Working in partnership to support Blue Spaces in the UK

Esmée’s Freshwater Partnerships Development Manager, Jenny Wheeldon, shares our plans for a Blue Spaces programme to support people and organisations to take imaginative approaches to looking after their freshwater environments.

Darllenwch y dudalen yma yn cymraeg

In 2020, Esmée identified freshwater as a priority in our work to improve Our Natural World. As well as being a vital resource and habitat for wildlife, freshwater is a thread that connects our interests in how food is produced, how nature can be restored at scale and how communities can shape the places where they live – irrespective of their background, wealth, or privilege.

I joined Esmée to develop the Foundation’s freshwater partnerships programme and explore ways we could better support people to take imaginative approaches to look after the rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands where they live.

In the five months I’ve been in post, I’ve been inspired by the excellent work being done by freshwater partnerships already in place such as the Rivers Trust movement, WildFish, the Wildlife Trusts, the Angling Trust, and Surfers Against Sewage, as well as the brilliant campaigns being led by the communities most affected by poor water quality. I’ve also learnt lots from our work with partners towards our impact goals in Our Natural World, including protecting and restoring freshwater in the UK. You can learn more about our work and plans to improve our natural world in a series of blogs, which also touch on the intersections with our priorities in Creative, Confident Communities and A Fairer Future.

Our Blue Spaces programme

This has all helped to inform our Blue Spaces programme, a new initiative to support ideas and projects that will bring together new and unusual partnerships, engages with and is shaped by the diverse communities in a place, and tests new ways of working. To help us reach beyond our existing networks and partnerships that are already well established, we have launched an open call for projects in Wales to find and support organisations to develop their ideas, and explore their potential to become longer-term, sustainable place-led initiatives.

We are focusing on Wales because we’re less familiar with work being done there, and we’re keen to learn more about work beyond our usual networks. Our main funding route is also still open if you’ve got a great idea in another part of the UK that could contribute to our impact goals in any of our funding priorities.

What we want to achieve

We want to work in partnership with people and communities to:

  • Demonstrate the role of freshwater habitats in addressing pollution, flooding, drought, and other effects of climate change.
  • Restore and create freshwater habitats and the recovery of freshwater dependent species.
  • Demonstrate novel approaches to understanding the health of freshwaters through innovations in monitoring and sharing information.
  • Develop innovative approaches to funding (including leveraging private investment).
  • Develop robust ways to report and share learning as widely as possible.
  • Address barriers and inequalities in the opportunity to influence, access and enjoy freshwater environments.
  • Embed new ways of working that will benefit projects beyond the end of the funded period.

Who, how and where

We are keen to support organisations and partnerships to develop their ideas to improve freshwater where they live and work. Our intention is ultimately to select up to six of them across the UK to support longer term change. We want to encourage joint working between existing contacts and new collaborations, as well as proactively look for new partners. We will do this in different ways – likely to be a mixture of inviting expressions of interest, development grants and strategic commissions to establish several projects that are innovative and make a contribution to our impact goals.

Our aim is for the Blue Spaces programme to reflect a range of stakeholder aspirations, engage communities, leverage additional resources, and enable more integrated approaches.

Blue Spaces – Wales: Call for Expressions of Interest

At this stage we are particularly interested in hearing about potential freshwater work in Wales, with the aim of identifying a number of organisations to support to develop their ideas.

We will open to Expressions of Interest through Blue Spaces – Wales on 21 March, and are hosting a Q&A webinar on 21 March at 12 noon, where we’ll be sharing more about our thinking, and answering your questions about the programme.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, send us an email to:

River Dee, Wales.jpg

Blue Spaces - Wales: Call for Expressions of Interest

Blue Spaces – Wales is a new initiative to support imaginative approaches to looking after local freshwaters – rivers, streams, lakes, canals and ponds.

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