Good practice general information
Title of the practice
The Green Office as an integrated approach for going green Financing ecosystem developments at Budapest 12th District
Organisation in charge of the good practice
Green Office of Municipality of Budapest, 12th District (Hungary), further refered as ‘Hegyvidék’
Short summary of the practice
Good practice presents the possibility of setting up a team, dedicated to protect and maintain the ecosystem of a given geographical area within a city. The role of the Green Office is to carry out administrative environmental tasks, import successful ecosystem management practices and raise awareness of the importance of responsible use of the local ecosystem.
To understand the need for its establishment, we should be familiar with the local geographical and governmental circumstances. Budapest has a dual management system: in addition to the central government, the 23 districts of the city are managed by their local governments. The 12th district, called Hegyvidék (Highlands), is the greenest district in the capital. Its territory is hilly, partly suburban area. The per capita green area is about 170 m2 and the total population is about 58,000 inhabitants. Hegyvidék can be divided into three zones: a densely built-up zone in the center, a mostly residential zone, and a forest zone called Normafa. As the greenest part of the city, Hegyvidék has a huge responsibility to maintain the green space, to communicate properly with the population and to raise awareness of environmental issues and climate change. Due to its privileged environmental position, the office should serve as a good practice for other districts and settlements.
To meet this need, the Green Office was established in 2016 as a department of the municipality. The good practice also shows how the capacity of the team has been increased over the last 5 years and what financial resources have been mobilized to achieve the goals, where the financial and professional contribution of international projects has played a key role.
The mission of the Office is to cooperate closely with the citizens instead of simply operating an administrative unit.
Category of the good practice
Before the establishment of the office, only 1 person worked on green tasks, located at the municipality building. He mainly focused on administrative issues. In 2016, two international projects (Urban Green Belts, TOGETHER) gave a push to set up the team with 5 employees. The staff increased continuously as new tasks appeared. From 2017, 7 employees worked for the office, while today the office employs 9 persons, and 1 international project manager from the Municipality supports their work. This increase was mainly financed by international projects, but 2 persons joined the office due to a legal change: in 2020, the Government relocated the building authorities (previously working as a department of local municipalities) to the Government Offices; 2 employees of this unit joined the office.
The qualifications and skills of the team members are diverse (e.g. environmental engineers, urban planners, psychologist).
The budget of the office consists of the contribution of the municipality and the budget of thematic projects. The latter source provides an opportunity to motivate employees with bonuses.
For special thematic tasks, the office regularly involves external experts as well.
Timescale (start/end date)
Ongoing; the office was launched at late 2016.
Strategic relevance (long term impact)
Hegyvidék is the greenest district of Hungary’s capital, a desirable place for habitation and also popular destination for other citizens and tourists. The maintenance of its environmental quality is a great responsibility. The office needs to coordinate actions in a complex environment where lot of actors have different interests: in addition to Normafa, a large green area, lot of fragmented green spaces are also located in 12th district, which are owned by different actors. Involving these actors to decision making, harmonizing their needs are tasks that have strategic relevance.
Also, the operation of the office is in line with the priorities set in different environmental regulations, they deliver tasks defined in the Environmental Program 2017-2022, and manage the elaboration of a well-cadaster and tree-cadaster. Their activities support the achievement of the goals set in the SECAP of the district, which has joined the Covenant of Mayors in 2016. In the forthcoming years, the implementation of the Climate Strategy (in progress) will be their new duty.
Harmonizing the operation of the office with the above-mentioned strategies is also important from financial aspects, as remarkable part of the operational expenditures are covered by international projects, and the funding programmes require the correspondence to local, regional and national level strategic documents. Also, these considerations guarantee that the day-to-day activities won’t only serve ad-hoc interests and administrative duties, but they are integrated parts of long-term, legitimized processes.
Evidence of success (results achieved)
On one hand, the evidence of success can be measured by the results of the office’s activities, which successfully developed strategies, delivers its official tasks, takes part in several international projects, and in addition it capitalizes from the knowledge gained from these co-operations by organizing awareness raising events for residents and developing expert platforms.
The office was involved into several international co-operations, such as the TOGETHER project (Interreg CENTRAL), BeePathNet (URBACT), and also became coordinator in the Urban Green Belts project (Interreg CENTRAL), Health&GreenSpace (URBACT) and a recently approved LIFE proposal. This development shows the staff became more experienced in project writing and management. Also, during the past years, the staff gained expertise in wide-range of interventions: community involvement, green space management, energy efficiency in public buildings, smart metering, DSM tools (demand-side management), green roofs, awareness-raising programs and activities, festival events, street actions, educational programs and competitions, climate change, SECAP, green and communal waste management, biodiversity in the urban area, planting trees and tree saplings, pollinator-friendly gardens and trees application, urban-beekeeping, health-responsive green space planning and management, multilevel governance, networking with other municipalities and universities, NGOs, business sectors.
Probably the most obvious evidence for success is that many other districts visit them to learn about the processes, everyday operation. This shows that the office gained a great reputation in the past years.
Delivering the tasks that belong to the four pillars of activities (see above) brought tangible results.
The capacity and knowledge of the team makes it possible to properly manage all legal/administrative duties: half of the staff is working on tasks related to abandoned waste treatments, noise and vibration protection issues, logging activities, ragweed and allergic weed control tasks. The office also collects hazardous waste once a year for free.
Regarding organization of awareness raising and motivational programs for residents and addressing local needs, the regularity of these events and the networks established (e.g. in BeePathNet project) also show visible results. The regular community programs with the citizens are tangible results themselves, but the outcomes of these trainings and networking events – such as the renewed green public spaces, where residents started to take care of the plants – are also great examples for tangibility.
The office also recognized the need of exchanging experiences with other departments, experts and municipalities of other districts, therefore they launched the so-called KöZöld Forum in 2017, where predefined topics (regulations, projects, technical questions) are discussed among the members regularly. This event became a tradition.
Regarding investments, the office also reached remarkable results: in TOGETHER project several public buildings were equipped with smart meters to measure the electricity and heat consumption, identify leakages and lavish use of energy. The system contributes to save energy at the municipality, which also makes it possible to use the saved financial sources for developments (e.g. by establishing a revolving fund).
The durability of the office and its results are ensured both from political and financial point of view. The municipality is engaged to support green programmes, maintaining the ecosystem quality of the district, and the results of the office showed that this organizational structure is successful. The financial sustainability is ensured on one hand by the financial contributions of the municipality, and on the other hand the repetitive successes of international projects.
Visibility and communication is probably the strongest skill of the office.
They focus on diverse target groups: the office organizes forums, trainings for citizens, establishes links between entrepreneurs and the residents to raise awareness on eco-friendly products, and they also started to build network among different municipal departments and authorities to consult on ecosystem issues.
The main communication channel is the webpage of the office (https://zold.hegyvidek.hu/about-us). In addition to posting news and introducing their services, their projects, events are also described, and the office provides different guidelines – e.g. for waste management at home (https://www.hegyvidek.hu/download.php?docID=55387)
They are also active in the social media site of the district (https://www.facebook.com/Hegyvidek), and also in the online and offline version of the local gazette, Hegyvidék Újság (https://www.hegyvidekujsag.hu/).
The office reaches the citizens by targeted messages as well. If a resident visits the office to manage an administrative question, his contact details may be registered in the database of the office.
A staff member is dedicated to deliver the communication tasks.
Some examples for awareness raising programs:
Composting programme, where residents also attend at trainings.
Residential shredding, where 4300 m3 branches, green waste are shredded annually.
Protecting horse chestnut trees by spraying 400 trees/year and injecting 200 trees/year. This program provides pest control of these trees for a reduced (50%) price.
The Small Green Space Stewardship program support residents to take care of public green spaces.
By the development of bee pastures, the office provides a colorful blend of pollen and nectar flowers to offer forage for honey bees, bumblebees, and other pollinators. At this program the adequate signing has a special importance, otherwise the citizens do not recognize the function of these green areas.
Programs in kindergartens: Kindergartens are regulated by municipality directive (schools are maintained in a different system, municipality cannot influence their operation – even though, they contribute to the organisation of online sustainability competitions). The office organises education in high gardens, honey breakfasts.
Thematic walks – where they explain the importance of different plants, pollinators, and motivate residents to get involved into the maintenance of the ecosystem.
International projects also provide a great communication possibility towards foreign institutions, national level organisations and the wider public.
The main added value of good practice is that green activities are dedicated to an office, highlighting the importance of ecosystem management and ensuring that adequate capacity is available. They are located in a separate building, and the design of the office (bean bags, paper furniture) also tells the visitor about their environmentally friendly, networking activities.
Due to their activities, citizens became involved in green space management programmes, the office could successfully adopt participative planning in ecosystem management.
From financial point of view their added value is shown by the international projects they won. These project budgets made it possible to hire new members and finance small-scale investments and plenty of awareness raising programmes. These projects also bring up-to-date knowledge about green space management trends.
From political aspect, the office and its successful operation provides a prestige for the district. Other districts visit the office regularly to learn about its operation. This positive image and their experience in transnational projects increases the chance to be involved in new projects, or approve proposals submitted by the office.
The operation of the office is flexible. For specific tasks (events, analyses, proposal writing) the office involves other departments or external experts. This is a cost-efficient solution, which also provides adequate professional knowledge to manage their duties. In the past 5 years of the office, a pool of reliable, distinguished experts could be set up.
The office elaborates complex programmes, which also contribute to the effectiveness of the management of different thematic areas of ecosystem maintenance and development. Some examples:
– Tree programme is composed of a tree-cadaster, the fruitful Hegyvidék (planting) program and tree sapling activities.
– Water: The office maps the water flows, plans water retention systems. They plan to map 16 springs and deliver water quality and water flow testing.
The number of approved international projects shows the effectiveness of proposal writing and project management. The office even coordinated two URBACT projects as lead partner, and they also take this position in their new LIFE+ proposal, which was recently approved.
The innovative communication actions of the office made it possible to bring green space management closer to residents. The office introduced a participative planning approach by joint development of green spaces, planting, bee pastures, urban meadow, thematic walks. Their Facebook was booming when they planted 5000 tulips with a mole sign, telling that something will grow there. As a result, local inhabitants became more committed to maintain and even restore their natural environment.
They involve different actors to deliver attractive communication tools, such as the Art School of Buda, which created a comic book for pupils to draw attention on the importance of energy saving.
The office also plans to establish a local grant for residents and private entrepreneurs to create green places: patios, balconies, green roofs, green walls.
Their cooperation with other department also follows a novel approach. To minimize conflicts and lack of information, the office organises trainings for other administrative units about cooperating in a specific project. Roles, responsibilities, hierarchies (manager may become the temporary ‘boss’ of a head of a department in a given project) are discussed at these events.
See at Effectiveness.
The office works with other departments, external experts on specific tasks, and they also cooperate with diverse foreign institutions in their international projects. They set up sound contacts with the managing authorities and control bodies of the relevant EU programmes.
Networking is a core competence and activity of the office: they organize regular consultations on ecosystem management issues with other departments and authorities. Besides, the office provides trainings and pubic events for citizens and entrepreneurs (e.g. bee-keepers).
They are open to share their experiences with other districts and settlement, who often visit them for advices (e.g. Budafok Municipality)
The office is in close contact with the Association of Climate Friendly cities (https://klimabarat.hu/). Its membership covers the country.
They have established permanent contacts with research institutes, schools and some SMEs – the latter target group is not even in the focus of the office, as there is no industrial activity in the district. Nevertheless, their green space award program has started as the initiative of an entrepreneur, which also finances the awards anonymously.
Some of their consultancy events, like the KöZöld Forum, are regularly organized. Also, the office share experiences with large facilities like hospitals of the district on the experiences of SECAP implementation.
Extra regional impact
Their extra-regional impact is provided by the successful international co-operations:
· Health&Greenspace as Lead Partner in URBACT-APN (2019-2022) – health-responsive green space planning and management
· BeePathNet as Project Partner in URBACT-TN (2018-2021) – urban-beekeeping, biodiversity, educational programmes
· Urban GreenUP as Associated Partner in Horizon2020 (2020-) – nature-based solutions
· UGB as Lead Partner in Interreg-CE (2016-2019) – green space management using GIS, and participatory approach
· TOGETHER as Project Partner in Interreg-CE (2016-2019) – increasing public building energy efficiency with soft solutions
These projects provide possibility to invite foreign, recognized speakers for awareness raising events, and set up networks such as BeePathNet. On the other hand, they share their green space management experiences and citizen involvement approach with their partners.
Needs and feedbacks of the residents is regularly analyzed by surveys. The priorities of different ecosystem problems are set by also considering these feedbacks. This process increases the satisfaction of the inhabitants.
The office involves external experts for different specific tasks. The quality of their work is ensured as their contributions were already evaluated in previous co-operations. By now, the office has been able to build a reliable pool of experts.
The outstanding quality of their work is underpinned by the many contact requests they receive, to share their experiences with other Hungarian districts and settlements.
Potential for learning or transfer
Other regions might learn from the composition of the team, that is composed of enthusiastic members with diverse qualifications and skills. The size of the office may vary from city to city – 9 employees are not initially required. As the workload increases, the size of the office can be slowly increased by involving new financial resources and projects.
However, it is very important to employ staff members, who have a deep knowledge on the district/area. This is important on one hand for the preparation of decisions, on the other hand it increases the creditability of the office.
The office needs to put special emphasis on day-to-day communication with the public, but it also needs to communicate regularly with the management of the municipality and other relevant departments to harmonize activities and create consensus for different interventions.
Political will is inevitably important for the sound operation. It can be gained by introducing the sound communication with citizens, the successes of international co-operations, the integration of new approaches, and the prestige that was created in the past 5 years by the above-mentioned factors.