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Call: Assessing the socio-politics of nature-based solutions for more inclusive and resilient communities

Type of Fund Direct Management
Description of programme
"Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 6: Resilient, Inclusive, Healthy and Green Rural, Coastal and Urban Communities"

Places and people matter to the achievement of a more sustainable Europe. The Sustainable Development Goals and the ecological and digital transitions brought forward by the European Green Deal [[]] and digital strategy [[]], alongside the recent pandemic, bring challenges and opportunities that differ for different places and people. Rural (including mountains and sparsely populated areas) and coastal areas, play a key role in managing, protecting and using natural resources. The provision of both private and public goods from these areas depends on the resilience and attractiveness of rural and coastal communities and the capacity of people who live and work there to access a sufficient level of well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted deficiencies in digital infrastructures and economic opportunities that hamper resilience. Urban communities generally offer better access to many services but are also more vulnerable to supply-chain disruptions, as shown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, they have a key role to play in fostering sustainable production and consumption as major demand drivers. In all communities, social and behavioural drivers play an important role in enabling or slowing down transitions. Knowledge and innovative solutions need to be developed to enhance every community’s resilience and capacity to contribute to and benefit from the upcoming transitions in an economy that works for all territories and ensures a fair and just transition leaving no one behind.

Under this destination, transdisciplinary R&I with a strong social and behavioural sciences dimension, and attention to gender aspects, will foster a sustainable, balanced and inclusive development of rural [[R&I will support the implementation of an EU-level long-term vision for rural areas to be published in the 2nd quarter of 2021.]], coastal and urban areas in three different ways. Firstly, it will aim to increase our understanding of the differential impacts of climate, environmental, socio-economic and demographic changes on rural, coastal and urban areas in order to identify ways to turn these changes into equal opportunities for people wherever they live, enhancing territorial cohesion and enabling a just transition. Secondly, it will explore innovative ways to tailor policy responses to the place-based challenges identified at various levels of governance. Thirdly, it will support bottom-up community-led innovation to empower communities to develop, test and upscale solutions that answer global challenges in locally adapted ways. Achieving policy goals require providing people with more equitable access to the knowledge and skills required to make informed choices and be actively engaged in the sustainable and circular management of natural resources, from production or service provision to consumption. Rural, coastal and urban communities, in particular women, youth, the most vulnerable groups like indigenous people and those hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, need to see their labour conditions, quality of life and long-term socio-economic prospects improved in the context of major transitions and rising threats to climate, resources and health. Their capacity to drive community-led innovations must be enhanced and their resilience increased across the diversity of European territories including remote places such as mountains and sparsely populated areas. Mobilising the forces of digital transformation, start-up ecosystems, nature-based solutions, as well as social and policy innovation will facilitate necessary changes and support smart, environment and climate friendly and resilient lifestyles.

Activities under this destination are complementary to Cluster 2 activities with attention to spatial differences and specifics in relation with democracy (Destination ‘Innovative research on democracy and governance’), socio-economic transformations (Destination ‘Innovative research on social and economic transformation’) and cultural heritage (Destination ‘Innovative research on the European cultural heritage and the cultural and creative industries). They are also complementary to Cluster 5’s Destination ‘Cross-sectoral solutions for the climate transition’ on cities and communities that should explore place-based approaches to climate, energy and mobility specifically for all places.

To maximise the intended impacts and to ensure uptake by the communities, actions in the cluster should aim for high standards of transparency and openness for the solutions developed, going beyond ex-post documentation of results and extending to aspects such as assumptions, processes, models and data during the life of projects.

Expected impacts

Proposals for topics under this destination should set out a credible pathway to contributing to resilient, inclusive, healthy and green rural, coastal and urban communities and more specifically one or several of the following expected impacts:

  • Rural, coastal and urban areas are developed in a sustainable, balanced and inclusive manner thanks to a better understanding of the environmental, socio-economic, behavioural, cultural and demographic drivers of change as well as deployment of digital, nature-based, social and community-led innovations.
  • Rural, coastal and urban communities are empowered to act for change, better prepared to achieve climate neutrality, adapt to climate change, and turn digital and ecological transitions into increased resilience to various types of shocks, good health and positive long-term prospects, including jobs, for all including women, young people and vulnerable groups.
  • Rural communities are equipped with innovative and smarter solutions that increase access to services, opportunities and adequate innovation ecosystems, including for women, youth and the most vulnerable groups, improve attractiveness and reduce the feeling of being left behind, even in the most remote locations like mountains.
  • The sustainable development of coastal areas including coastal protection and resilience reaps the benefits of social, digital and community-led innovations, to deliver nature-based and scientifically validated solutions to existing coastal socio-economic and environmental threats. In this way, applications of new social, economic and governance frameworks are enabled.
  • Tourism, recreational and leisure activity development in natural and coastal areas respects long-term environmental carrying capacity, and social goals.
  • Urban and peri-urban communities – including the most vulnerable individuals and families – can access, afford and choose healthier, nutritious and environmental-friendly food.

When considering their impact, proposals also need to assess their compliance with the “Do No Significant Harm” principle [[as per Article 17 of Regulation (EU) No 2020/852 on the establishment of a framework to facilitate sustainable investment (EU Taxonomy Regulation)]] according to which the research and innovation activities of the project should not be supporting or carrying out activities that make a significant harm to any of the six environmental objectives of the EU Taxonomy Regulation.

Topics under this destination will have impacts in the following impact areas of the Horizon Europe strategic plan for 2021-2024 [[[Link to the strategic plan]]]: “Climate change mitigation and adaptation”; “Enhancing ecosystems and biodiversity on land and in water”; “Sustainable food systems from farm to fork”; “Good health and high-quality accessible healthcare”; “A resilient EU prepared for emerging threats”; “A competitive and secure data-economy”; and “Inclusive growth and new job opportunities”.

Link Link to Programme
Assessing the socio-politics of nature-based solutions for more inclusive and resilient communities
Description of call
"Assessing the socio-politics of nature-based solutions for more inclusive and resilient communities"

Expected Outcome:

A successful proposal will contribute to the EU’s goal of leading just digital, economic and ecological transitions that will leave no one behind, supporting in particular European Green Deal priorities such as the biodiversity strategy for 2030. R&I will contribute to develop rural, coastal and urban areas in a sustainable, balanced and inclusive manner thanks to the deployment of nature-based solutions (NBS) and to a better understanding of the environmental, socio-economic, behavioural and cultural drivers of change. R&I will also further support the empowerment of communities to deploy NBS to adapt to climate change and turn digital and ecological transitions into increased resilience, well-being and positive long-term prospects, such as jobs for all (including for women, young people and vulnerable groups).

Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • Enhanced contribution of nature-based solutions (NBS) to social and economic targets, especially in vulnerable communities and notably regarding the transformative change needed to address the biodiversity and climate crises.
  • New NBS governance models and co-creation approaches and tools, as well as NBS design and technologies that enhance social benefits while providing ecological and economic benefits.
  • NBS are better suited to respond to different socio-political contexts and have higher replicability in the diverse environmental, economic and social conditions across Europe.


Nature-based solutions (NBS) are already being delivered with increasing evidence on their effectiveness, but implementation issues persist, hindering NBS uptake and upscale. There is a need to move beyond seeing the implementation challenge as primarily a technical issue, to develop our understanding of the economic, social, political, moral and cultural dimensions of designing and implementing NBS.

Most of the available approaches seem inadequate to fully take into consideration synergies and trade-offs among different actions, notably in what concerns the social and cultural benefits of NBS. They often also fail to understand the social, political and institutional contexts and the material and discursive elements that shape NBS implementation. This, in turn, affects the long-term success of NBS, notably in contributing to the transformative change needed to address the biodiversity and climate crises. This understanding is particularly crucial when implementing NBS to support vulnerable communities and regions to cope with transformative change in old-industrialised, low-income, outermost or disaster-hit areas. NBS can also contribute to addressing inequities and well-being in communities and regions who need it most, especially in terms of the post-COVID19 recovery. Additionally, our understanding of how diverse actors – who may operate at different scales and through multiple networks – are engaged in the development and implementation of NBS is still limited, especially when the deployment of NBS implies collaboration across different regions, administrative areas or simply different types of land owners.

The successful proposals should:

  • Gain a wider understanding of the role of actors involved in NBS, considering: a) particular groups of actors that have been under-researched (e.g. land holders such as churches, charitable organizations, educational establishments, utilities, etc.); b) sectors of the economy (e.g. agriculture, forestry, tourism, finance, etc.) and c) landscapes (e.g. coastal areas, river catchments, wetlands, etc.);
  • Investigate how different NBS designs and governance can contribute to environmental justice, prevent environmental racism and gentrification, insure the inclusion and active participation of women, youth, minority groups, immigrant communities, etc.;
  • Develop innovative governance models: a) exploring different forms of engagement, inclusion and stewardship; b) enabling the breaking of silos in public administration and between different administrative domains; and c) tackling other legal, management and administrative issues;
  • Propose ways in which NBS governance and design can contribute to transformative change and to a just transition in support of the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Understand and propose solutions to functional conflicts in land-use for better and more integration between NBS, land-use planning and other (possibly conflicting) sectors, their policies and planning processes;
  • Explore governance techniques (e.g. standards, certification, incentives, subsidies, etc.) that develop private and voluntary governance alongside formal regulatory and planning powers, with a view to mainstreaming NBS in the public and private sectors.
  • Identify the possibilities for, and limits to, the full co-creation approach in NBS (including co-design, co-implementation, co-maintenance and co-monitoring), their underlying governance arrangements and instruments;
  • Provide approaches based on citizen science, big data or artificial intelligence tools to better communicate the science of NBS and promote citizen engagement in the co-creation, co-implementation and co-monitoring of NBS;
  • Understand how the meanings and values attached to nature in urban, rural, coastal, periurban or post-industrial areas affect the long-term success of NBS. To this end, investigate what counts as nature, what is valued and why this varies amongst individuals and communities as well as how this can be taken into account in the development of NBS.
  • Investigate the impact of citizens’ perceptions and expectations towards NBS on management decisions and delivery of ecosystem services, while considering also the role of NBSs in generating new kinds of connections and values for nature and with what consequences.

Proposals should address all of the above points.

Proposals should bring together from the start multiple types of scientific expertise in both natural sciences and social sciences and humanities (e.g. geography, sociology, political ecology, behavioural sciences, anthropology, philosophy, etc). In particular, this topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines.

Projects should seek to contribute to the New European Bauhaus initiative by supporting the green and digital transitions in communities’ living environments through merging sustainability, inclusiveness and quality of experience. Small-scale pilots could be envisaged to explore NBS which are innovative either in their functional scope, socio-economic reach, integrative approaches or application in new settings.

Applicants should create synergies with projects under the same topic and other relevant ongoing or up-coming projects, notably the Horizon 2020 NBS project portfolio and its task forces; HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-05: The economics of nature-based solutions: cost-benefit analysis, market development and funding; HORIZON-CL6-2021-BIODIV-01-06: Nature-based solutions, prevention and reduction of risks and the insurance sector; HORIZON-CL6-2022-BIODIV-01-03: Network for nature: multi-stakeholder dialogue platform to promote nature-based solutions; HORIZON-CL6-2022-COMMUNITIES-02-02-two-stage: Developing nature-based therapy for health and well-being; HORIZON-CL6-2021-COMMUNITIES-01-06: Inside and outside: educational innovation with nature-based solutions. To this end, proposals should include dedicated tasks and appropriate resources for coordination measures, foresee joint activities and joint deliverables.

Proposals should ensure that all evidence, information and project outputs will be accessible through the Oppla portal (the EU repository for NBS).

Social innovation is recommended when the solution is at the socio-technical interface and requires social change, new social practices, social ownership or market uptake.

In order to achieve the expected outcomes, international cooperation is strongly encouraged, in particular with the Latin American and Caribbean region and the USA.

Link Link to Call
Thematic Focus Research & Innovation, Technology Transfer & Exchange, Capacity Building, Cooperation Networks, Institutional Cooperation, Clustering, Development Cooperation, Economic Cooperation, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Natural Resources, Agriculture & Forestry, Fishery, Food, Administration & Governance, Rural & Peripheral Development, Regional Development & Regional Planning, Demographic Change, Migration, Equal Rights, Human Rights, People with Disabilities, Social Inclusion, Health, Social Affairs, Sports, Employment & Labour Market, Competitiveness, SME, Digitisation, ICT, Telecommunication, Disaster Prevention, Resiliance, Risk Management, Climate, Climate Change, Environment & Biodiversity
Funding area EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Origin of Applicant EU Member States
Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Eligible applicants Research Institution, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, SMEs (between 10 and 249 employees), NGO / NPO, University, Enterprise (more than 250 employees or not defined), Lobby Group / Professional Association / Trade Union, Public Services, Microenterprises (fewer than 10 employees), Start Up Company, Education and Training Centres, Federal State / Region / City / Municipality / Local Authority, National Government
Applicant details

eligible non-EU countries:

  • countries associated to Horizon Europe
At the date of the publication of the work programme, there are no countries associated to Horizon Europe. Considering the Union’s interest to retain, in principle, relations with the countries associated to Horizon 2020, most third countries associated to Horizon 2020 are expected to be associated to Horizon Europe with an intention to secure uninterrupted continuity between Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. In addition, other third countries can also become associated to Horizon Europe during the programme. For the purposes of the eligibility conditions, applicants established in Horizon 2020 Associated Countries or in other third countries negotiating association to Horizon Europe will be treated as entities established in an Associated Country, if the Horizon Europe association agreement with the third country concerned applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

  • low-and middle-income countries

Legal entities which are established in countries not listed above will be eligible for funding if provided for in the specific call conditions, or if their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority.

Specific cases:

  • Affiliated entities - Affiliated entities are eligible for funding if they are established in one of the countries listed above.
  • EU bodies - Legal entities created under EU law may also be eligible to receive funding, unless their basic act states otherwise.
  • International organisations - International European research organisations are eligible to receive funding. Unless their participation is considered essential for implementing the action by the granting authority, other international organisations are not eligible to receive funding. International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or Associated Country are eligible to receive funding for ‘Training and mobility’actions and when provided for in the specific call conditions.
Project Partner Yes
Project Partner Details

Unless otherwise provided for in the specific call conditions , legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes:

  • at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State;and
  • at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.
Further info

Proposal page limits and layout:

The application form will have two parts:

  • Part A to be filled in directly online  (administrative information, summarised budget, call-specific questions, etc.)
  • Part B to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system

Page limit - Part B: 45 pages

Type of Funding Grants
Financial details
Expected EU contribution per projectThe Commission estimates that an EU contribution of around EUR 6.00 million would allow these outcomes to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of a proposal requesting different amounts.
Indicative budgetThe total indicative budget for the topic is EUR 12.00 million.
Typ of ActionResearch and innovation actions (RIA)
Funding rate100%
Submission Proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funding & Tenders Portal Electronic Submission System. Paper submissions are NOTpossible.

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