Green & Blue Futures formally ended in Sepember 2015. In the final period partners completed their investments and worked with Social Enterprises UK (SEUK) to populate and review the Evaluation, Framework, Policy Recommendations, Report on innovative practice, Recommendations on transnational mobility, and Report on developing an ongoing network.
The concept of the social economy was still in its infancy, but there was a great deal of new, practical learning through GBF that highlighted its potential and how social enterprises can add value to a local community. We concluded that the social economy will not fulfil its potential without backing at a national and political level and needed a true ‘sponsor’ to raise its profile and potential at an EU level.
The pilots brought together dual aims and objectives; (1) to improve or utilise green space and waterways and (2) to support disadvantaged groups at risk of social exclusion. The most popular solution was a model where the maintenance of green and blue space used volunteer labour, and the activities were used as to provide training and qualifications for those who have difficulty getting jobs.
Classroom-based learning does not suit everyone and engaging with nature can be an appealing alternative. Communities working to maintain green and blue spaces can generate interest and a sense of ownership in local green and blue spaces. The Tipperary and Hainaut projects demonstrated how an area such as a canal or an orchard can be a focal point that acts to improve community cohesion.
One problem we highlighted was where organisations trying to start enterprises up tended to get ‘bogged down’ by the administration needed to run them. Most of these remain reliant on grant funding and there is a long road to being self sustaining on income from trade or contracts. Volunteers form a key part of the social economy sector and can be a cost-effective resource to manage green and blue infrastructure and reintegrate certain target groups.
We are keen to continue promoting the good work carried out in Green & Blue Futures. The Network of Inland Waterways Europe http://waterwaysnetwork.eu was set up to ensure the partnership working and expertise delivered by the range of EU funded projects, continues. NIWE intends to work with the many inland waterway related networks across Europe to help past and future Interreg projects form, or be part of, a network that helps ensure the long-term effects and impacts such projects aim for.
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