In May 2021, the UrbanByNature Brazilian Nature-based Enterprise Mentoring and Exchange Programme funded by the Connecting Nature project was concluded. The programme was delivered by the nature-based enterprise OSMOS - a design and development studio fostering sustainable transitions - to Brazilian nature-based enterprises.
Six workshops were delivered with the participation of eight Brazilian enterprises. The workshops consisted of three-hour sessions hosted every two weeks from February to May 2021. The premise of the workshop series was that NBS introduces a new level of complexity to urban design processes. Lack of familiarity with the concept can result in difficulties to understand and overcome challenges in the design of NBS, convince investors of their value, implement projects and particularly to ensure that green interventions are well maintained. Urban practitioners of all kinds often need to acquire new skills or embrace a new role in the analysis, design and development process of NBS.
While Connecting Nature focused its efforts on supporting public authorities in the implementation of NBS, including the 10 cities involved in the project, UrbanByNature aimed to address the needs of nature-based enterprises in terms of capacity-building and skill-sharing, thereby improving their interface with the public sector. The programme aimed to provide engineers, architects, planners and scientists with complementary social design skills.
The mentoring and exchange initiative consisted of six workshops built around a popular design methodology known as the “Double Diamond”. The topics of each webinar were:
1) Launch: in this step, the programme explored how to better understand the characteristics of a NBS project.
2) Discover: this workshop covered tools and methods for better understanding the context of a NBS project, particularly in terms of engaging with users and stakeholders.
3) Define: this section was centered on techniques to narrow down the scope of a project to tangible action areas or themes.
4) Ideate: here the focus was to brainstorm ideas and solutions to address the themes defined in step 3.
5) Prototype: this workshop focused on transforming ideas into concrete solutions, which includes testing and prototyping.
6) Implement: exploring how to put the solutions into action.
The takeaways from each workshop were related to the topics presented. Each workshop had one to three guest presentations from Connecting Nature partners which covered topics such as data analysis and mapping, management of green spaces, funding and business models and green walls. Furthermore, each participant brought different technical knowledge and skills which were shared with other members of the group.
The involved Brazilian nature-based enterprises were all SMEs (largely 1-5 staff) from a diverse range of specialisations:
3 landscape architects
1 urban planner
2 GIS experts
and a representative from an advocacy and education organisation.
Most Brazilian NBEs had prior experience in NBS, and if not, gained a large portion of their income from NBS-related projects. None specialised in a particular form of NBS but their services covered GIS base mapping, tourism, education, general environmental management, water treatment and drainage, measures to mitigate urban heat islands, etc.
The final workshop event (the 7th meeting) in May 2021 served as a moment for reflection and exchange between European and Brazilian cities, as well as between Brazilian cities and enterprises. The involved Brazilian cities invited by ICLEI SAMS were Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Recife, Sorocaba, Londrina and Campinas. The aim of the meeting was to help identify opportunities for better collaboration and uptake of NBS within cities, facilitated by policy processes and the engagement of public authorities.
As a result of the mentoring workshops, the enterprises decided to continue their collaboration through a co-created local hub.
OSMOS and ICLEI Europe are now analysing how the mentoring programme can be redesigned to be delivered in the UrbanByNature Caucasus hub.
See below short testimonials from the participating enterprises on their experiences with the programme:
“The workshops were so inspiring that we, the NB enterprises, felt motivated to create a group in order to develop common strategies to promote our work, in a way that takes advantage of our complementary skills, aiming to offer our services to potential clients in a broader perspective where different NBS approaches can be combined to address the client’s demand.”
Aquaflora Meio Ambiente
“A very well structured and organised, yet flexible program, that used practical experiences from competent European counterparts to illustrate sound approaches to the implementation of private, governmental or community-based NbS initiatives. Keeps inspiring us all months after the completion of the programme!”
Founding Partner - Fluxus Design Ecológico
“The mentoring program offered by Osmos for Brazilian NBEs was very productive and inspiring. We had the opportunity to get to know in-depth examples of successful NBS applications around the world and broaden our horizons. And also the workshops, very dynamic! We made great contacts, met a lot of amazing people and even created our own group to work in partnership in Brazil.”
Paulo H. Silva Leme
Silva Leme Engineering