Financing Urban green care

How can Urban green care initiatives find the funding for their activities? What are the main challenges and opportunities they encounter?

Obtaining financing for your Green Care initiative in urban green spaces is no easy feat. This is primarily due to their “hybrid” nature. In our recent report “Nature for Health, Well-being and Social Inclusion: Analysing Factors Influencing Innovation in Green Care”, we categorised Green Care initiatives as being “hybrid”, essentially meaning that they are organisations aiming to reduce or alleviate a particular social or environmental issue as their primary purpose (Holt and Littlewood, 2015), by combining qualities of both for-profit and not-for-profit.  Hybrid organizations can incorporate elements from multiple economic sectors into their business models and everyday operations.

Within urban contexts, urban and peri-urban green spaces are generally consciously acquired or publicly regulated to serve biodiversity conservation, natural buffering and urban shaping and planning functions, in addition to providing recreational opportunities. Such spaces are predominantly owned, regulated and maintained by public institutions and with public financing, thus public finance would seem the logical route when looking for financing for an Urban green care initiative. Still, some private financing sources also exist, and their numbers and ranges are growing. These can include donations, such as those from private foundations or philanthropy, and commitment from private citizens themselves, such as crowdfunding and tree-planting campaigns and platforms.

Given that Urban green care initiatives involve the range of specific projects, initiatives and/or organisations operationalising urban and peri-urban green spaces and incorporating human health and well-being in their mission, vision and activities, they are restricted by the use and access rights of the predominantly urban green “public” space. This can result in a wide range of cost-related challenges, from insurance to permits. As we have seen, Green Care initiatives are predominantly “purpose” and not “profit” focused, which tends to increase the difficulty and barriers when looking to finance their models, especially in their early stages of development. Indeed, once these initiatives have evolved and consolidated their revenue streams to covering at least their operating costs, they can focus on looking for investment. In Green4C we analysed some of these models to try and understand the sources of revenue and finance that keep Green Care initiatives sustainable. The following is a list of the different kinds of finance and revenue sources identified for Urban green care initiatives from the case studies assessed in Green4C and supplemented by an additional internet scientific and grey literature review.

Name and descriptionSectorStage of developmentFounding source and description
Boscoincittà is developing and renewing a network of green spaces in the municipality of Milan, Italy to give its citizens back the contact and health benefits associated with nature.VoluntaryProjectGrant funding, donations and park services and infrastructure fees.
Financing for Boscoincittà comes from a number of different sources. The majority (75%), comes from municipality grant funding with the remainder a combination of volunteer fund-raising activities, private donations, additional grant applications (EU and regional) and payment for the use of the park’s accommodation structure and services (for accommodation and conferences and other renting activities, parties etc) that are maintained by Boscoincitta.
Park Rx America, USA, has developed an online facilitation and information hub to educate and train a diverse group of health care professionals and practitioners to incorporate nature as a therapeutic intervention.VoluntaryLegally incorporated in 2017 as a charitable 501(c)(3) non-profit NGOGrants, donations, honoraria, speaking fees and elbow grease.
Still in nascent stage and non-profit. Up to now, service was not a paid service, it is all voluntary work based on founders’ “free” time supplemented with grant aid. Park Rx is growing the model in the last years. The aim is to make the model a pay for subscriptions and licenses.
Ciudad Emergente, Chile, is building more sustainable cities collectively, through its lab of tools and tactics. It achieves this through the management of information platforms and the creation of “high impact” participatory projects.PrivateLegally registered organisationService fees and grants.
Ciudad Emergente offers services to private (predominantly, 90%) and public (local, regional and national institutions. They also apply to grants from public sector or international agencies promoting sustainable development goals.
Gröna Rehab (Green Rehab), Sweden offers rehabilitation services to burnt-out public employees in a natural setting.PublicA permanent part of the Botanical Garden in Gothenburg, SwedenInnovative use of public budgets.
Gröna Rehab receives funding on a yearly basis from the Gothenburg County Council through the city Botanical garden to offer 35-40 rehabilitation places a year.
The ‘Green Exercise Partnership’ (GEP), Scotland, came together as a result of the growing evidence of public health benefits from engaging with the natural environment, and recognition of the need to improve links between the health and environment sectors to deliver sustainable health outcomes.Public ProjectInnovative use of public budgets.
The partnership is a joint venture between the Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Health Scotland (part of the Scottish National Health Service (NHS)). It funds projects to show the health benefits that derive from investment and management of the NHS estate. For example, it funded tree planting, active woodland management, pathway improvement and other actions so that hospital staff and patients, and local residents can benefit from exercise and time in nature.


Colm O’Driscoll, Anna Biasin (Etifor | Valuing nature)


  • Forestry Commission Scotland, NHS and Scottish Natural Heritage (2015) Briefing Note. Green Exercise Partnership. Available at:
  • Holt, D. and Littlewood, D. (2015). Identifying, mapping, and monitoring the impact of hybrid firms. California Management Review, 57(3), 107–125.
  • Mammadova, A., O´Driscoll, C., Burlando, C., Doimo, I., & Pettenella, D. (2021). EU Blueprint on Green Care: Nature for Health, Well-being and Social Inclusion [Deliverable 3.3: EU Blueprint on Green Care].
  • Toxopeus, H. and Polzin, F., Reviewing financing barriers and strategies for urban nature-based solutions, Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 289, 2021, 112371, ISSN 0301-4797,
  • Myers, M. (1975). Decision Making in Allocating Metropolitan Open Space: State of the Art. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science (1903-), 78(3/4), 149–153.
  • Baroni, L., Nicholls, G. and Whiteoak, K. Approaches to financing nature-based solutions in cities. Grow Green Project Intermediate Deliverable.
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