This paper identify key governance enablers—the contextual preconditions, policy processes, and institutions—that proved essential for NBS initiation, planning, design, and implementation, drawing from three case studies in Nocera Inferiore (Italy), Munich (Germany), and Wolong (China). In the three cases, interviews confirm the success of the NBS measures and their benefits in terms not only of DRR but of multiple ecological and social–economic co-benefits. There is growing recognition that using the properties of nature through nature-based solutions (NBS) can help to provide viable and cost-effective solutions to a wide range of societal challenges, including disaster risk reduction (DRR). However, NBS realization depends critically on the governance framework that enables the NBS policy process.
Results highlight critical governance enablers of NBS, including: polycentric governance (novel arrangements in the public administration that involved multiple institutional scales and/or sectors); co-design (innovative stakeholder participatory processes that influenced the final NBS); pro-NBS interest and coalition groups (organized pressure groups that advocated for an NBS); and financial incentives (financing community-based implementation and monitoring of NBS). Findings show that the transition to NBS can contribute to multiple global agendas, including DRR, climate change adaptation, and sustainable development.