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Start Park

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Reconnecting with nature
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NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS AWARDS: existing completed examples
Project title
Start Park
Full project title

Start Park: a scalable co-design process to build urban resilient ecosystems to climate change.

Start Park (SP) project addresses the challenge of the Climate Change (CC) adaptation through the building of a resilient community involved in the co-design of a set of green-blue infrastructure (GBI) for urban green areas, using a dedicated gamified approach.

What was the geographical scope of your project?
Florence, Prato, Lucca
Does your project address mainly urban or rural issues?
Mainly urban
Does your project refer to a physical transformation of the built environment or other types of transformations?
It refers to a physical transformation of the built environment ('hard investment')
Has your project benefited from EU programmes or funds?
Which or fund(s)? Provide the name of the programme(s)/fund(s), the strand/action line as relevant and the year.

We were subgranter of the Horizon H2020 Designscapes project in 2019 and 2020 (total amount financed 50k).

Has your project won an EU prize?
Your project is fully completed?
When was your project implemented?
How did you hear about the New European Bauhaus Prizes ?
Social media
On whose behalf are you submitting the application?
As a representative of an organisation, in partnership with other organisations
Please provide a summary of your project

Start Park (SP) is a design-based process aimed at deploying nature-based solutions to enhance the adaptation capabilities to climate change (CC) of urban green areas. We achieve this goal through citizens’ engagement, gamification, and co-design activities. Since its first conceptualization, SP has been developed with a fully bottom-up approach: born during a Climathon event in 2017, it was formalized as an urban co-design practice in January 2019. In 2020 and 2021, SP has been prototyped in the city of Prato and scaled in the city of Lucca for the H2020-funded project Designscapes.

The case study of Start Park represents a design process focused on both socio-cultural and technical aspects related to sustainable and ecological transition.

Some key results of the SP project: first, designing things with common value and related to both sustainable development and urban transformation activate non-competitive multi-stakeholders synergies within the urban ecosystems. Second, the SP concept development, the civic coalitions activated and its scalable blueprint give evidence to a win-win strategy in designing socio-technical innovations. Third, the main output of SP is a totally co-designed pre-feasibility study of the green urban area identified; therefore, SP acts as a device enabling public administrations to incorporate citizens-based projects in local urban planning, which are related to CC adaptation. Viceversa, it facilitates citizens' civic empowerment, non-formal education towards sustainable thinking, builds ownership, and a deeper sense of attachment to urban green areas, so that those areas are more willingly used, cared for, and maintained.

Please indicate the main themes of your project with 5 key words
collaborative design
urban green areas
community empowerment
nature-based solution
climate change adaptation
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of sustainability (including circularity) and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

In terms of social sustainability, the results of the SP process are driven by a collaborative design method for the redesign of the urban green area, thus it results in increased awareness of public administrations and citizens regarding the topic of CC. 

In terms of environmental sustainability, SP aims to regenerate urban green areas with the use of nature-based solutions (NBS), which can provide multiple benefits to citizens and society at large and are recognised as one of the most interesting tools for CC adaptation.

In terms of economical sustainability, the final result of the 6-months process is a complete redesign of the green spaces where green-blue infrastructures (GBI) are designed and prototyped. A pre-feasibility study is implemented and delivered to public administrations that can directly apply for financing the infrastructure phase.

Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

SP aims to connect people and urban green spaces via transferring scientific and technical knowledge about climate change adaptation strategies to citizens. Such an ambitious goal could not be reached without attractive and user-friendly communication and co-design tools. Specifically, during the past three years, the SP team has developed a scalable coordinated visual identity and has found a way to represent technical planimetry in an accessible, appealing, and designy way. Moreover, a card game with a set of illustrations to transfer to workshop participants GBI morphology and functions has been produced. To reach these objectives we designed and developed:

  • usable tools for co-design workshops: online - using software tools and online boards; offline - using service design tools with particular attention to ergonomic and usability features
  • accessible planimetry (see picture 1)
  • an illustrated GBI card game and short descriptions of elements that makes complex themes - climate change adaptation through GBI- understandable (see picture 2)
  • replicable coordinated visual identity 
  • placemaking activities through self-construction prototyping sessions (see picture 3)

In terms of experience’s quality, SP targets four main challenges: a) re-design green abandoned area, b) lack of citizens participation in CC adaptation, c) enhance the empowerment dimension of co-design processes and d) enable project replication through open-source materials. To reach these objectives we designed:

  • forms of on-the-ground engagement through active recruitment and multi-channel promotion and communication strategies (picture 6);
  • learning-by-doing workshops (see picture 4) - i.e. placemaking, co-creation workshop, gamified workshop - to transfer skills, get citizens involved in design green spaces, and spark bottom-up actions.
  • produced a series of open-source contents - i.e. SP white paper, brief presentation- to allow replication.
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of inclusion (equal opportunities, public participation, citizen engagement, co-design, universal design, accessibility, affordability, etc.) and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

The main challenge tackled by the project concerns spreading environmental awareness among European citizens through the co-design of urban green areas able to adapt to CC consequences. While co-designing a new set of GBIs, citizens participating in a Start Park project are asked to address social challenges that emerged by interviews and observation within the area in which the park is placed. With a user-centered approach, during the co-design sessions, actual and potential park users’ needs are constantly taken into consideration, firstly promoting the engagement and participation of a heterogeneous mix of citizens in terms of demographics and lifestyles, secondly using tailored ‘boundary objects’ to mediate among different levels of knowledge.   

In these terms, when SP has been prototyped in a city and scaled in another one SP team have been involving  “hard-to-reach targets” (people who are facing one or more kind of barriers in participating in co-design sessions) with “light” co-design events (called social animation) aimed at exploring participants’ needs and fostering conviviality between them and the team. Among the others, high school students, unaccompanied minors, refugees, elderlies and local activists have been involved in the SP process in Prato and Lucca.

Start Park registered the participation of 300 people, around 30% of whom were young people under 30. More than 605 people interacted with the project online. A great number of organizations were involved in both the processes in Prato and Lucca, which are engaged in the social field, or in the environmental and ecological field, but also in education and training.

Please explain how these three dimensions have been combined in your project.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary

Start Park aims at collaboratively redesigning urban green areas with the final goal of adapting them to Climate Change effects. Instead of using a top-down approach, this is done by involving the citizens and residents of the area with multiple events, so that the final asset of the park is completely decided by a co-design process that includes citizens and the municipality.

This is offered by a civic coalition – composed by a local not-for-profit organization, an environmental engineering’s SME and local public authorities –  through a co-design process that involves people in a playful way so that theyearn more awareness on the topic of CC, actions and tools to tackle it. By involving citizens in the design of their local park, SP allows the users to be creative, it also builds ownership and a deeper sense of attachment and care to that, so that the area is more willingly used by them.

This approach can be exemplary because of its open-source blueprint that enables the redesign of each city’s green area by the use of collaborative and inclusive approaches (picture 5). Also, SP modular architecture and universal service design tools can be applied for different CC-related issues: from water management to air pollution, from energy consumption to soil degradation.

Please give information on the results/impacts achieved by your project in relation to the category you apply for

Several outcomes were reached by the Start Park project since its conceptualization in 2019.The most important outputs are following summarized:

  • Received funding by the Italian Minister of Ecological Transition for the infrastructural implementation of the co-designed pre-feasibility study in Prato. Currently listed in the crowdsourcing public platform Prato Forest City;
  • Book chapter publication on SpringerLink;
  • Winning of two Designscapes Call (€ 50K grants);
  • Presented at the international conference "Design-led approaches to renewing public management and governance" organized by Politecnico of Milano, DESIS Lab and IRSPM.
  • About 300 participants involved in all the events, among which 30% under 18+, multiple representatives of local associations working in the field of social promotion or environmental awareness;
  • Two Start Park process implemented respectively in Prato and Lucca (IT);
  • Around 4k online users reached via social media and a Facebook group;
  • Creation of a Start Park YouTube channel as a dissemination tool;
  • Creation of 2 network of stakeholders in the context of Prato and Lucca;
  • Winning of Mediterranean Climate Heroes Contest 2020 by  CMI-Marseille;
  • Winning of Climathon Awards 2021 by Climate-KIC as “Most Improved Idea” since 2015;
  • Definition of a multi-dimensional impact measurement tool for SP (SP factor) which will enable teams in evaluating the outcomes of past, present and future SP replications;
  • Development of an open-source SP Kit in order to replicate and diffuse the process;
  • Development of a card-game (SP game) in order to leverage the gamification effect as means of learning and engagement for  different stakeholders’ target;
  • Development of 2 pre-feasibility studies of co-designed Start Park in Prato e Lucca in order to advocate and enable policy makers to activate infrastructuring processes.
Please explain how citizens and civil society were involved in the in the design and/or implementation of the project.
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.

Citizens benefited from the SP project in different ways that range from climate change awareness to active and creative practices thanks to both the co-design and design thinking attitude transferred during SP workshops. As a matter of fact, by means of the SP gamification experience, citizens have co-designed enhanced outdated design and architecture of city greenspaces through the use of nature-based solutions while being transferred knowledge and design mindset. Through SP, citizens have engaged with a way to influence local policy makers by means of both co-design thinking activities and community building and learning experiences. 

Civil society has been involved in different ways in order to affect the entire urban ecosystem. In particular: 1) Local civil associations become part of the SP partnership, acquired knowledge about a SP process and are ready to replicate an innovative approach in their local context; 2) Commercial activities, provided services during co-design events  generating socio-economic impact and micro-economies; 3) Public Administrations (PA) exploited the potential of citizen engagement around sustainable urban policies.

Also, educational and disseminative activities took as a response to the covid-19 urgency to re-design activities, were: 

  • Start Park Quiz, an informative format encompassed remote educational and participatory activities launched on SP social media channels with the aim to engage the digital audience of Start Park during the covid-19 lockdown. 
  • Co-creation activities for the GBIs rapid prototyping phase specifically targeted high-school students and unaccompanied minors to freely imagine a summer festival for their peers to be held in the future Start Park. In order to implement this activity, the SP team proposed an online role-playing activity through the use of a remote collaboration software (picture 6).
Please explain what kind of global challenges the project addressed by providing local solutions

On the one hand, Start Park tackles the global challenge of CC adaptation and sustainable urban water management.

On the other hand, it addresses the challenges of developing sustainable cities while educating citizens on climate-related issues and solutions (see Sustainable Development Goals n°3-11-13).

Start Park provides glocal scalable solutions: a complete toolkit to replicate the process and theoretical knowledge to support local citizens in co-designing a resilient pre-identified green area with a new set of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), to make their local parks more resistant to catastrofic weather events such as “water bombs”.

The project has already been prototyped and applied in two different areas, and it has proven to be easily scalable or this reason it can be applied to more areas and cities, especially where extreme events due to CC are more frequent.

Please highlight the innovative character of the project as compared to mainstream practices in the field of the project.

Start Park represents an innovative process that envisions a future where community-based practices can drive a culture-based resilient urban transformations. In particular, SP embeds a set of innovative services in its value proposition. 

First, the Start Park Card Game leverages gamification dynamics as a collaborative urban design thinking approach.

Second, the accessibility of our resilient urban transformation processes enable and engage citizens in both understanding and designing ecosystemic services in green-blue areas. 

Third, the architectural and engineering practices - e.g. development pre-feasibility studies, planimetry development and sharing, design and building of nature-based solution - are rethought through a collaborative design thinking approach.

Fourth, public bodies contribute as enablers and promoters of participatory and empowerment processes that link urban infrastructural transformation with sustainable design policies about the growing need of adapting urban ecosystems to climate change impacts. 

Last, the Start Park Factor creates a new framework to measure impact of participatory processes focused on sustainable urban development.

Please explain to the potential of transferring the projects’ results or learnings to other interested parties and contexts.
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.

First, thanks to EU-wide recognition gained, Start Park has the potential to connect with a wide network of actors, urban changemakers and catalysts of change across Europe. In particular, SP brings an innovative and replicable process throughout cities that has the potential to align public-private interests in developing sustainable infrastructural works, to engage and empower citizens in creative problem-solving while connecting green investors and facilitating public procurement processes. 

SP provides accessible tools – i.e. service blueprint with step-by-step process interaction, open source guidelines, replicable social business model – in order to update public-private technical departments with the nature-based paradigm and bring service design methodologies in public policies. SP trains local associations’ representatives and creates networks of actors able to replicate the model throughout Europe. 

SP gamification and design thinking tools might enhance the urban ecosystem accessibility to wicked-problems related to adaptation strategies toward CC. 

Moreover, through the SP game our design-based cooperative learning approach can be brought to primary and secondary schools as part of new interdisciplinary education models for a new generation of designers working towards systemic and sustainable transitions.

Is an evaluation report or any relevant documentation available?
If you would like to upload additional documentation, please upload it or write it below

- Start Park Guidelines - report submitted for Designscapes evaluation materials (ITA language)

- Pre-feasibility study Lucca Municipality (ITA language)

- Book chapter publication (ENG language - courtesy of authors)

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