Helix delivers biodiverse nature-based solutions for buildings and spaces and is the Ambassador for the Green Buildings community on the CNEP - Helix has developed the Mobile Green Living Room – the MGLR - as a mobile showcase for how biodiverse greening options can tackle multiple urban challenges. EM|Path is a new spin-off social enterprise that has emerged from work with our Connecting Nature cities of Sarajevo, Nicosia and A Coruna, to develop innovative arts-based engagement and co-production processes that bring people together to create nature narratives. EM|Path is the CNEP ambassador for Community Engagement.

And, last but not least, we were delighted to be joined by other CNEP community ambassadors and nature-based enterprises as we travelled around Europe, so a big thank you too to: Citta Metropolitana di Bologna, ETIFOR, Skygardens, Bioazul, Sea Going Green, RBLA, and Ecowellness Consulting!

How we developed the roadshow

Back in November 2021 we invited cities to apply to host the Roadshow and in January 2022 we selected the successful candidates, Pordenone in Italy, Chemnitz in Germany, Zurich in Switzerland and St Germain en Laye in France. From February we then worked with each of the cities to agree logistics for the MGLR and co-produce agendas that delivered each city’s objectives for our visit and enabled us to showcase some of our achievements of the last five years. We were delighted that this resulted in some diverse and exciting outcomes that reached thousands of people, including hundreds of children and young people. Below are some of the wonderful images captured during our visits in April 2022 and a brief summary from the Roadshow Cities.

Delivering the Roadshow – images from our cities.

Each city had different goals for the Connecting Nature visit to their city. Below is a brief description of each and a selection of images that capture the story from each place.

Pordenone, with its recently elected local government that wants to put the environment at the heart of the city agenda, took the opportunity of our visit to organise two public events in the main city theatre and host the MGLR in the main city square. The first event brought local nature-based enterprises together to showcase their work and find out more from Connecting Nature about the wider European economy for nature-based solutions. On day two, students from five local high schools came together to share their projects on nature-based solutions directly inspired by the Connecting Nature visit, especially the MGLR, and to hear from award-winning Milan architect Giovanni La Varra, designer of Bosco Verticale in Milan. We also had the chance to share the Connecting Nature project, including the Connecting Nature Framework, with city officers, and to work with local graphic artists at the mobile green living room to interact with the public and do live scribing to capture what local people want for a greener Pordenone.

Chemnitz were focused on our visit as an opportunity to dive into co-production and this enabled them to link with INTERLACE, a Horizon 2020 project with the aim to strengthen urban ecosystem restoration in the European Union and Latin America.  Over the course of the two-day roadshow in the city, participants had an opportunity to engage with and experience the elements of the EM|Path approach – specifically, the workshop provided the space for participants to explore their past and present relationship and connection to nature via memory work, and body-mapping. Using the MGLR as an anchor for the immersion in nature and eco-therapy practice aspect of the approach, participants shared deeply meaningful and personal stories and connections with nature – the power of family bonds/inter-generational relationships, nature as a place of peacefulness, and the need to respect and demonstrate a sense of shared care and responsibility for the natural world emerged as collective themes.  The outcomes from the workshop formed the foundation for a follow-up Business Model Canvas activity on the morning of the second day, where participants engaged with the canvas to identify a potential nature-based solution for the city of Chemnitz. 

Zurich, as one of the world’s most sustainable cities, was a rich experience for the Connecting Nature team to share experiences at the cutting edge of urban greening. The Zurich city green team used our visit to launch their new city greening fund, a 3 million swiss franc initiative to support private business and residential owners to add biodiverse greening to their buildings and outside spaces. Locating the MGLR in the heart of old town Zurich for the duration of our visit provided the city team with the perfect backdrop to promote this fund to the public. We had the opportunity to meet different members of the green team, including those working on environmental education and ameliorating the urban heat island, and to introduce them to the work of Connecting Nature, including the Connecting Nature framework, the enterprise platform and our co-production work. We were delighted to be joined by Skygarden, one of our CNEP enterprises based in Zurich who, like Roadshow partner Helix, deliver biodiverse greening solutions. Being located in the heart of Zurich, thousands of locals as well as tourists from across the world passed by in the Easter week and had the opportunity to enjoy our temporary green addition to the city and find out more about the project.

The main interest of the Saint Germain en Laye team in relation to the Connecting Nature roadshow was community outreach through activities for young and old alike in the Bel Air neighbourhood, a diverse and lively part of St Germain en Laye that is cut off from the main town centre and is the focus of the city’s development agenda. The base for our visit was the community centre known as House of Projects.  The MGLR attracted much attention by passers-by during its stop here and many events were organized around it. Activities included a natural candle-making event for all ages, a plant potting event for children, a networking event for local enterprises, an upcycled planter event ran by women of the community and an arts-based reflection opportunity which were all centred around the MGLR. Visitors such as local university students, the mayor, children and older people found themselves enjoying the shade of the MGLR while learning about Connecting Nature and it’s Nature-based Enterprises.

Our final roadshow stop was city of Genk – one of the Connecting Nature frontrunner cities – who were hosting the Connecting Nature Impact Summit. The Mobile Green Living Room (MGLR) nestled comfortably by the main entrance to the event – the impressive Thor Park, a transformed mine site. Not only could the 200 delegates enjoy the shade and quiet of the MGLR, but other visitors too – human and non-human! We witnessed nature in action as a duck nesting next to the MGLR sitting on its eggs on day one developed into parent duck and hatched ducklings on day two! We also captured a local woman celebrating her retirement with friends! Inside the venue we joined the events and shared our work and experiences from Connecting Nature over the past five years.

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