Nature’s Way is an AHRC/UKRI funded 18-month project. It aims to use design as an action research method to co-create ways of accessing and sharing otherwise disconnected or not-readily-available knowledge, resources, and best practice of innovating NbS for health and wellbeing.
The ultimate goal is to empower communities, organizations, and individuals to innovate, develop and engage in nature-based activities for public health and health and social care following COVID-19.
Role: Research support, Service Design, Ui/Ux, Branding
Nature based Solutions (NbS) and actions, such as therapy gardens and walking groups, have been considered a clinically valid option to increase exercise, improve mental health and reduce obesity for some time. It has been listed in both the Public Health White Paper (Department for Health, 2010) and the 25 year Environment Plan as a strategic priority and there is a growing body of evidence on their effectiveness (for examples, see our further reading list below). These show an increasing interest in supporting NbS as an accessible, cost-effective and sustainable addition to existing treatments.
Despite this, NbS for health and wellbeing has not yet been adopted widely. The knowledge, skills and resources to develop NbS rarely extend beyond the landscape/environmental sector into areas such as public health or social care. This could be a barrier for less resourceful communities who do not have equal physical, cultural social access to natural spaces.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted more than ever the importance of being outdoors to people’s mental and physical health. It made stark the inequality of access to green spaces. COVID-19 has also seen a surge in community activity and collective aspiration to ensure green recovery after the pandemic. Wider NbS adoption has the potential to help answer some of the urgent public health and wellbeing challenges in the post-COVID world.
The Nature’s Way project aims to support the wider adoption of grassroots NbS projects through co–creating and sharing local knowledge and methodologies. The project combines design thinking, landscape architecture, healthcare, policy, housing, city planning, technology, and volunteering and community action.
Our activities and outcomes included:
A co-created method (processes, tools and guidance) that enables people to innovate effective NbS interventions
Two projects in Walsall and Bradford working in close partnerships with local communities in these two areas.
An open innovation platform focussing on NbS development and knowledge sharing.
Journal and conference papers examining the role of design thinking in NBS innovation.
Our approach to this project draws key aspects from service design, landscape architecture and community action. This comes from our hypothesis that NbS for health and wellbeing needs to consider the specifics of place, the needs and motivations of the people (and other beings) it will affect, and the voices of the community it seeks to serve in order for it to be effective and sustainable. This integrated approach will develop through participatory action research, where we learn through doing, reflecting and iterating.
We also are engaging with people in the NbS space, from national policymakers to hyperlocal innovators, through interviews, co-creation workshops, roundtables, user testing and field visits etc. Together with a literature review, we hope to build a comprehensive understanding of the system and barriers currently facing communities who wish to set up their own NbS innovation.
The knowledge needed by community groups to start, maintain and develop NbS for health and wellbeing is holistic and diverse. Current resources struggle to address the specificity, context-driven and dynamic nature of knowledge needs and are often in formats that are barriers to those with lower literacy. The most useful sources of knowledge come from sharing experiences between groups, demonstrating that they are not just knowledge consumers but producers. However, these can be siloed. They can also be harder to access for those who are not already involved, exacerbating exclusions.
How might we create a space to share NbS experiences and knowledge in order to expand the dynamic knowledge-sharing culture that already exists in community based NbS?
Our platform seeks to be a co-created living library of experience-based tacit knowledge. This will bring together knowledge from the diverse experiences of people and groups working in nature, communities and health & well being, in bitesize, accessible and engaging formats to encourage anyone who wants to start or improve a NbS project.
Content may range from case studies, resource recommendations or informative blogs. Information will be structured in an intuitive, human-centric way that can serve as building blocks for projects, while keeping in mind that no one size fits all.
For new starters or the curious it should aim to inspire and provide a starting point, while acting as a ‘first step’ to foster collaboration between more experienced groups.
This project is based on a partnership between:
This project is funded by: