An interview with Miriam Navarro Escudero, Financial manager and Head of International R&D&i Department at Valencia Building Institute, on some of the key features and lessons learnt of the Valencia Region mainstreaming experiment.
1. First of all, why undertaking a mainstreaming adventure in Valencia Region?
The mainstreaming processes are one of the main missions of the Instituto Valenciano de la Edificación as an entity chaired by the Valencian Government to improve the sustainability and quality of buildings as well as cities, being part of our daily activity to transfer the results of research and cooperation initiatives with other regions and countries to public policies in the field of the built environment.
2. How were the projects to be mainstreamed identified and selected?
We incorporate the mainstreaming perspective in all the research/innovation/cooperation projects in which we participate from their conception as a project idea, always proposing results that can address/ improve public policies or can have a direct or indirect impact on the improvement of the built environment. That is why it is not necessary for us to do a selection process of what could be mainstreamed, but rather we look for holistic strategies that allow us to carry out mainstreaming processes including the results of the largest number of projects possible, grouping results.
3. Could you briefly describe your role and experience as a “giver” within the experimentation carried out in Valencia Region?
In the context of the INTERRREG MED Programme, we have carried out mainstreaming processes in two areas, tourism and energy efficiency.
On the one hand, our participation as lead partner of ALTER ECO project (Alternative tourist strategies to enhance the local sustainable development of tourism by promoting mediterranean identity), a testing project, allowed us to go down to the local scale to collaborate with tourist destinations such as Valencia and Gandia in which we were able to test the different methodologies and strategies proposed in the project to improve the sustainability of the destination. In the specific case of Gandia, the collaboration allowed the municipality to cooperate with destinations with similar problems at MED level and to test possible strategies and technologies that had not been used until then because of the lack of time, knowledge, and resources. After the implementation of the project in the city, a smart tourism strategy was designed that was based in part on the results of the project, and since then, two years ago, they continue to advance in aspects such as the monitoring of tourists flow and the use of the obtained data in strategic decisions as a city and as a destination, change of the tourism model, improvement of the quality of the accommodation offer, among others. All the work carried out in Gandia served other municipalities as an inspiration.
In the area of energy efficiency, we worked in two different projects: IMPULSE and SHERPA, both of them were focused on improving the capacities of public administrations to deal with energy efficiency in public buildings from different perspectives. For instance, in SHERPA, we worked first at regional level, collaborating with different departments of the Regional Government to create 14 energy renovation plans for different public buildings. This methodology was transferred to municipalities in IMPULSE, 30 municipalities were trained in the use of tools to create their own roadmap for energy renovation of their complete stock of municipal buildings. Of those, 3 different municipalities used this roadmap to develop part of their Sustainable Energy and climate Action Plans (SECAPs).
Something that we detected working in this process is the necessity to work with different levels of public administrations, for instance, schools belong to the Regional Government, but expenses on energy and daily management is managed by municipalities. In those cases, understanding the implications from the different actors is key to be successful. In fact, learnings from these experiences have been transferred and replicated to other public initiatives and other building typologies, such as the creation of a network of One Stop Shops Offices to support the acceleration of the energy renovation of residential buildings (XALOC network), which is an example of improved governance among the Regional Government on Housing and municipalities in the Valencia Region.
4. What type of activities were most relevant and helpful during the mainstreaming process?
What is most useful to be able to carry out mainstreaming actions is to involve those agents who will be the target of the mainstreaming process from the beginning of the project so that they participate in the design of the desired result.
Basing projects on the needs expressed by the public entities to which the mainstreaming process is directed is ideal.
The activities that favor the relationship of the municipalities, or regions, putting in contact people with equivalent responsibilities is also key in order to share problems and possible solutions.
5. Did you encounter any challenges throughout the way? How did you address them?
The interrelationship between the different levels of public administration is the main barrier that slows down or can even paralyze mainstreaming processes. The XALOC network explained above was proposed as a possible improvement in communication between the different levels, working very well so far for this purpose, that is to improve governance between the different levels of public administrations.
6. From your point of view, is mainstreaming a useful, relevant experience? Would you recommend it to other organisations?
Undoubtedly, investment in cooperation projects should aim at improving public policies and thereby improving the living conditions of citizens.
Miriam joined the Department of Construction Management in 2006 and worked in the development of different tools for professionals regarding the application of sustainable products and technologies to the built environment (new and existing buildings as well as urban areas).
In 2013, she joined the International R&D&i Department and has managed different EU projects from different programmes focused on energy efficiency and sustainability in the built environment. She is redactor of different publications about buildings and their environment.
Currently, she is the financial manager of the institute and Head of the International R&D&i Department. Degree in Industrial Design and Bachelor in Industrial Engineering - Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain). Bachelor in Economics (Spanish National Distance University (UNED).