Value of the natural flood management Community of Practice (NFM CoP)

Over the summer of 2020 a Masters student at University of Leeds, Phoebe King, carried out analysis of the value of the NFM CoP as part of her dissertation thesis. Phoebe interviewed a range of people involved with the NFM CoP to understand their views, how they had benefited as an individual and as a representative of their organisation.

We’ve summarised some of the key findings from this below.

The value of the Community of Practice as reported by participants:

  • Networking: many new connections formed, relationship building beyond the CoP, a range of contacts to seek advice from, increased access to demonstration sites 
  • Learning: expansion of knowledge-base and technical understanding from class-room discussions whilst site visits helped to develop understanding of NFM on the ground, compare different techniques and understand the impact of interventions 
  • Platform for sharing and discussing information: The CoP provided an opportunity to share common experiences and support participants to overcome challenges  
  • Opportunities to promote projects: great way to hear about other people’s projects as well provided an opportunity to promote their own work and share techniques
  • Resources: a platform to disseminate resources and tools which can then be shared out to own networks beyond the Community of Practice. Also supports NFM evidence base and builds confidence among NFM and non-NFM networks  
  • Sense of belonging: involved in the NFM community with access to information and connections, engagement in CoP supports funding bids. 

The impact of the Community of Practice on everyday NFM practices:

Impact indicatorTypeExamples
Practical benefitsKnowledgeFocused interventions to simultaneously address flood risk and biodiversity. Actions based on NFM co-benefit discussions
Impact of site visits: replicated interventions observed at Hardcastle Crags – implemented ‘dry channels’ and ‘flow pools’
Opportunity to learn new ‘technical’ information e.g. monitoring
ToolsUsed Opportunity Mapping tool to assess areas of NFM priority
Defra GIS layer tool used to view nationwide NFM interventions. Use of tool to upload own data to GIS layer
Wider benefitsExpansion of NFM network
Used platform to promote own NFM project – built project awareness
Information sharingConnections madeUsed connections to understand other project areas and seek advice on project delivery
Visit to site demonstrations – invited through connections with CoP members
CoP networking provided the opportunity for an university student to help with time-lapse camera analysis
Resources sharingCoP resources shared to partners, sponsors, farmers and landowners for funding evidence and examples of NFM measures
Resources shared via social media account
Resources shared to outside the UK for a European ‘WaterCOG’ project
Value creationJob creation / fundingParticipant moved positions due to connections made at the CoP
Student invited to help with data analysis for dissertation – saved restricted resources (time & money)
Policy formationInformation learnt from Oughtershaw workshop – application of opportunity mapping into NFM farm plans
Table outlining the impact of the Community of Practice on everyday NFM practices

Quotes from the interviews:

Making connections

“For me, having the community of practice events, it allowed other people to come in which I wouldn’t necessarily have the time to be involved with, so it helped me massively”

“I think it’s that knock-on effect of meeting people and having those contacts that enable you then to do things that you wouldn’t have been able to do”

“Everyone gets to know what you’re doing and you get to hear about what everyone else is doing…. people have come up said, can we come up and have a look at your demonstration sites?”

Platform to share ideas and experience:

“I think [the Community of Practice] did spark a lot of discussion and there was that platform for us to do that. You’ve got a range of practitioners there as well…who you could discuss with and learn from”

“For me, the Community of Practice in terms of benefits for us, is being able to communicate with other people on how we’ve achieved some of the interventions on the ground”

Seeing different ways that people have done things, that has been a massive learning point

Knowledge and skills:

“I struggle to get very enthusiastic about monitoring, but it is very relevant and it is something that I think a lot of us struggle with if we’re not necessarily people from a hydrological background…So I think that was the most useful and relevant [workshop]”