HORIZON EUROPE┋Back to earth: bringing communities and citizens closer to soil




Expected Outcome

Activities under this topic will help progress towards the overall goal of the Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’, in particular by contributing to its specific objective 8 “Increase soil literacy across society”[1]. Activities should also contribute to the Education for Climate Coalition[2] and to the Long-term vision for EU’s rural areas[3] as the Mission is one of its flagship initiatives.

Project results are expected to contribute to all of the following outcomes:

  • Increased societal awareness on the importance of soil and the challenges it faces and of the impact of individual decisions (like housing, food and transport behaviour) on soils. This is manifested by an increased engagement in the protection and restoration of soil health.
  • Opportunities for engaging in creative ways in soil protection are widely available and supported by soil-related arts products and innovative methodologies (including digital ones, but not limited to these).
  • Cultural and creative industries (CCIs), artists and civil society organisations are mobilised and work together alongside with universities, research institutes and public institutions and citizens to increase soil literacy in society.
  • Increased capacity of public and private institutions at different levels (e.g. European, national, regional and local) to engage with the wide public in creative ways to promote sustainable soil management.


The cultural and creative sectors were particularly affected during the COVID-19 crisis, but they are considered to be “a significant driver of local development through job creation and income generation, and generate important spillovers to the wider economy” [4] as well as to the society.

CCIs, artists and civil society organisations can play a significant role in promoting a green transition by engaging people and giving visibility to environmental issues. Working together with soil experts, they can contribute to increasing soil literacy by mobilising the population in the protection and restoration of soil health as well as by tackling soil challenges through creative activities.

With regard to soil health, CCIs, artists and civil society organisations have a major role to play in acting as ambassadors and giving visibility to soil related challenges. They are key for raising awareness, for example on the importance of soil and its functions for society (e.g. documentaries, communication campaigns, podcasts, music, artistic performances, exhibitions, literary arts, etc.), and for inspiring and engaging people to take part in a broader debate and in taking actions, including through innovative methodologies and tools, arts and participatory processes. Arts and other creative forms of engagement have shown to be able to mobilise people that would otherwise not easily connect to more scientific or technical information on soils. Existing examples include initiatives to raise awareness on soils in schools by painting with earth colours or citizen projects on collective composting and urban gardening or the production of documentaries and exhibitions for the general public.

Various and innovative methodologies and tools to increase citizens’ awareness and engagement should be tested in different contexts to reach and involve a large number of people with the overall scope of increasing soil literacy across society. An increased societal awareness of the importance of soil and of the challenges it faces should lead to a better protection and restoration of this precious resource across Europe and possibly beyond.

The successful proposal should:

  • Establish a network of relevant actors (e.g. artists, soil scientists, researchers, communication and engagement experts, public authorities including local administrations) and projects around art, humanities, cultural and creative industries. The network should carry-out a range of activities and campaigns to elevate the importance and value of soils in the context of citizen’s lives and increase people’s awareness (both as citizens and professionals) on soils, as well as ensure meaningful citizens’ engagement.
  • While including relevant actors as beneficiaries from the beginning, the network should gradually expand during the lifetime of the project its activities by providing financial support to third parties. This financial support should be used to fund smaller projects or initiatives (being either transnational, regional or local ones) that contribute to increasing soil literacy across society. In selecting the projects, the consortium should take into consideration quality, geographical balance and coverage aiming at covering a range of Member States and Associated Countries, and include a variety of territories ensuring that both rural and urban areas are covered. The selection process for these projects will be based on principles of transparency, fairness and objectivity.
  • Coordinate, monitor (with appropriate indicators and KPIs) and evaluate the actions of the projects and initiatives from third parties receiving financial support. It should also scale up successful initiatives and contribute to the implementation of the third-party activities, in particular in view of supporting innovative communication campaigns and building capacities for interacting with policy makers at different levels on how to best engage people from all walks of life in the protection and restoration of soil health.
  • Design and provide tools and material as well as build capacities and skills for supporting public and private institutions at different levels (e.g. European, national, regional and local) in their activities to engage with citizens in creative ways in the protection and restoration of soil health.
  • Organise regular festivals (at least two) open to the public with the participation of the projects and initiatives financed through the financial support to third parties to present activities aimed at increasing soil literacy across society to a broader audience. The festival should give visibility to exemplary projects in particular areas, for example (but not exclusively) through awards. In the organisation of the festival, the proposal should consider accessibility, inclusiveness and sustainability. The proposal should also include a long-term plan to ensure the continuity of the festival beyond the life of the Horizon Europe funded project.

The projects and initiatives financed through the financial support to third parties should:

  • Run innovative communication campaigns through different tools (e.g. social media, magazines, podcasts, posters, arts, movies, documentaries) to raise awareness on the importance of soil. Furthermore, selected projects should engage with citizens by proposing hand-on activities on proven sustainable practices for soil protection and management. The campaigns should highlight the relevance that soil has in people’s daily lives and link it with people’s values. They should also lift the public profile of the Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’ and promote its eight specific objectives[5].
  • Organise and promote artistic, soil-related activities that target and/or involve the public, such as cultural/arts events, exhibitions, and creative workshops that have at their centre the importance of soils.
  • Engage citizens in the protection and preservation of soil as well as in tackling soil challenges (including the ones addressed by the specific objectives of the Soil Deal Mission), through innovative, participatory and creative methodologies (e.g. by applying arts-based methods for transformative engagement, citizen assemblies and collaborative projects (e.g. on composting, greening cities and reducing soil sealing, avoiding soil pollution, promoting soil biodiversity).

The financial support to third parties will provide funding of up to 150 000 € per project or initiative. While a substantial amount of the total budget should be allocated to third parties, the support should not exceed 40%.

Proposals must implement the multi-actor approach and involve a wide range of actors (including the end-users), such as artists, cultural and creative industries, civil society organisations, citizen engagement experts and public authorities, along with soil scientists.

Proposals under this topic should include social sciences and humanities (SSH) disciplines (e.g. behavioural sciences, communication, and arts).

They should demonstrate a comprehensive strategy to deal with issues of multilingualism when implementing the project to ensure effective outreach.

Proposals are encouraged to demonstrate a route towards open access, longevity, sustainability and interoperability of knowledge and outputs through close collaboration with the European Soil Observatory (EUSO).

Proposals should create synergies with projects funded under the topics HORIZON-MISS-2021-SOIL-02-06 “Engage with and activate municipalities and regions to protect and restore soil health” and HORIZON-MISS-2022-SOIL-01-07 “Foster soil education across society”[6]. Proposals are also encouraged to create synergies with relevant activities supported under the Creative Europe programme[7].

Legal entities established in non-associated third countries may exceptionally participate in this Coordination and Support action, as the collaboration with international experts in the fields relevant for this topic (from soil science to art, culture, communication and public engagement) can contribute to achieve the expected outcomes beyond the European territory.

International organisations with headquarters in a Member State or associated country are exceptionally eligible for funding such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), due to its role in advancing international cooperation in the areas of education, sciences and culture.

[1] Mission Implementation Plan, https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/research_and_innovation/f…

[2] Education for Climate Coalition, https://education-for-climate.ec.europa.eu/_en

[3] Long-term Vision for EU’s rural areas, https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/new-push-european-democracy/long-term-vision-rural-areas_en

[4] OECD, The culture Fix, https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/991bb520-en.pdf?expires=1654264045&id=id&accname=oid031827&checksum=094F587A2DCB621EAA3F8486CCFAB8E1

[5]See section 2. of the implementation plan of Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’: https://research-and-innovation.ec.europa.eu/knowledge-publications-too…

[6] https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/horizon/wp-call/2021-2022/wp-12-missions_horizon-2021-2022_en.pdf

[7] Creative Europe | Culture and Creativity, https://culture.ec.europa.eu/creative-europe

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Humanities : Anthropology & Ethnology, Architecture and urbanism
Social sciences : Law, Economy, Geography, Management and Public administration, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Political science, Information and Communication Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Sociology
Citizen Sciences