Article by Francesca Ferrara, Prospex Institute

April ended with a very intense but successful week for the WaterLANDS team!  On April 24th and 25th 2023, Prospex Institute organised and moderated a Cross-Fertilisation and Twinning workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria. Prospex Institute was represented by James CosierClint Richards and Francesca Carolin Ferrara. The event brought together the six WaterLANDS Action Sites and representatives from 12 of the Knowledge Sites. The first day started with updates from the six Action Sites, followed by two intense days of relationship-building, knowledge-sharing and productive planning.

During the first day, participants discussed the opportunities and challenges faced by the Action Sites from an engagement perspective, and heard from WaterLANDS’ task leaders Craig Bullock from University College Dublin and Carlo Giupponi from Università Ca'​ Foscari di Venezia about how environmental deliberation and participatory multi-criteria analysis can support our work in the project. By the end of Day 1 we had successfully formed twinning triangles, matching each Action Site with two Knowledge Sites based on engagement, cultural, ecological, and/or physical similarities.

On the second day, working in the twinning triangles, partners dove deeper into sharing experiences from the Knowledge Sites and embedding these lessons in the draft Action Site engagement strategies. Day 2 also saw thought provoking interventions by Agata Klimkowska, Sonia Mena Jara & Ellis Dupker from Wetlands International, sharing findings on key barriers to scaling of wetland restoration and leading a productive session about co-creation and how this ambitious vision for engagement might address restoration challenges and take shape within WaterLANDS.

The workshop was a huge success in fostering collaboration and sharing best practices between the Action and Knowledge Sites and was an important reflective moment for all participants to consider how to effectively engage for wetland restoration. The draft Engagement Strategies to emerge from the workshop serve as an important step towards sustainable restoration in the Action Sites, with meaningful stakeholder engagement and co-creation as central pillars to this.

An informative field trip to Dragoman Marsh, the Bulgarian Action Site, followed the cross-fertilisation workshop. Thursday and Friday were dedicated to the WaterLANDS General Assembly, focusing on sharing progress updates and next steps, along with connecting partners in-person and building even stronger relationships! The intense week ended with a sunny visit to Belene Island, one of the project’s Knowledge Sites, exceptionally relevant for its rich biodiversity. We were lucky enough to see some rare birds including Danube delta pelicans! Many thanks to our hosts WWF Bulgaria and Balkani Wildlife Society.

Original post uploaded by Prospex Institute.