Scientific publications

Four years of Co-creation with stakeholders: What did we learn about its added value in Urban Planning? Insights from CLEVER Cities Milan three Urban Living Labs.

Publication date: June 2023



Since 2018, the Horizon 2020 project CLEVER Cities has been promoting an inclusive co-creation pathway in order to support urban greening regeneration strategies towards a more participatory approach and the achievement of shared governance routines in local decision-making processes. Throughout the development of the methodological framework of the project, a special attention was given to social inclusivity and engagement of different stakeholders: public and local governments, the private sector, academia, and citizens. Supported by the four years long evidence-based experience from the Milanese urban context and three different Urban Living Labs (ULLs), this research article develops a further understanding for the shared governance processes within co-creation processes with consideration to citizen participation and its collateral added values in urban planning methods and practice. The project since its’ initiation has also proven multiple added values in adopting Nature-based Solutions (NBS) within public participation processes and raising awareness about their evident environmental benefits as well as collaborative governance, spatial and financial challenges. Based on a social monitoring methodology during the pre-greening phase, an in-depth understanding is further elaborated about the shared governance mechanisms and mainstreaming challenges of adopting NBS in the areas of interventions. Through an ex-ante verification of NBS ownership, stakeholder engagement, challenges of mainstreaming NBS co-creation in urban planning policies, this article sheds the light on the co-creation pathways added values in medium-long term urban regeneration processes.

CLEVER Cities: l’esperienza di co-creazione delle NBS nel parco del Giambellino 129

Publication date: May 2023

Authors:  Barone, Emilia; Mahmoud, ISRAA HANAFI ELSAYED HANAFI; Morello, Eugenio; Vona, Chiara


Per promuovere strategie di rinverdimento urbano tramite Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) il progetto CLEVER Cities mette in campo strumenti di co-creazione completa, dalla co-progettazione alla co-piantumazione fino alla co-gestione. L’esperienza partecipativa nella realizzazione del Parco Giambellino 129 a Milano, consente di tracciare un bilancio e delineare prospettive per consolidare l’approccio in future progettualità di rinverdimento urbano.

A Proposal of a Tool to Assess Psychosocial Benefits of Nature-Based Interventions for Sustainable Built Environment

Publication date: October 2022

Authors:  Sean Bradley (1), Israa H. Mahmoud (2), and Alessandro Arlati (3)
(1) Groundwork London, CLEVER Cities Programme, Groundwork London, 18-21 Morley Street, London SE1 7QZ, UK; (2) Laboratorio di Simulazione Urbana Fausto Curti, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Politecnico di Milano; (3) Department of Urban Planning and Regional Development, HafenCity Universität Hamburg, Henning-Voscherau-Platz 1, 20457 Hamburg, Germany


Within the framework of CLEVER Cities Horizon 2020, London, Milan, and Hamburg are putting in place nine Urban Living Labs in order to implement Nature-based Solutions that address urban challenges in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods. In this article, the means by which co-creation processes and pathways may lead to innovation in governance structures are considered. Through a comparative case study analysis, this research aims to identify integrated, collaborative governance frameworks that are complex and adaptive, as well as reflect the actual changes in governance in cities. Herein, ULLs are intended not just as a vehicle for place-based urban regeneration but also as a starting point for collaborative governance. In this article, it is considered how co-creation pathways may lead to innovation in current local governance structures and achieve transformational change. This paper analyzes the collaborative governance dynamic models at three points in time in the three cities. It is also considered how co-creation pathways may lead to innovation in current local governance structures and achieve transformational change.

Localizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Through Co-creation of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) Towards an Assessment Framework for Local Governments

Publication date: August 2022

Authors:  Israa H. Mahmoud & Eugenio Morello (1); Daniela Rizzi & Bettina Wilk (2)
(1) Laboratorio di Simulazione Urbana Fausto Curti, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Politecnico di Milano; (2) ICLEI European Secretariat, Nature-based Solutions and Biodiversity

This chapter discusses the role of co-creation processes related to Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It investigates the triangulation of NBS, co-creation and the SDGs from the lessons learned in NBS Horizon 2020-funded project CLEVER Cities (See with the aim to shed light on the role of co-creation pathways in achieving multiple co-benefits produced by NBS through the lens of the SDGs. This entry is divided in three main parts, discussing: (1) how NBS contribute to achieving the SDGs, (2) ways to deploy co-creation of NBS in Urban Living Labs (ULLs), (3) how co-creation on the local level can help achieve the SDGs (through macro categories of analysis and micro-level indicators). Finally, this entry concludes that NBS co-creation processes could benefit from embedding SDGs as integral part of their methodological framework. Aligning with universally recognized targets and speaking a common language, i.e., 2030 Agenda, would help to break silos in local authorities’ agendas and boost alliances and partnerships, leading to societal transformative change.

A General Procedure to Identify Indicators for Evaluation and Monitoring of Nature-based Solution Projects

Publication date: May 2022

Authors: Rödl, A., Arlati, A

Affiliations: TUHH, HCU


Finding appropriate indicators for monitoring or evaluating the impact or performance of nature-based solution projects can be challenging. Indicators should be meaningful, clear, understandable, measurable, and easy to use. Although many suggestions for indicators are available, the practitioner may be overwhelmed in selecting specific indicators for his or her project. Therefore, our paper proposes an easy-to-use and structured procedure for selecting indicators for each type of NbS project. The user is guided step by step, the selection process is accelerated and becomes reproducible. However, the application of the indicator selection procedure is not limited to NbS projects. It can be applied to any assessment or monitoring task that requires appropriate indicators - e.g. for corporate or project sustainability assessment and reporting.

Nature-based Solutions for Sustainable Urban Planning: Greening Cities, Shaping Cities

Publication date: February 2022

Authors: Israa H. Mahmoud (1), Eugenio Morello (1), Fabiano Lemes de Oliveira (1), Davide Geneletti (2)

Affiliations: Politecnico di Milano - Department of Architecture and Urban Studies (1), University of Trento (2)


This book provides insights on analytical methods, planning strategies and shared governance tools for successfully integrating Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in the urban planning practice.


The selected contributions present real-life application cases, in which the mainstreaming of NBS are investigated according to two main challenges: the planning and designing of physical and spatial integration of NBS in cities on one side, and the implementation of suitable shared governance models and co-creation pathways on the other. 


Chapter 5 is available open access under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. More info.

Citizen engagement for urban biodiversity through NBS: the CLEVER Cities experience (in Italian)

Publication date: January 2022

Authors: Chiara Vona (1), Israa Mahmoud (2), Maria Benciolini (1), Mauro Belardi (1), Marina Trentin (3), Iliriana Sejdullahu (3)
Affiliations: Cooperativa Sociale Eliante Onlus (1), Politecnico di Milano - Department of Architecture and Urban Studies (2), Ambiente Italia S.r.l. (3)

The EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 recognizes the enhancement of urban green spaces as fundamental for the maintenance of biodiversity and ecological connection in our cities. This article draws attention to the Milanese experience of involving citizens in monitoring the co-benefits of nature in the city...Continue reading

Setting the Social Monitoring Framework for Nature-Based Solutions Impact: Methodological Approach and Pre-Greening Measurements in the Case Study from CLEVER Cities Milan

Publication date: 27 August 2021

Authors: Israa H. Mahmoud (1), Eugenio Morello (1), Chiara Vona (2), Maria Benciolini (2), Iliriana Sejdullahu (3), Marina Trentin (3) and Karmele Herranz Pascual (4)
Affiliations: Laboratorio di Simulazione Urbana Fausto Curti (Labsimurb), Department of Architecture and Urban Studies (DAStU), Politecnico di Milano (1), Cooperativa Sociale Eliante Onlus (2), Ambiente Italia (3), TECNALIA, Energy and Environment Division (4)

In this research paper, the authors consider the application of NBS as a catalyst for social inclusivity in urban regeneration strategies, enabled through civic participation in the co-creation of green interventions with respect to social cohesion and well-being. The paper is focused on a social monitoring framework elaborated within the H2020 CLEVER Cities project, with the city of Milan as a case study... Continue reading

Co-creation Pathways to Inform Shared Governance of Urban Living Labs in Practice: Lessons From Three European Projects

Publication date: 6 August 2021

Authors: Israa Hanafi Mahmoud (1), Eugenio Morello (1), David Ludlow (2) and Giuseppe Salvia (1,3)
Affiliations: Laboratorio di Simulazione Urbana Fausto Curti (Labsimurb), Department of Architecture and Urban Studies (DAStU), Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy (1), Faculty of Environment and Technology, University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom (2), The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, University College London, London, United Kingdom (3)

This research paper, analyzes co-creation pathways and different shared governance mechanisms in three ongoing European projects: CLEVER Cities, Sharing Cities, and SUNEX projects from a practical perspective. This comparative study investigates stakeholder engagement (1) scales, (2) mechanisms, (3) methodologies of engagement, and finally the co-creation pathway challenges and pitfalls.... Continue reading

A Multi-Level Perspective on the Sustainability Transition towards Nature-Based Solutions and Co-Creation in the Urban Planning of Belgrade, Serbia

Publication date: 7 July 2021

Authors: Ana Mitić-Radulović (1), Ksenija Lalović (2)

Affiliations: Centre for Experiments in Urban Studies — CEUS (1), Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade (2)


Achieving clear, coherent, and ambitious urban greening strategies, embedded in urban planning and developed in a co-creative, participatory and inclusive manner, is highly challenging within the EU enlargement context. In this article, such challenges are studied through two recent urban development initiatives in Belgrade, the Capital of Serbia: the first initiative focuses on planning the new Linear Park, within the framework of the CLEVER Cities Horizon 2020 project; the second initiative envisages the transformation of the privatised Avala Film Complex in the Košutnjak Urban Forest, primarily led by private interests but supported by the local authorities.... Continue reading

Evaluating the impact of nature-based solutions: A handbook for practitioners

Publication date: 04 May 2021

Authors: Adina Dumitru and Laura Wendling, Eds.


The Handbook aims to provide decision-makers with a comprehensive NBS impact assessment framework, and a robust set of indicators and methodologies to assess impacts of nature-based solutions across 12 societal challenge areas. CLEVER Cities partners contributed as coordinating lead authors of Chapter 2 "Principles guiding NBS Performance and impact evaluation" (Julita Skodra, Uniklinikum Essen) and Chapter 3 "Approaches to monitoring and evaluation strategy development (Igone Garcia and Saoia Zorita, TECNALIA), and as contributing authors of Chapter 2 (Israa Mahmoud and Eugenio Morello, Politecnico di Milano). Read more.

Stakeholder Participation in the Planning and Design of Nature-Based Solutions. Insights from the CLEVER Cities Project in Hamburg

Publication date: 27 February 2021

Authors: Alessandro Arlati (1), Anne Rödl (2), Sopho Kanjaria-Christian (3) and Jörg Knieling (1)

Affiliations: Department of Urban Planning and Regional Development, HafenCity University Hambur (1), Institute of Environmental Technology and Energy Economics, Hamburg University of Technology (2), Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, District of Harburg (3)


Deploying NbS in urban contexts requires the cooperation of different public and private stakeholders to manage those processes. In this paper, the experiences of establishing and managing NbS-related processes following a co-creation approach in the city of Hamburg within the framework of an EU-funded research project (CLEVER Cities) are described and analyzed. The paper identifies and discusses the main emerging factors and challenges from (1) a procedural and methodological perspective and (2) concerning the different roles of the diverse stakeholders involved. This discussion is grounded in the context of existing regulations and novel concepts for citizens’ participation in urban decision-making processes... Continue reading

Public procurement of nature-based solutions - Addressing barriers to the procurement of urban NBS: case studies and recommendations

Publication date: 16 October 2020

Authors: Ernesta Mačiulytė (1) and Elsa Durieux (2)

Affiliations: University of Stuttgart IAT (1), ICLEI Europe (2)


Many public authorities still report difficulties in using public procurement to implement NBS projects. This report provides an overview of the major challenges facing NBS procurers in the EU, along with case studies of success in addressing those barriers across nine European cities, including CLEVER City London. The findings may help other public authorities adapt their procurement processes to procure NBS more effectively. Read more.

Co-creation Pathway for Urban Nature-Based Solutions: Testing a Shared-Governance Approach in Three Cities and Nine Action Labs

Publication date: 10 February 2021

Authors: Israa Mahmoud, Eugenio Morello

Affiliation: Laboratorio di Simulazione Urbana Fausto Curti, Dipartimento di Architettura e Studi Urbani Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy


Part of the Green Energy and Technology book series (GREEN)


Nature-based solutions (NBS) implementation in urban contexts has proven outcoming multiple benefits to reverse the current trend of natural resources’ degradation adversely affecting biodiversity, human health, and wellbeing. Yet, the current urban-planning policy frameworks present a rigid structure to integrate NBS definitions, and their co-benefits to get mainstreamed and up scaled on a wider urban spatial dimension. In this research, we test a complete co-creation pathway that encourages decision-makers to embed citizen engagement methodologies as an approach to co-design and co-implement NBS in shared-governance processes aiming to increment the greening of urban spaces, towards more inclusive and climate resilient cities... Continue reading

Co-creating Nature-based Solutions for Healthy and Sustainable Cities: The Urban Public Health Approach

Publication date: 30 September 2020

Authors: J Skodra (1), S Zorita (2), I Garcia Perez (2), S Moebus (1)

Affiliations: Institute for Urban Public Health, University Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany (1), TECNALIA, Basque Research and Technology Alliance, Derio, Spain (2)


Urban green spaces are necessary for developing healthy and sustainable cities. However, there is a need for the transdisciplinary co-creation processes including multidisciplinary partners and local community to ensure that different population groups use NBS and that health, social and environmental benefits are maximised. The three CLEVER Cities pilot cities, Hamburg, London and Milan, have formed Urban Innovation Partnerships (UIP) based on the stakeholder mapping. Each UIP involves citizens, companies, universities and local authorities to support CLEVER Action Labs (CAL) as alliances of local actors involved in the co-creation and assessment of place-based NBS interventions. The Theory of Change method (impact chain) was used to structure the transdisciplinary process, by initially determining the desired long-term outcomes related to the above-mentioned challenges... Continue reading

Are Nature-based Solutions the Answer to the Urban Sustainability Dilemma? The case of CLEVER Cities' CALs

Publication date: April 2020

Authors: Israa Mahmoud, Eugenio Morello

Affiliation: Laboratorio di Simulazione Urbana Fausto Curti, Dipartimento di Architettura e Studi Urbani Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy


This study addresses the implementation of Nature-based S olutions (NBS) in three urban living labs in Milan as an experimental co-creation process. Theideation is mainly based on co-designing and co-implementing the possible NBS interventions with multiplicity of local stakeholders and involving citizens. The planned interventions starting in June 2019, in urban living labs knownas CLEVER Action Labs (CALs), are summarized as follows: (1) Public tender for promoting green roofs and greenfacades in private buildings, (2) Giambellino 129 public park, and (3) vertical green interventions on the new Tibaldi train stop ; these are subject to investigation based on scale of application, urban policies,and governance. The comparative analysis between the three CALs showed: (1) a great potential to incentivize greening alliances and taxbonds from the local governmental authority, (2) the place-based morphology influences the urban resilience of theoverall space context. ... Continue reading

The Co-Creation Pathway as a Catalyst for Implementing Nature-based Solution in Urban Regeneration Strategies: Learning from the CLEVER Cities Framework and Milano as a Test-bed

Publication date: April 2018

Authors: Israa Mahmoud, Eugenio Morello

Affiliation: Laboratorio di Simulazione Urbana Fausto Curti, Dipartimento di Architettura e Studi Urbani Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy


This research paper explores the originality of using Co-Creation as Pathway for cities to better implement NBS and achieve flexible, open, equitable urban resilience, and climate change adaptation strategies.  Dynamic co-creation builds on involving stakeholders and engaging local communities at every stage of the process; moreover, it is based on collective governance and has social, economic and environmental ‘Co-benefits’ as outputs. Primarily, the aim of this paper is to highlight the innovation of Co-Creation tools towards addressing NBS challenges, as well as the assessment of  front-runner cities’  governmental  approaches the establishment of Co-creation processes... Continue reading