Professional training and education: today’s challenge to boost the Green Care market

The Green4C project has published a series of Market Outlooks identifying the need for professional training and education as key to driving innovation in the Green Care sector.

In the last months, the Erasmus+ Green4C project elaborated four market perspectives, one for each thematic sector: Forest-based care, Green care tourism, Social agriculture, and Urban green care. All four analyses share the same message in their conclusions: the need for professional training and education programmes to foster entrepreneurship and innovation in Green Care markets. This finding is particularly important for the validation of the Green4C project as its work focuses on contributing to the development of Green Care business opportunities for students, researchers, and practitioners. In this regard, one of the key activities addressing this gap is the Green Care e-learning course developed by the Green4C team with the aim to turn academic theory into entrepreneurial practice.

The four Market Outlooks have largely been developed through consultation with European sector experts in the form of interviews and/or focus groups to understand how the four Green Care sectors could evolve. The experts’ views related to professional training and education are summarised below per Green Care sector.

  • Forest-based care

Forest-based care refers to all organised interventions in forests including “aspects of healthcare, social inclusion and rehabilitation, health prevention with clinical assistance to broaden wellness and relaxation, education ranging from pedagogy to opportunities for disaffected people, spiritual and inspirational values, employment, and livelihood” (Doimo et al., 2021; Mammadova et al., 2021). The Forest-based care experts interviewed consider professionalism to be crucial to ensure better quality of services, especially in forest therapy interventions that require health professionals. Improving the quality of services contributes to a higher visibility of forest-based care approaches and paves the way for formal recognition of the practice and sustainable investments by health institutions.
According to a Finnish expert: “Entrepreneurs may have the passion for nature but need more business and marketing skills to become economically sustainable”. Training and education both in entrepreneurship and Green Care play a key role in increasing professionalism and skills of Forest-based care entrepreneurs. However, a European certification system is key to provide common standards to monitor and evaluate the activities and the green areas used, since the market is still based on informal rules.

Photo: Emma Simpson / Unsplash
  • Green care tourism

Green care tourism is defined as “a wide range of organised tourism experiences and products that rely on nature and wild spaces for tourists in search of health, wellbeing and regeneration” (Mammadova et al., 2021). While some of the Green care tourism experts interviewed stated that the mindset and core values of the entrepreneurs must match their Green care tourism offer, the experts also stressed the importance of personal motivation and specific training for Green care tourism entrepreneurs. Competent people are needed, which implies the need for training and education in green care tourism activities.
Destination management organisations and public-private partnerships to support tourism development of destinations can lead the development of a holistic Green care tourism product. Due to their broad vision of the destination and their organisational power at a higher scale, they are well placed to assess the best direction for local tourism offers. Consequently, they can provide specific training to potential Green care tourism entrepreneurs to promote the supply of exactly those tourism products and services that are missing.
For example, if there is a sufficient offer of Green care tourism activities – such as forest bathing, nature yoga, etc. – but not enough supply in the hospitality sector, then the destination management organisation can train hospitality managers to adapt their offer to Green Care tourists by offering local and seasonal menus, healthy menus, quiet areas, green spaces for relaxation, etc.

  • Social agriculture

Social agriculture (or social farming) can be understood as activities that rely on an agricultural context and use agricultural resources for the provision of care activities and social services (Di Iacovo and O’Connor, 2009). Today, we see the demand for Social agriculture is diversifying. Whereas traditionally Social agriculture catered to the needs of participants with a disability or a mental health condition, today there is a greater demand to address the needs of the elderly, school children, school drop-outs, cancer patients, refugees, asylum seekers, etc. An increasingly diverse group of participants requires a more varied offer of activities and a greater diversity in the types of entrepreneurs offering social agriculture initiatives.
One example would be education professionals offering educational social agriculture services to school drop-outs. In addition, tailored and specific training and education of Social agriculture entrepreneurs is an important aspect when offering such diverse activities to diverse groups of participants. In this regard, national or regional Social agriculture associations have the potential to play an important role in the provision of training and education.

Photo: Joshua Lanzarini / Unsplash
  • Urban green care

Urban green care represents diverse projects, initiatives and/or organisations operationalising urban green spaces and incorporating human health and well-being in their mission, vision, and activities. It is only logical that the stakeholders and actors are as diverse as the projects they represent, with the professional background of the Urban green care initiative’s staff being primarly in the health care sector.
As in the other thematic sectors, also in Urban green care the work between and across different sectors is difficult, at least in the Flemish context. In the Irish context, we learned that Green Care practices need to be standardised and quality assured.
In general, projects and initiatives need to integrate ethics into their business models. The number of trainings and certifications for prevention, health promotion and therapy seems to be increasing, however there is a certain risk of separation. One experts mentioned that depending on the training a person receives, they must meet certain standards, for example, to practice as a garden therapist. As soon as that person does not have this specific training, they cannot be called a garden therapist and cannot carry out any activities outside this field, even if they are perfectly trained for health promotion measures in general.
Nevertheless, the general trend is that activities using green spaces and aimed at promoting health and well-being will increase but will probably remain a niche market.

Find out more about our EU market outlooks!


Siebe Briers, Cecilia Fraccaroli and Dennis Roitsch (European Forest Institute – EFI)

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