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Resilience Practices Contribution Enabling European Landscape Policy Innovation and Implementation

REsilienceLAB, 27100 Pavia, Italy
Politecnico di Milano, 20133 Milano, Italy
Land 2023, 12(3), 637;
Received: 16 December 2022 / Revised: 3 March 2023 / Accepted: 6 March 2023 / Published: 8 March 2023


The paper is rooted in the results of the Resilience Practices Observatory (RPO) project, which engaged more than one hundred community-led practices to improve local resilience capacities and about fifty applied research and institutional-led initiatives. The article in retracing the complex and articulated RPO research-action project aims to stimulate the disciplinary debate on the contribution and role of resilience practices in a renewed landscape planning framework process. In particular, the paper focuses on the resilience practices acting on ecological landscape enhancement, assuming nature-based solutions as an umbrella concept under numerous approaches, models, and theoretical frameworks supporting the integration of ecological values in the territorial and urban transformation towards their conservation and improvement. The selected cases are placed in the Milano metropolitan area, aiming to safeguard, improve, and valorize urban and periurban landscapes. The cases are used to explore three emerging phenomena: (1) the alliances and the role of community in orienting landscape planning; (2) the role of practices in solution co-design and planning implementation; (3) the role of community in micro-intervention for urban biodiversity and landscape functionality. The final section emphasizes the potential role of community-led initiatives in implementing the NBS European policy and landscape planning guidelines. In the meantime, final remarks underline perspectives in overcoming the existing criticalities towards renovated and adaptive governance process, enabling a more collaborative arena supporting the engagement of differentiated actors along the whole process, from decision making to the implementation and management of landscape planning.

1. Introducing Key Concepts and Paper Aims

1.1. Resilience Practices

In the last few decades, academia, disciplinary debate, and international policies have increasingly paid attention to the heterogeneous geographies of resilience practices that have become an inspirational source for urban and territorial transformation [1,2,3]. The role of resilience practices (or transition initiatives, spontaneous interventions, and grassroots innovations) has grown, becoming more central in planning, urban design [4], and international/local policy debate. The beneficial contribution of the direct engagement of citizens and communities in the regeneration process emerges concerning the potential role of community-led initiatives as an enabler agent of planning and policy implementation. The establishment of alliances among institutions, experts, and local communities demonstrated the potentialities in acting with tangible, physical and immaterial, transformation on urban commons, and urban landscape improvement [5,6,7].
The paper, as well as the Resilience Practices Observatory (RPO) [8], adopts an inclusive definition of resilience practice that is assumed as a process led by mixed actors’ partnerships involving local communities able to activate and implement an extensive range of actions promoting local transformation and providing multiple benefits, contributing to the long-term transitions towards a more robust, aware, and adaptive society and urban landscapes.
The resilience practices engaged by RPO have some recurring characteristics: being local-based, community-led, crosscutting/multi-issues (acting on several issues), and agents of innovative solutions and urban experimentations able to cope with local urgencies and concurring to territorial long-term and global sustainability/visions.

1.2. Landscape Planning, Nature-Based Solutions, and Resilience Practices

European policies and landscape planning disciplinary debate assign a strategic role to nature-based solutions (NBSs). NBSs are characterized by an integrated approach and provide multiple benefits to complex adaptive systems, connecting ecological, social, and economic spheres [9,10].
The European Commission defines NBSs as solutions inspired and supported by nature, providing environmental, social, and economic benefits and fostering resilience capacities [11,12]. NBSs, by activating a response facing multiple challenges from environmental urgencies to multiple aspects of complex adaptive systems, become an umbrella concept of an extensive range of landscape planning approaches and models, such as green infrastructure, urban re-greening, ecosystem services [13,14].
The paper refers to nature-based solutions (NBSs) as an umbrella framework embracing the complexity and richness of approaches for valorizations and integration of ecosystem values in the processes of urban and territorial transition [15]. The NBS framework is a promising framework to support local-based and widespread grassroots initiatives providing a robust and long-term strategic vision, as well as a conceptual and methodological frame [16].
Several authors report the gap between the planning and implementation of NBSs and interventions, emphasizing the need for more profound coordination among the heterogeneous range of sectoral instruments playing a direct or indirect role in the landscape and blue-green infrastructure design and implementation, including urban and territorial transformation management [17]. The need for synergies’ activation represents a cross-cutting challenge that addresses the academic/technical landscape planning sphere and the decision-making process of plans, programs, and policies involving multiscale and crosscutting competencies and actors from the consolidated planning instruments to the innovative programs/policies, such as Urban Resilience Strategies, Climate Plans, Urban Food Policies, reforestation programs, and urban regeneration projects [18,19].
NBSs, Green and Green/Blue Infrastructures, Ecological networks, and Ecosystem Services are consolidated components of an extensive range of European Regions and Cities planning tools that allow for the development of methods and models integrating ecological and landscape aspects in planning [15,20]. Moreover, difficulties still need to be addressed concerning the integration of NBSs in rules and regulations components and the implementation of projects and actions that require a crosscutting, multiscale/multistakeholder approach [21].

1.3. Resilience Practices’ Contribution in the Frame of Milano Metropolitan Context

In discussing the conditions to foster the contributions of resilience practices for the implementation of NBSs and landscape planning strategies, the paper presents three selected cases pertaining to the same homogeneous context of the Milan metropolitan area.
The Milan experiences provide tangible experimentations of beneficial intersections and cross-fertilization among institutional and private/community-led practice processes. Regarding the considerations emerging from the cases of Milan, some success factors are also attributable to the characteristics and peculiarities of the Milan socio-economic and cultural context rooted in a long process of mobilization and policies facing environmental challenges since the 1980s.
As in other European cities, the Milan experimentations demonstrated the potentialities of activating synergies among institutional and community-led processes for NBS implementation [13,22,23]. Green and collective forms of green public spaces management are interventions often launched by resilience practices. Several innovative forms of urban community gardens, social farming, and social agriculture demonstrated how the management of green space also became an opportunity for the involvement of local communities and vulnerable/specific population targets in activities improving wellbeing. Practices also often propose innovative therapeutic uses of urban green spaces, where green spaces accommodate functions and activities conducted outdoors and connected with places of social activation (learning, knowledge sharing), such as sports activities and courses not necessarily all related to traditional facilities and equipment [24].

1.4. Resilience Practices and NBSs: Exploring Three Emerging Dynamics and Open Questions

The paper focuses on the potential contribution of resilience practices to landscape planning and NBS implementation moving from the RPO project and presenting some selected cases exemplifying recurring synergic convergencies and the contribution of resilience practices to urban and peri-urban landscape preservation, restoration, and improvement in the Milano Metropolitan area (Figure 1).
The resilience practices, as also emerged from the RPO projects, could act as activation agents of processes, generating multiple benefits integrated, in an indissoluble manner (and not always explicitly intentional), in the environmental/ecological dimensions with the social and local circular economic dimensions.
The selected practices generate tangible transformations improving territorial and urban landscapes and intangible benefits by strengthening local communities, activating circular (micro) economies, and innovating the urban organizational governance processes.
The paper solicits the disciplinary debate about the conditions enabling one to consider resilience practice agents for implementing NBS European policies. The literature debate on community-led initiatives and the RPO project results emphasize the opportunities and criticalities of engaging resilience practices in landscape planning [21]. To better investigate the possible potentialities and perspectives, this paper explores, presenting selected exemplificative cases, three recurring dynamics of alliances among community-led practices and landscape planning and NBS implementation policies:
Community-led influence on planning/policies in preserving and improving ecological and rice rural landscape. The case of Rice field Park in the south area of Milano urban area (Parco delle Risaie) was selected to exemplify this dynamic.
Community and academia alliances in implementing the planning/policy strategies for the Lambro River restoration and landscape improvement. The Re Lambro project and local intervention in Milan exemplify this dynamic.
Community-led spread actions in urban biodiversity and landscape improvement: Alveari Urbani (Urban Beehives) and other resilience injections.
The three recurring dynamics and related cases permit underlining potentialities and alliances for innovating the governance of landscape planning process renovation to boost and enable the resilience practices to contribute to NBS implementation. The paper summarizes some phenomena that emerged from the resilience practice project and cases to underline perspectives in fostering alliances and mutual hybridizations between planning and institutional and community-led processes.
The final remarks section addresses the need to renovate the landscape process governance towards more adaptive, integrated, and multilevel governance models and overcome the criticalities emerging from the investigation of resilience practices. In particular, the final section highlights perspectives for stabilizing practices, possible transferability aspects, and boosting knowledge hybridization under the robust frame of landscape planning. The open questions in the disciplinary debate solicit a renewed approach to landscape planning, focusing on the dimensions of process innovation and collaborative and innovative arena based on knowledge hybridization and co-production.

2. Resilience Practice Contribution to Landscape and Ecological Challenges

2.1. The Resilience Practice Obesrvatory Project

The Resilience Practices Observatory (RPO) originated from the convergence and collaboration of two parallel paths: the REsilienceLAB association cultural path and the Resilient Communities program launched by the Cariplo Foundation. RPO project is rooted in the recognized need to understand the benefits derived from resilience practices and to develop promising instruments to enhance the practices’ stabilization pervasiveness and effectiveness in terms of local sustainability enhancement and tangible intervention activation.
In 2014, Fondazione Cariplo, an Italian Bank Foundation, launched the Resilient Communities call, founding non-profit organization initiatives for local and territorial resilience improvement in the Lombardy region and a small portion of Piedmont [25]. Meanwhile, the Resilience Practices Observatory project was established with the aim to support local actors in developing both the proposals and their implementation, to activate capacity building and knowledge co-production activities rooted in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of national and international practices, research, and policies. The RPO, which officially started in April 2015, is also an exchange/dialogues and hybridization “arena” and a space of tool-box co-creation rooted in an interdisciplinary and incremental approach (Figure 2).
The strengthening of the capacities of territorial actors to enhance the resilience is the RPO overall strategic objective. The main RPO action domains are the resilience initiatives mapping and exploration at the national level, the development of a set of tools and design criteria to support the dissemination of resilience practices, the promotion, and the reinforcement of extensive actors’ networks (activating common dialogues and mutual exchange activities). The RPO has produced initiatives for the cultural dissemination of complex system resilience, promoting scientific advancement about resilience and transition themes, based on applied research to territory and community.
In activating a process of mutual hybridization and synergies, the RPO co-produce advancements in scientific research, conceptual, and methodological reframing connecting practices with landscape planning and institutional transformation policies, connecting academic, institutional, communities, and private actors acting towards local and territorial resilience improvement.

2.2. Resilience Practice Contribution to Ecological and Environmental Challenges

Since 2015, the RPO project has involved more than 170 practices. In the period 2015–2019, the RPO processed about 150 practices, producing an exploration database for the characterization of practices and aiming at commonality identification.
After a first step of database analysis to improve the homogeneity and comparability, 134 practices were selected, on which we conducted analysis and from which emerged the presented phenomena and considerations [26]. Four principal aspects of investigation organized the database exploration: the geographies and scales of resilience practices; the Governance models of resilience practices; the levers for action, referring to the criticalities and core topics of resilience practices activation; and the tools for action, exploring the main tools and action domains. The database includes both descriptive sections and synthetic analysis sections. Concerning each database thematic aspect, the practices were clustered in relation to specific “recurring” and general characteristics (key concepts).
Incredible complexity and richness characterize the resilience practices concerning the addressed challenges and the core topic domain of initiatives activated over the process, confirming the dynamism and capabilities in adapting tools, initiatives, and issues according to the local situation end needs evolution.
The consideration presented here emerged from the investigation concerning the urgencies from which the practices move or the lever that activated the action and the key topic around which they act. The two investigation aspects were selected to understand and describe the core topics of action and the urgencies faced by the resilience practices.
The shrinking of activities and territories and the loss of habitat and biodiversity emerge as the two most common phenomena originating the community-led action processes. The 48% of practices investigated are motivated by urgencies connected with environmental issues. The categories of urgencies clustered are the loss of habitat and biodiversity, loss of agricultural quality, and environmental pressures, including climate change and natural/hydrogeological risks. The 39% of practices starting from urban/territorial crisis or shrinking phenomena include the economic crisis. In particular, the shrinking of activities and territories, both in urban/peripheral and internal areas, is approached connecting the ecological and landscape pressure/degradation with economic and social dynamics. Finally, 13% of practices have their action lever in social fragilities, both at the individual (individual resilience, few practices) and the community level (loss of social cohesion/fragility).
The clustering process allowed us to understand the focus of actions of Resilience Practices. The majority (33%) of resilience practice action domain regards urban and territorial regeneration: practices launching interventions for urban regeneration mainly oriented to the ecological and landscape improvement of urban-rural areas, the regreening public city and public spaces in urban peripheries, and the sustainable reactivation of internal areas (urban and local regeneration 19%, local development of internal areas 14%).
Climate change mitigation and adaptation (13% of practices) and territorial risk reduction and prevention (7% of practices) represent the action domain for 20% of resilience practices. It is important to underline that the practices addressing climate change adaptation are usually connected to institutional processes already activated (EG. Mayor adapts program or energy transition policies) and rooted in large partnerships acting on regional or territorial scales. Practices focusing on sustainable river basin management are also characterized by an extensive partnership, including institutions, and national associations, including policies and measures for risk prevention.
The sustainable food system and local food chain are the action domain of 21% of practices. The food topic is approached in terms of sustainable food system development, and it is mostly and strictly connected to natural and ecological values and landscape preservation (ecosystem services, natural areas improvement, agroecology). Further, 10% of engaged resilience practices focus directly and specifically on natural resource cycles, including biodiversity and natural habitat improvement. Finally, social innovation (10%) and institutional innovation (4%) are the action domain of 14% of practices. The relevant representation of the environmental aspects in the resilience practices RPO database could be forced by the Cariplo Foundation Resilient Communities program that fostered and promoted the local communities’ capacities to face climate change and territorial/environmental risks. At the same time, the RPO engaged practices at the national level, not only from the Cariplo Foundation territorial action area (Lombardy) confirming the relevant contribution of resilience practices in the landscape improvement and management and the diffuse community activation for green and ecological value stewardships.

2.3. NBS Planning and Alliances

As also confirmed by the RPO practices investigation, restoration and improvement in ecological values and landscape are a recurring focus domain of resilience practices action, both in community-led and institutional-led processes.
The RPO experience confirmed that the regional/territorial green infrastructure projects are mostly planned, promoted, and implemented by large partnerships through institutional-led processes and financed by national or European programs [9] under the nature-based solution umbrella concept. The most common topic domains of resilience practices characterized by community-led processes are local landscape and ecological value improvement, regreening of urban landscape at small/micro-scale, the regeneration of natural habitat in artificialized contexts, and urban/peri-urban and local sustainable and circular economic chains (food and other service production) [8].
Green public spaces constitute strategic infrastructure of resilience practice action. Green and blue infrastructures and NBSs are often used by resilience practice concepts/operations in activating and managing landscape improvement initiatives. The paper discusses the synergies and mutual intersections among NBSs, landscape planning, and resilience practices using three selected cases to exemplify different convergencies among resilience practices and planning/institutional processes. The presented practices are intentionally selected among the practices in the Milan metropolitan area, being characterized by homogeneous (cultural, planning, and institutional) framework and urban/peri-urban dynamics.

3. Resilience Practice Contribution to Landscape Ecological Values in Milan Metropolitan Context

The municipality of Milan represents a paradigmatic example in this line, since it has recently launched a relevant institutional initiative aimed at integrating different tools addressing climate issues and, in particular, NBSs.
In detail, to enhance the resilience capacities and promote climate mitigation and adaptation, the municipality of Milan launched different policies, programs, plans, and projects, which identify NBSs and social innovation as reference concepts for actions. The sectors involved are: urban food policy, air and climate plan, reforestation plan, restoration of natural and rural corridors, widespread interventions aimed at re-greening the city center, and improving green areas in urban suburbs. The different initiatives share two key aspects: the long-term vision for a more resilient, green, healthy, and comfortable city and NBSs as a strategic tool for achieving such a vision. In particular, the activation of synergies among different sectoral competencies, tools, and management procedures at the municipal scale may support the implementation of a wide range of actions addressed to the natural ecosystems’ restoration and improvement, to a more sustainable water management as well as to climate cooling.
The three selected cases (Figure 3 and Figure 4) and related discussion topics are:
  • The Rice field Park in the south area of Milano urban area (Parco delle Risaie) to underline the effect of community-led influence on planning/polices in preserving and improving ecological and rice rural landscape.
  • The Re Lambro project to present a promising multilevel-governance experience enabling alliances among institutions, community, and academia, aiming at implementing planning/policy strategies for the Lambro river restoration and landscape improvement.
  • Alveari Urbani (Urban Beehives) and other local-based resilience injections to emphasize the potentialities (and the fragilities) of community-led spread actions in urban biodiversity and landscape improvement.

3.1. Parco delle Risaie (Rice-Fields Park): From Community to Planning

The Rice-fields Park (Parco delle Risaie) is a recognized and consolidated experience resulting from a long process that started in about 2008 [27]. The Rice-fields Park is a rural open landscape enclosed in the southern portion of the Milan conurbation characterized by farming activities (rice production), water courses, and residual arboreal/shrub edges. Nowadays, thanks to the implementation of ecological landscape regeneration and the adoption of more sustainable agricultural rice cultivation, the Rice-field Park has been enriched in habitat diversification with several wetlands’ areas, where numerous residential and migratory species nest, with complex riparian belts and woodland patches. Ecological values are integrated with cultural and social richness; local and metropolitan communities are invited and engaged in several activities on sustainable food system ecological values and to learn and enjoy nature and landscape.
The success of Rice-fields Park is rooted in a process characterized by a wide range of actors involved in defining the strategic vision and implementation/management of actions and by an initial bottom-up mobilization, followed by (in a second step) institutional involvement and support. It is possible to summarize the process in three main steps: communities’ mobilization to preserve open spaces against urbanization pressures; the birth of Rice-field Park association and the definition of the Park strategic plan; the creation of alliances/synergies for landscape improvement intervention implementation.
In 2008, citizens and local farmers founded the Rice-fields Park Association, launching the transition process, including co-production and co-design activities for protection and landscape improvement of the area; the process was sustained by the organization of events and educational/capacitation activities (meetings and debates) promoting multifunctional values of the areas. Assigning the name of Rice-fields Park (Parco delle Risaie), the Association provided a recognizable identity to the rural open land. Since 2009, the Rice-fields Park Association, in synergy with other local actors and associations, has promoted several events involving citizens and local communities to spread the value of the area, increasing its visibility.
Since 2009, the Rice-fields Park Association, with the involvement and support of public institutions and private and non-profit actors, has organized and participated in many events in the metropolitan area of Milan, such as public meetings, agricultural products markets, and art/photography exhibitions. During these events, the Rice-fields Park Association promoted the area’s identity and values, the local rice production (introducing the Rice-fields Park market label), and shared ideas for long-term strategic vision.
The main stakeholders involved in the Rice-fields Park process are farms and farmhouses located in the area and agricultural associations, several associations of urban gardening, several “Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale” (self-sustained networks for the purchase of agricultural products), citizens and citizen associations from the southern Milan neighborhoods, cultural associations and actors interested in the urban and rural landscape improvement (such as Connection Cultures), and institutional actors, such as The Lombardy Region, Parco Agricolo Sud Milano, the Milan Municipality, and other Municipalities surrounding the Park.
During the second phase, the Rice-fields Park Association, with the financial support of the Cariplo Foundation, launched the co-designed CIVES project (citizen towards sustainability—2011–2012) to develop a long-term vision and operative projects for Rice-fields Park area improvement. The vision and projects developed are incremental and flexible and organized along three axes:
  • Strengthening the existing agricultural activities, improving the quality and sustainability of production/transformation, innovating the marketing for local products, and integrating farming activities with cultural, educational, and leisure activities (realizing thematic paths and places for integrative activities);
  • Ecological and rural landscape improvement, providing the restoration of complex rural edges and green infrastructure, wetland habitats, and differentiated ecological patches; realizing green buffers along the urbanized boundaries; adopting agricultural practices to preserve and enhance the local biodiversity;
  • Mobility and accessibility improvement, providing continuous pedestrian and bicycle connection inside the park and with the metropolitan bike routes.
Since 2012, the Rice-fields Park Association has developed and implemented several projects for ecological and cultural landscape restoration and rural multifunctional activity enhancement, seizing the funding opportunities offered by European, regional, and private projects (for example, Open Spaces launched by Cariplo Foundation, the EXPO2015 ecological/environmental compensation, and European/regional programs). All the interventions, consistent with the long-term visions, permitted the restoration and regeneration of ecological and cultural rural landscape values, improving the production of ecosystem services, beneficial for the whole metropolitan area.
Nowadays, Rice-fields Park is not an officially instituted natural park. At the same time, it is mapped and recognized in regional, provincial, and municipal planning instruments. The activated process produced a modification of planning instruments that assumed Rice-fields Park as a landscape and environmental value to be preserved. This made a review of decisions previously taken possible, modifying some urbanization and gray infrastructural interventions initially planned to include and integrate the park as a strategic asset. This led to enhanced new synergies and alignment with the guidelines of the planning system at the regional, provincial, and municipal levels, in coherence with all the sectorial planning and programming [28].

3.2. ReLambro Project: Large-Scale Landcape Design and Academia–Communty Alliances for Actions

As anticipated, many resilience practices activate integrated processes that include actions for the recovery and improvement of landscapes and green infrastructure and actions to enhance the communities’ awareness of environmental values and foster local communities in the stewardship of landscapes.
The Lambro River is recognized in planning and landscape instruments at regional, provincial, and metropolitan levels as a primary strategic green-blue infrastructure. At the same time, all the planning instruments recognize the criticalities along and concerning the Lambro River (in particular, in the Milano metropolitan conurbation): diffuse flood risk, water pollution, and landscape degradation are often interrelated with social inclusion in the neighborhoods crossed by the river. The regional, provincial, and local planning instruments provide rules and constraints for river protection and flood risk mitigation/preparedness and have developed guidelines and projects for landscape and ecological value restoration (green/blue infrastructure realization) for decades. The permanence of multiple criticalities demonstrates the complexity and criticalities in the implementation of restoration and rehabilitation of landscape projects. A river contract, a voluntary instrument of negotiated strategic planning aimed at integrated river management, was established along the Lambro. Contracts were introduced and codified in Italian legislation in 2006 [29,30]. The outcomes of river contacts must align with planning programs and generate operational tools for the implementation and management of strategies for the protection and enhancement of territories along rivers [31].
Complexity in the implementation emerges concerning multi-issue criticalities (ecological, social, and economic issues, territorial, metropolitan, urban, and local landscape) to be faced. In 2012, an extensive partnership composed of ERSAF (Regional Agency for Agricultural and Forestry Services), Milano Municipality, PLIS Media Valle del Lambro (Local Park of the inner valley of Lambro River), Politecnico di Milano (DAStU department), Legambiente Lombardia (environmental association) launched the ReLambro project, funded by Cariplo Foundation, activating a co-design process for the definition of the Lambro ecological river corridor action plan. A peculiarity of this project is the germination of local initiatives promoted by Politecnico of Milan, involving researchers, students, and local communities in the process of exploration, re-appropriation, co-design solutions, and realizing intervention, improving the ecological values and landscapes along the Lambro River in some neighborhoods in the Milan municipality. The process stimulated synergies among different local actors, generating local initiatives, such as the realization of community gardens, ecosystem restoration, neo-habitat rehabilitation, and didactical exploration. The ReLambro project delivered a detailed and modular large-scale project shared among the institutional stakeholders and actors involved in the partnership and enriched by the local initiatives’ involvement and, at the same time, activated a diffuse process enabling the recognition of the landscape values (cultural, ecological, and in terms of services performed) by local communities and the realization of small interventions of re-appropriation of green spaces and ecological restoration.
The ReLambro project demonstrated the relevance of multilevel approaches and multi-stakeholders’ alliances in landscape regeneration and the crucial role played by the activated synergies among academia and local communities in designing and implementing urban (and territorial) green networks and infrastructures that need both technical/academic knowledge and the communities to understand and face complex urban challenges.

3.3. Micro Landscaping Interventions: Resilience Practice Pervasiveness

Commonly, grassroots initiatives are associated with local-based and small-scale interventions that generate material and immaterial interventions to improve community spaces, such as (re)greening interventions, re-appropriation of abandoned or transitional spaces, and small public green improvements. These interventions represent a wide range of diffuse resilience practices that can act to improve the natural and ecological landscape. These practices often perform two additional or indirect benefits: fostering the mainstreaming of nature-based solutions and green/ecological landscaping and boosting the multiple connections between ecological and social dimensions.
These practices are often able to move past the small scale and act as levers, as they activate synergies among local and territorial scales and among academia and community actors, both crucial alliances in approaching the ecological landscape project implementation that needs to be consistent with long-term policies and programs operating at European and territorial levels.
At the same time, local initiatives are unique opportunities to foster connection among local communities and urban nature diversity, promoting a profound rebalance and recognition of ecological features (for example, knowledge and implementation of agroecological and biological agricultural models).
The RPO involved several resilient practices producing small regreening interventions in the Milan metropolitan area. An example is the practices acting on the green public spaces to improve the vegetation biodiversity supporting urban bird biodiversity and bees or pollination planting, boosting the complexity and variation of gardens, making them attractive for pollinating insects. The project of Alveari Urbani (, accessed on 20 February 2023) promoted urban beehives co-designed with local and international artists and realized during workshops managed by local communities in urban parks. The projects contribute to the beehives’ installation, beekeeping activities, and the management of flower and herbaceous gardens that are appetible for insects. Several RPO practices developed local interventions in restoring small habitats to preserve wild species living in urban or peri-urban areas [32].
All these small community interventions provide crucial resources for Milan’s biodiversity and ecological functionality improvement, contributing to the achievement of the Metropolitan and Municipal climate and environmental strategies and goals. In particular, the Milan municipality recognized the role of community-led processes in policy design and implementation for ecological and urban landscapes. The diffusion of these practices contributes to improving the urban landscape and resilience. At the same time, some criticalities emerged: the fragility of local practices rooted in small partnerships often faces difficulties in stabilizing the process. Another criticality is the need to foster awareness in adopting structured tools for evaluating the benefits deriving from the actions of community-led practices on ecosystem improvement (and other aspects of territorial and urban challenges). A specific domain of activities of the OPR project concerned the discussion of critical issues and barriers to the stabilization and upscaling of practices and the need to strengthen the accountability of community-led processes [26].

4. Open Questions and Perspectives for Boosting the Resilience Practice Contribution in Landscape Planning Processes

Green and collective forms of green space management are interventions often launched by resilience practices. Several innovative forms of urban community gardens, social farming, and social agriculture demonstrated how the management of green spaces also became an opportunity for the involvement of local communities (and vulnerable/specific population targets) in training and activities, improving people’s wellbeing. Practices also often propose innovative uses of urban green spaces, where green spaces accommodate functions and activities conducted outdoors and connected with places of social activation (learning, knowledge sharing), such as sports activities and courses, not necessarily all related to traditional facilities and equipment. In some practices, the realization of community gardens and shared green areas constitutes physical interventions able to strengthen community building and promote wellbeing and therapeutic paths for vulnerable/fragile community sectors.
To consider the resilience practices as landscape planning action implementation agents, support to the practices is needed to reduce the island effect (isolation) of single practices, which makes them fragile, and foster the local dimension and local action to be committed to large and long-term vision.
Nature-based solutions, green infrastructures, and landscape improvement require multiscale and systemic approaches. The local action activated by communities (citizen or private) is a fundamental resource if consistent and contributing to the long term. Landscape planning must provide an incremental framework for long-term vision. Academia, technical sectors, and community practices activate mutual hybridization and capacitation recognizing the reciprocal capabilities and knowledge.
During the RPO projects, two aspects emerged as barriers to be faced to enable the collaboration and engagement of practices in the landscape planning process: The resilience practices denounced a mistrust in institutional processes and a distance from the “planning” processes and tools (often perceived as top-down, closed, and technical and bureaucratized). The literature on grassroots and transition initiatives underlines similar dynamics and barriers to foster the synergies and alliances among community-led processes and institutional programs and planning [33,34,35].
NBSs and landscape planning provide a cross-cutting framework connecting natural ecosystem regeneration with social challenges and innovative economic assets [9], crucial in orienting resilience practice interventions. From RPO and selected cases, two aspects of solicitation emerge for the disciplinary debate: multilevel governance of process and knowledge hybridization.

4.1. Governance and Process Innovation

In landscape planning, the need to shift towards a participatory model is a consolidated debate aspect [36]. The diversity of stakeholders, the redundancy of their roles, and their active participation in processes improve social-ecological systems’ resilience, making natural and social environments more sustainable. The adaptive governance model is aimed at accompanying the process of urban transformation [37,38,39,40]. The involvement of different actors by scale, and skills in the construction, implementation, and management of landscape phases increase the feasibility of the transformation, the implementation of landscape planning projects, including long-term management of projects and strengthening of awareness and the role that local communities, associations, and citizens can have in improving the quality of landscape [41].
The Re Lambro project demonstrated the relevance of activating multiscale and multiactor processes to achieve tangible transformations towards territorial and local sustainability. In particular, in the Lambro case, a crucial role was played by the community and academia alliance in implementing the planning/policy strategies for the Lambro river restoration and landscape improvement [42].
At the territorial scale, the instrument of river contracts [43] demonstrated its potentiality, enabling multilevel governance processes for the sustainable management of territorial systems and landscapes along rivers. The Lambro River contract experience presents peculiarities due to the territorial characteristics and its strategic relevance, attracting involvement, commitment, and efforts, both from institutions and from private institutions and actors (including the Cariplo foundation).

4.2. Knowledge Co-Production and Landscape Planning/Practice Hybridization

The success of the Parco delle Risaie experience results from the collective process of defining a shared strategic vision of the green/rural area. The innovation stands in the sharing and hybridization of knowledge of communities, farmers, and the support of landscape planners.
The hybridization of knowledge is crucial for promoting cultural and socio-cultural transition towards more sustainable and resilient complex systems [34]. A radical shift in landscape planning and policy design and the decision-making process is needed to guarantee the engagement of a large range of actors and practices. These are common arena models enabling the comparison, dialogue, and integration among different epistemologies (hard sciences, technical and design disciplines, and materials knowledge) towards alliances and cultural advancements can help overcome the gap between decision making and implementation. Fostering alliances among academia, institutions, private sector, associations, and communities’ networks enables innovative visions and solutions able to activate a robust connection among long-term vision and local needs (referred to as the daily and local dimension), as well as multi-beneficial impacts and improvements in the implementation of local and territorial projects. The resilience practices could be an opportunity both in design and decision making, implementation and management of transformation process of territorial land urban landscapes if engaged and involved.
Literature debate and the presented cases demonstrate the mutual benefit in integrating the opportunities and richness from the resilience practices in landscape planning.
The dialogues and the collaboration among academia, planning, and practices in producing innovative landscape planning, design, and implementation/management actions still present some criticalities and barriers, both from the resilience practices and landscape planning/policy sides.
Landscape planning and design are innovating their toolboxes to foster the implementation of transformation and their management over time. The NBSs (and blue/green infrastructures, ecosystem services) are technical tools addressing the implementation challenges and soliciting process innovation in knowledge and design solutions of landscape planning.
Based on the NBS umbrella concept and the solicitations from the dialogues with resilience practices engaged in the RPO project, the REsilienceLAB association ( proposed and discussed the concept of Collaborative blue/green infrastructures. During the Creative Diversity co-production path, “collaborative” emerged as a crucial quality and aspect connecting the landscape and ecological planning with the resilience practices to foster a cultural advancement (mutual innovation) towards tangible sustainable territorial and urban transition.


The Resilience Practice Observatory project was founded by Cariplo Foundation; the “Creative diversity for our common futures “path was developed by REsilienceLAB association with the support of Banca del Monte di Lombardia foundation.

Data Availability Statement

The open-source data concerning the mapping and characterization of practices and the materials produced [period 2015-1017] are available on the Resilience Practices Observatory website at (note that the website is in Italian). The book "[ECO]systems of Resilience Practices. Contributions for Sustainability and Climate Change Adaptation," published by Elsevier, contains a section dedicated to the results and outcomes of the Resilience Practices Observatory project (Link to the Elsevier page of the publication


The author is grateful to all the REsilienceLAB members for their contributions and inspirational discourses during the Creative Diversity paths and, in particular, to Luca Bisogni in coordinating the Collaborative blue/green infrastructure discussion and in reframing the emerging collective inputs. The author is grateful to Giulia Pesaro (co-editor) and to all the authors contributing to the book “[Eco]System of Resilience Practices” published by Elsevier in 2022.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. The logical frame of the paper: the focus on the practices acting on improving the environment and ecosystem components of the territorial systems (highlighted in the RPO resilience practices map) and the selection of the three exemplifying cases of recurring dynamics between resilience practices and landscape process planning. The outcomes and emerging perspectives for the disciplinary debate for the collaborative landscaping planning process.
Figure 1. The logical frame of the paper: the focus on the practices acting on improving the environment and ecosystem components of the territorial systems (highlighted in the RPO resilience practices map) and the selection of the three exemplifying cases of recurring dynamics between resilience practices and landscape process planning. The outcomes and emerging perspectives for the disciplinary debate for the collaborative landscaping planning process.
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Figure 2. Resilience Practices Observatory project: goals and multiple research-action activities launched.
Figure 2. Resilience Practices Observatory project: goals and multiple research-action activities launched.
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Figure 3. The metropolitan context of Milan. The figure highlights the South Milan Agricultural Park and the green and rural landscapes strategies of the Municipal Plan of Milan (with the selected practice localization).
Figure 3. The metropolitan context of Milan. The figure highlights the South Milan Agricultural Park and the green and rural landscapes strategies of the Municipal Plan of Milan (with the selected practice localization).
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Figure 4. Localization and images from the three selected practices: Re-Lambro project, Parco delle Risaie, and some images from the Urban Beehives experiences.
Figure 4. Localization and images from the three selected practices: Re-Lambro project, Parco delle Risaie, and some images from the Urban Beehives experiences.
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Colucci, A. Resilience Practices Contribution Enabling European Landscape Policy Innovation and Implementation. Land 2023, 12, 637.

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Colucci A. Resilience Practices Contribution Enabling European Landscape Policy Innovation and Implementation. Land. 2023; 12(3):637.

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Colucci, Angela. 2023. "Resilience Practices Contribution Enabling European Landscape Policy Innovation and Implementation" Land 12, no. 3: 637.

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