Collaborating for nature-based solutions: bringing research and practice together

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Nature-based solutions (NBS) is a relatively novel concept and real-world application has only started to proliferate in cities, which motivates addressing early attempts of cross-boundary collaboration for implementing NBS. The aim of this paper is to reflect about the process of transdisciplinary research-practice collaboration on NBS and its associated learnings, potentials and challenges. To do so, this paper reflects on one of the local urban-regional innovation partnerships within the Naturvation research project, which included urban planning practitioners, researchers and public and private organisations, and aimed to understand what NBS can achieve in cities and how to advance implementation through collaboration. This paper is based on embedded research and uses participant observation as methodological inspiration. It draws on two streams of literature to frame the reflections; (a) transdisciplinary research, to reflect on the collaborative process of research and practice engaging in learning and knowledge co-production and (b) boundary concepts, to capture the boundary-spanning nature of NBS. Observations, grey literature and the “network compass” [Schneider, F., T. Tribaldos, C. Adler, R. O. Biggs, A. de Bremond, T. Buser, C. Krug et al. 2021. “Co-Production of Knowledge and Sustainability Transformations: A Strategic Compass for Global Research Networks.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 49: 127–142.] were used ex-post to identify and map fields of action and associated potentials and challenges. The process included joint problem understanding and building relations, visioning and creation of roadmaps, targeted collaboration and horizontal learning. This paper suggests that future research-practice collaboration on NBS should focus on relational capacities and communicative skills, and integrating joint reflection and learning as central components for co-producing knowledge. Furthermore, transdisciplinary collaboration requires facilitation and management skills, which should be considered an area of expertise and not taken for granted.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLocal Environment
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023 Sept 13

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Free keywords

  • nature-based solutions
  • transdisciplinarity
  • collaboration
  • knowledge co-production
  • learning
  • reflection


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