ResiRiver partner meeting in Dundalk

From the 13th to 16th of May, our ResiRiver team visited the Irish partners in Dundalk for a three-day partner meeting. This was our first partner meeting since the project kick off and as such, an interesting program of co-creation sessions, excursions, and interactive games had been prepared. The following post gives a synopsis of the highlights from this first partner meeting.

Monday: opening, co-creation session and an Irish pint

Upon arrival at Dundalk, we immediately got the full experience of true Irish weather (yes it rained for the remainder of the day). This was of course minor, as we were quickly and warmly welcomed by our Irish partners at the Dundalk Institute of Technology. After the opening and some introductions, we directly dove into the finances and a review of our first project report. It was a prime opportunity to highlight the progress made after a bit more than one year of ResiRiver, and to assess whether we are still on track in terms of deliverables. This session was followed by content-based updates from the trainees, our intern and PhD student who all work on different aspects of implementing NbS in the 9 project pilots. To wrap up day 1, we had a content-based session where we examined the first analytical results of applying the IUCN framework to all pilot cases. Discussions were so livid that we had to convince people that it was approaching dinner and that we should close off for day 1. We ended our first day on a good note and went out for proper pub food and a well-deserved Irish pint!

Tuesday: excursion, Irish biodiversity and live music

Day 2 begun with a science team co-creation session. The focus of this workshop was to determine how we can link knowledge, policy and practice. Considering that ResiRiver has 5 PhD students and partners with varying needs, it is important that a clear and logical overview is made on how to connect all parties. This session was followed by a reflection workshop that focused on the functioning of and perceived risks in ResiRiver. 

After lunch, the other highlight of day 2 begun and this was an excursion to the pilot location of the Stranooden Group Water Schemes. Passionate members showed us how the community captures surface water and protects it from contamination by installing NbS. In this way, users of the water schemes have access to clean and safe drinking water. They also showed us the pressures the Irish landscape is under due to different landscape functions and explained how they are tackling the challenges head on by using NbS to protect the source of their water resources. After explaining how the water scheme works, we got a pleasant and fun surprise; to go further into the Irish hilly countryside, tractors and trailers had been arranged! 

For the last part of the excursion, we went to the BallyBay Wetlands Centre and took a stroll along the Dromore River. Representatives from the Group Water Schemes explained the current challenges and progress made in sustaining biodiversity in the river basin. Our day ended in a famous pub in Dundalk (its claim to fame is the fact that the American president visited and had dinner there a year ago!). We were treated to live Irish music and more; who would have known that some of our own partners are such talented singers and Irish music dancers?

Wednesday: games, ResiRiver glossary and a beautiful hike

We kicked off day 3 with a serious game on stakeholder participation. The objective here was to enable partners to shift perspectives between different stakeholders on real-life cases of NbS. Further, we worked on a ResiRiver glossary which is essential considering that we work in a cross-cultural setting. Almost before we knew it, it was time to wrap up day 3 and the official part of the partner meeting. The meeting was an intensive period but provided a good podium to further delve in to the project content and even more important to work on our team dynamics. 

In closing day 3, many members expressed their enthusiasm at the way thing are going so far and we look forward to our further progress. Some partners had to say goodbye at this point and returned home. A few of those who remained had the chance to explore the beautiful Irish hills by hiking up Slieve Gullion. We wrapped up the last day in a local pub where we pitched the ResiRiver pilots at an event called ‘Pint of Science’. Lots of credits to our Irish partners for organizing these amazing three days!

Thursday: national conference and saying goodbyes

The last day was not a part of our official meeting, but those who could stayed a little longer: our Irish colleagues (DKiT & LAWPRO) had organized a national conference at the Dundalk Institute of Technology on NbS to protect and restore urban, rural, coastal and riverine environments. Minister Malcom Noonan, T.D. Minister of State for Nature, Heritage & Electoral Reform attended and opened the conference, emphasizing the importance of the development and implementation of NbS. He officially launched the Implementation Strategy- Nature-based Management of Urban Rainwater and Urban Surface Water Discharges’ and the ‘Rainwater Management Planning’. The latter is a document for local authorities, an information document that will assist them in the decisionmaking at settlement level. The ResiRiver team got a chance to present ResiRiver and a few pilots as well. 

This concluded our wonderful three-day partner meeting in Ireland. We are very thankful to our Irish partners for organizing this great event. We look back at a fruitful, inspiring and overall energizing partner meeting. And luckily, the next meeting is already on our agenda: later this year we will reconvene in Lyon!