As an innovation project, IGNITION faces a range of challenges in design and implementation. Much of the value from projects such as these is identifying, overcoming, and sharing learning on these challenges. Nearly 2 years into the project, the UIA external expert has reviewed the project, what has changed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps taken to adapt and over-come challenges.
Despite political priorities changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, green issues and IGNITION’s focus on climate adaptation are still high on the political agenda in Greater Manchester. Steps have been taken to build awareness of nature-based solutions with citizens and businesses, to replicate awareness of IGNITION at the Mayoral-level. Progress has been made in terms of moving away from a perception that IGNITION is simply a standalone project, towards it being viewed as a new approach to implementing nature-based solutions at scale across the region. Challenges persist in effectively inspiring and engaging the 8 municipalities of the region that are not project partners.
The Living Lab and financial advisory support has been tendered, awarded and work is progressing well. The most difficult part of the procurement of innovative tasks has been mastered, and valuable lessons have been learned.
Internal organizational arrangements
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted internal collaboration substantially, as face-to-face collaboration was not possible. Digital communication has posed many challenges or exacerbated existing ones, such as differing engagement levels of partners. At the same time it offers opportunities, e.g., spatial distance between partners is no longer a challenge.
Participative approach for co-implementation
IGNITION overcame COVID-19 challenges by embracing digital tools during participatory activities. Accessability of stakeholders has been both eased and hampered depending on the specific groups, and whether these have been engaged before the pandemic or only afterwards. Co-creation is definitely constrained, though important tasks had been done before the pandemic. The availability of tangible results (Living Lab, NBS Evidence Base) has significantly supported stakeholder engagement.
Monitoring and evaluation
Monitoring is well developed. A challenge is still the link between the results of IGNITION and measuring their contribution to Greater Manchester’s climate resilience. However, the project is well on the way to solving this challenge.
Communication with target beneficiaries and users
As with other challenges, the pandemic has hampered communication with the target beneficiaries. However digital communication has offered opportunities to reach them in different, creative ways. Reaching out to potential investors to convince them to invest in nature-based solutions is still a challenge, which needs to be solved with additional business and increased use of the evidence base.
Enabling upscaling is a major objective and integral part of IGNITION and is well covered. For the future, the team needs to keep in mind, that political and legal conditions can change. This may have an impact on developed business models, which therefore need to be robust and adaptable.
Find out more about Birgit and her work to support changing climate and other challenges into opportunities.