Breaking the behavioural barrier to nature-based innovation in Baia Mare: iLEU, a digital linchpin for the ecosystem of the future

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Submission Summary
One of the biggest obstacles to the implementation of Nature Based Solutions (NBS), sustainable urban regeneration and new management instruments challenging the status quo of resource use in cities represents shifting the mindset of the citizens. Long-standing behavior in what concerns, for example, patterns of urban traffic or the reduce-reuse-recycle approach to valuable natural and man-made resources stem from inertia, low awareness and lack of incentive to citizens. Across Europe, the perception of real benefits of NBS, green entrepreneurship and sustainable resource use is still low, while green action is fragmented and perceived more as individual action rather than a community approach. Large-scale nature-based innovation is stuck in a conundrum: it is difficult to convince citizens of its true quality of life impact without first reaching critical mass, which in turn depends on the catalysation and coordination of stakeholders’ actions. The immaterial Local Environmental Utility (iLEU) in Baia Mare, Romania is designed as a token system addressing the challenge above by simply giving an understandable value and secondary use to environmental action in the city: it is de facto an immaterial local currency. Currently being implemented through the Urban Innovative Action SPIRE Baia Mare, iLEU translates complex concepts into a clear, shared and financially endorsed goal of the City Hall and local community. Once the mining capital of Romania, Baia Mare is left today with almost 630 hectares of heavy metal (HM) polluted land in its metropolitan area, and with a large spectrum of environmental, health, economic and social challenges stemming from its post-industrial reality. In this paper, we present the radical strategy that the SPIRE project employs: a scalable solution which can completely overhaul and green the local economy. We will achieve that by developing a circular, co-produced nature-based system allowing the phytoremediation of polluted soils, the reuse of plant mass for energy and bio-based materials, and finally creating the necessary openness, awareness, training and mentoring scheme. At the core of the approach, and underpinning the whole ecosystem, is the iLEU token. Shaping the ecosystem based on a Public Private People Partnership (PPPP), iLEU is a mechanism for incentivizing local stakeholders and citizens to take action for environmental protection, green mobility, phytoremediation, reuse of polluted sites, development of green entrepreneurship, energy efficient housing and involvement in the SPIRE HUB, while being a general facilitator for community building, co-creation and citizen involvement. The paper will present the mechanisms enabling iLEU to create trust and economic velocity between the city, its citizens, local business and the civil society, based on virtuous environmental behaviour (such as cycling instead of driving, or recycling one’s Christmas tree, using cradle-to-cradle primary or building materials). iLEU will shift the local administration’s role from a mere administrator to a facilitator for the sustainable business ecosystem, and a creator of local value chains of the circular economy. It is a community enhancer, strengthening the ties between citizens and their city, empowering them as co-creators of public spaces, increasing their sense of belonging and ownership of their city. Above all, the iLEU enhances the local governance levels (cities, metropolitan areas) and enables them to have more resources and freedom to shape their own urban and development policies. iLEU reinvents the local identity and tradition of mining, through a smart transition from mining gold and silver minted into coins, towards mining crypto, minted into local tokens of modern economics enabled by blockchain technology.
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2: Ensuring the Economic Diversity and Resilience
International Projects Manager
Indeco Soft
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