Problem Addressed

This solution was sourced in response to UKGBC’s Innovation Challenge: “How can communities and local authorities implement, maintain, and assess the impact of nature-based solutions to enhance climate resilience?”

For projects to successfully address global societal challenges, this requires collaborative governance approaches that can only be built through co-production and co-creation. Communities, places, and organisations are composed of the intangible – stories, memories, values, cultures – and the tangible – people, nature, objects, buildings, towns. We must understand and work with these elements to co-create transformative pathways and patterns towards inclusion, sustainability, and resilience. While the language of co-production and co-creation is increasingly being used in projects, turning this approach into reality is either weak or non-existent in practice.

Solution Overview

EM|Path is a not-for-profit social enterprise that uses a range of people-centred co-production and engagement techniques to support sustainable community development and environmental protection. EM|Path works across Europe with organisations and groups to help them develop sustainable and inclusive projects, design outputs, conflict resolution and team building.

EM|Path works with cities to prepare the ground for meaningful co-production. At the heart of delivering this are the fundamental principles of slow research, creative thinking, and contextual understanding that are key for enabling stakeholders to express and connect the tangible and intangible factors that matter and that build the requisite trust and shared vision. Delivering the EM|Path approach requires time and ongoing commitment by all stakeholders to build lasting, sustainable and just transitions across the multitude of challenges facing us.

The EM|Path Approach is a co-creative, arts-based engagement process developed within the Connecting Nature project to support cities in the design, delivery and stewardship of nature-based solutions. The EM|Path Approach uses several methods – memory work, immersion in nature, embodied reflection, eco-therapy, and body mapping – to help capture lived experiences and build our stories in and with nature. It works with communities and stakeholders to co-create meaniful connections through emotional mapping, empathetic connections, embodied reflections, embedding shared learning and knowledge and empowering communities.

EM|Path tailors its offer to the specific context and needs of each project, to provide the essential foundations for spatial, institutional, and local development transformations that respect social and environmental justice.

The investment will depend on the time, goals, context, number of stakeholders, degree/depth of consultation, and could be in the range of 15%-20% of budget.

Verification & Case Study

Via the Connecting Nature project, the EM|Path Approach has been evaluated in terms of the following Co-Production Principles: inclusivity and diversity of actors; different types of knowledge and sharing of that knowledge; and legitimacy due to credibility of knowledge and trusted process.

Case Study

The EM|Path approach in A Coruna, was designed and delivered as two separate activities. In June 2021, 12 local citizens who are involved in the municipal Urban Garden, reflected on the role of nature in the past. Applying the methods of memory work, immersion in nature, and a short eco-therapy mindfulness session, the participants captured and shared their past feelings and connection to nature. A follow-up session, focusing on the individuals’ present experiences was completed in November 2021, with participants completing both individual and a collective body-map. Across both sessions, participants were supported by two artists – a poet and an illustrator – who were invited to make a creative response to work. The artists became central to the facilitation of the exercises, bringing their own expertise and cultural knowledge to the process. The sessions were carried out in Spanish and Galician; the outputs – the memory work and body maps of the participants, as well as the illustrations and poem by the local artists/facilitators – were exhibited in the Agora Building (Community centre).

A Coruna have shared that the reason for many of the gardeners to have a plot was the will to reconnect with their memories of a time when they felt closer to nature. In this sense, the EM|Path Approach showed how the urban gardens (Connecting Nature exemplar) help people connect with their emotions and feelings, recovering the agricultural heritage, and showing the will of citizens to be more in contact with nature and have more nature in their city.

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