Highlands Rewilding Unveils Roadmap for Inclusive Nature-Based Solutions

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Highlands Rewilding, a pioneering initiative seeking to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis through accelerating nature-based solutions, has released a comprehensive “Engagement Roadmap”. This roadmap, developed in collaboration with researchers from the Agile Initiative and Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery, alongside Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), presents a strategy for effective public and stakeholder engagement in rewilding and nature-based solutions projects.

The Engagement Roadmap utilises social science evidence to chart the course for collaborative, inclusive, and large-scale nature-based solutions. It draws on research conducted as part of Agile’s Scaling-up Nature-based Solutions project and the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery, in collaboration with researchers Dr. Caitlin Hafferty, Dr. Mark Hirons, and Dr. Constance McDermott. The Roadmap encompasses six key steps to guide projects like rewilding, ensuring they resonate with local communities, governments, and the broader public:

  1. Identifying engagement objectives: The Engagement Roadmap underscores the significance of defining the purpose of engagement, for example, whether it involves collaboration on a management plan or the communication of findings.
  2. Involving interested and affected parties: To ensure a broad spectrum of perspectives, the Roadmap advocates for the inclusion of local communities, government bodies, and other key stakeholders.
  3. Selecting appropriate engagement methods: It provides a range of methods spanning communication, consultation, collaboration, and empowerment, highlighting the importance of choosing the right approach for each context.
  4. Co-identifying desired benefits: The Roadmap encourages projects to align their goals with the aspirations of local communities, including creating job opportunities, facilitating access to nature, and promoting locally-produced food.
  5. Continuous evaluation: By advocating for ongoing feedback and monitoring, the Roadmap aims to foster adaptive and responsive engagement processes. It also promotes engagement as a method to enhance integrated socio-economic and ecological monitoring frameworks.
  6. Embedding engagement: One of the central messages is that engagement should be woven into the very fabric of rewilding projects, not relegated to a mere communication tool. It should permeate the decision-making process, from baselining and planning to implementation and evaluation, and beyond. This may require building the necessary capacity and capability to engage well, and initiating a supportive engagement culture.

Highlands Rewilding, which places a strong emphasis on benefiting both the local and global community, seeks to combat climate change and protect biodiversity while simultaneously generating environmental, social, and economic advantages. Recognising that meaningful engagement is a cornerstone of their mission, they emphasise the role of engagement in delivering integrated benefits for people, nature, and the climate.

A notable distinction of the roadmap is its view that community and stakeholder engagement should not be the final step, merely aimed at garnering support for projects. Instead, engagement should be considered an intrinsic output, with a crucial role to play throughout all stages of the decision-making process. This can help improving environmental outcomes and ensure that local voices are heard and integrated into the heart of nature-based solutions initiatives.

Highlands Rewilding welcomes feedback on this work-in-progress engagement guidance and is committed to its continuous refinement. They plan to work closely with local communities and other relevant groups to ensure the roadmap remains responsive to the evolving needs and aspirations of all stakeholders. This commitment to inclusivity and adaptability underscores Highlands Rewilding’s dedication to creating a more sustainable and harmonious relationship between people, nature, and the environment.

For further details and to download the Engagement Roadmap, please visit Highlands Rewilding’s blog.