UrbanByNature South Eastern Europe Hub: Webinar #5 Recap

Two young people water plants in a raised bed.

Evaluating Social Impacts of Nature-based Solutions

Did you miss our fifth UrbanByNature South Eastern Europe webinar? Let’s briefly recap what happened:

Ana Mitić-Radulović, President of the Management Board of Centre for Experiments in Urban Studies - CEUS moderated the event. She re-introduced the CLEVER Cities Project and the UrbanByNature South Eastern Europe Hub, which serve to help cities grow capacities and learn about facilitating nature-based solutions (NBS). This included an explanation of step 6 of the UrbanByNature methodology, MONITOR, in which administrators of NBS projects use priorly identified indicators to monitor and evaluate results, specifically reflecting on the evaluation of the co-creation process and social impacts of NBS.

Israa H. Mahmoud, Assistant Professor at the Laboratorio di Simulazione Urbana, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies of Politecnico di Milano Italy, then offered the first presentation, reflecting on her work and research in green corridors and NBS. She coordinated the CLEVER Cities Project for the City of Milan, which along with local stakeholders, has implemented an urban park in a social housing neighborhood, green roofs and walls in residential areas, and green walls and green spaces at a train stop. While discussing the CLEVER Co-creation Guidance, Israa repeatedly stressed the importance of “learning by doing” within the NBS process. This flexible approach allowed for project redesign when necessary as well as thoughtful consideration of the relationship between the NBS projects and the local stakeholders.

Israa’s presentation provided valuable insights into how each of the CLEVER Front-runner Cities built on the experiences and learnings of its unique co-creation process to tailor social monitoring frameworks to the local contexts. As each city had distinct co-creation experiences which highlighted different challenges and stakeholder values, each city had unique indicators based on what was possible and valuable for the city. For instance, the co-creation process in Milan revealed that aspects of health, environmental justice and social cohesion are highly valued in NBS. Therefore, the monitoring questionnaires investigated how neighborhoods and communities were affected by the CLEVER NBS projects. 

During the Q&A, Israa was asked how these NBS spaces are appreciated by the communities. She explained that the co-monitoring results show that residents and stakeholders in Milan highly value the sense of ownership and engagement with NBS implementations. 


Afterwards, attendees heard from Iva Bedenko, an architect for the City Office for Economy, Environmental Sustainability, and Strategic Planning at the City of Zagreb, Croatia. She introduced the proGIreg program, a European Commission Horizon 2020 project, under which Zagreb is a Front Runner City. Through proGIreg, which funds productive green infrastructure for post industrial urban development, Zagreb has organized NBS in areas of abandoned industry, enabling residents to re-evaluate and re-claim these spaces. 

As a generalized, quantitative monitoring approach, Zagreb conducted a survey of local residents comparing those who interacted with proGIreg NBS projects with those who did not. The questionnaire considered the four aspects of human health, ecology, economy, and social inclusion as they relate to NBS. 

Iva also presented a more qualitative approach to NBS monitoring through the case study of a therapeutic garden used primarily by children and adults with disabilities. The co-design process involved meeting with therapists and professionals who work with the disabled users for whom the garden was intended. Finding appropriate methods to monitor this therapeutic garden was challenging because most of the users were either non-verbal or partially verbal, and therefore unable to personally respond to survey questionnaires. The City therefore developed a method of working with therapists and the verbal participants to generate a word cloud to understand the user experience with the garden. 

During the Q&A, a participant asked Iva if Zagreb had considered trying to express the impact in monetary terms. Iva clarified that the benefit of this project comes from the inclusion and health of the users rather than profit. However, the garden does likely provide an economic benefit in the form of mitigating other costs such as health care. 


The webinar recording is available on the CLEVER Cities Youtube Channel. For more information on upcoming events and to receive our monthly UrbanByNature Digest, fill out theUrbanByNature registration form.

About UrbanByNature

UrbanByNature is a facilitated expertise-sharing and capacity-building programme to empower local governments all around the world to harness the boundless potential of nature for sustainable urban development.  

The programme is hosted by theCitiesWithNature platform and has successfully been launched in Brazil, South Korea and the Caucasus as part of the Horizon 2020 project Connecting Nature. CLEVER Cities is expanding UrbanByNature’s global outreach by building bridges with the nature-based solutions communities inChina (jointly with Connecting Nature),Latin America andSouth Eastern Europe.


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The UrbanByNature programme is funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union under Grant Agreements No. 730222 and No. 776604. The sole responsibility for the content of this website lies within UrbanByNature and in no way reflects the views of the European Union.