COASTAL project,  H2020,  Traveling

A skip, a hop and a dash to Belgium and Greece for a week

January was a crazy month with the Horizon2020 project COASTAL that I am project leader on for SINTEF Ocean, and that I lead a work package on. The project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

It involves a unique multi-actor collaboration of coastal and rural business entrepreneurs, administrations, stakeholders, and natural and social science experts where the aim is to formulate and evaluate business solutions and policy recommendations that in time may improving the coastal-rural synergy and thereby foster rural and coastal development, while still preserving the environment.


My role in the project is to lead WP1 on the Multi Actor Analysis. The primary job is to coordinate six stakeholder workshops in each of the five case areas that are part of the COASTAL project.

The official text is the following:

WP1 is responsible for initiating and coordinating the multi-actor approach through the project level coordination and scientific support for the sector and multi-actor meetings, organised in the Multi Actor Lab (MALs). The specific objectives of WP1 are to:

  1. Adapt and apply the state-of–the-art methodology for participatory, multi-actor approaches to enable mental mapping of the feedback structures of the land-sea system for the case studies;
  2. Develop transferable and generic mental maps allowing application to other study regions or adaptation to new problem contexts;
  3. Engage with the relevant actors and stakeholders for the different cases during the participatory sector workshops, multi-actor workshops and multi-case (international) workshops;
  4. Push interdisciplinary collaboration beyond the state of the art towards an actor-driven, iterative, and bottom-up approach with generic, qualitative tools which are developed in collaboration with the sectors, stakeholders, and administrations.

So – on this trip – that took place second week of January 2019 – my job was to go to the Belgian and the Greek case areas (Belgian Coastal Zone and South-West Messinia) and help the workshop facilitators in these case areas condense their massive amounts of data into substantially smaller components. I had two days in each place to do this work and it was quite frankly exhausting and very rewarding at the same time.

I first spent two days in Antwerpen, Belgium, with Project Coordinator Jean Luc De Kok from VITO, where we worked very intensely – in addition to squeezing in some time for food and Belgian beer as well.

Enjoying Belgian food and beer in a restaurant with hundreds of religious statues
Developing Causal Loop Diagrams with great colleagues from VITO in Belgiaum











I then went to Athens, Greece, to do precisely the same for two days – spending time with great researchers and getting to know them – and their case area so much better! I finally returned to Amsterdam, stayed at the airport one night, and then flew back home to Houston again! Needless to say I was exhausted after this – I was gone for six nights and stayed in four different hotels in three different countries – but I got so much work done so effectively that I am happy I did it. Now it is up to my two SINTEF colleagues to go to the remaining case areas in Sweden, Romania, Spain and France and finish this job!

Discussing Causal Loop Diagrams with my Greek colleagues in the COASTAL project
Causal loop diagrams wallpapering the room


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