The concept of ecostreets became interesting for IGNITION when the team looked closer to ways of engaging citizens in spring 2021. It was in the middle of the COVID 19 crisis, where people started to get stressed and depressed by the restrictions to move around. There was a high demand for positive and comforting community experience. This situation coincided with an underspending in the project due to the inability to organize the originally planned physical interactions with stakeholders. At that time, citizens and other stakeholder engagement was also hindered by the lack of successfully implemented physical show cases of nature-based solutions; the Living Lab at Salford University was just about to take shape. Could ecostreets help to fill that gap?
During lock down, I’ve got two small children and it was really difficult to play in our gardens and we wanted more space and so on. So we want out into the alley but had constantly do a clear up beforehand.
Elena, Blooming Amazing Community Alley
The concept as such is not completely new; it can take different forms. In common is that local people are empowered to design themselves smaller streets, community backyards, all type of smaller unused or degraded places in their community. In the case of IGNITION, the particular focus is on nature-based solutions and climate change adaptation; community groups of an alleystreet or around a neighbourhood place put their heads together and discuss how these can be made greener and thereby provide a pleasant environment and social space.
The idea to test the ecostreet approach stems from results achieved in IGNITION’s citizens engagement survey and the park user survey. Citizens in Greater Manchester wish much more greenspaces and are willing to engage in their implementation and maintenance. In the local authority workshops, discussions also uncovered that the willingness of local communities can be an important source to tap in beyond the scarce municipal budgets and grant funding (Local authority report). But how can this potential be used in practice? There have rarely been any concrete examples in Greater Manchester, where citizens engage directly. Hence, the idea came up to test if the ecostreets approach could deliver a business model for this.