Realising Just Cities is an ambitious enterprise. To undertake such an initiative takes courage, an open mind and a strong sense of necessity.
The ‘just city’ is a dimension of the context of sustainability, and – over time – sustainable urban development, promoting the transformation to more sustainable cities.
In a way, the ‘just city’ adds the social and societal aspects of urban development to the economic and technological aspects, which, often labelled as growth and innovation, have been seen by many as the main fields in which to work out the paths to sustainability.
These are the ideas of participation, of knowledge beyond the academic, of a right for everyone to access and use the city space, of democracy and equity.
For the past 50 years, this has increasingly come to be acknowledged as crucial for success in sustainability transformation processes, including the environmental sustainability and the global efforts to drastically improve our work against climate change.
It is expressed in the New Urban Agenda, adopted in October 2016 at Habitat III in Quito, as ‘Leave no one behind’ and a broad acceptance of the thoughts behind the ‘Right to the City’ discourse, first presented by the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre in the 1960’s.
Mistra Urban Futures is building a methodology for addressing the sustainability challenges based on these ideas through various forms of co-creation and co-production of knowledge with a transdisciplinary approach. Through local research and knowledge platforms, researchers, practitioners, citizens, NGOs and other stakeholders identify, initiate, create and implement solutions, strategies and policies, based on local projects.
Drawing on experience and knowledge from the local platforms, the Centre is able to compare and extract relevant knowledge from the local projects and – more importantly – about the processes that lead to actual impact: positive changes and mutual learning. Thus, Mistra Urban Futures represents something that is bigger than the sum of the parts.
2017 was an important year within Mistra Urban Futures.
Three key highlights were the launch of our comparative research projects where our platforms are working together to compare the processes and experiences of undertaking locally appropriate and locally defined. Secondly, we expanded our footprint, by means of a node in Stockholm, and also more limited partnerships in India and Argentina, focusing on the Sustainable Development Goal and New Urban Agenda project.
Looking forward to 2018, we welcome four new members of our Board, who will support us in the crucial task of formulating a funding strategy for the period after Mistra funding ends, 31 December 2019, and also the development of the strategic plan for the third phase to work in parallel with the funding strategy. It is also a critical year in terms of consolidating the work and starting to distil lessons from our portfolio of comparative projects and will be very much making waves, if you like, in terms of establishing and strengthening Mistra Urban Futures reputation locally, nationally and equally important for funding and for phase three prospects globally.
Interview video with David Simon — 2 minutes 45 seconds
I travelled a lot to different cities in the world and I see a great need for sustainability.
As a politician and as minister, creating sustainability and especially sustainable cities has always been at the heart of what I have been doing. I travelled a lot to different cities in the world and I see a great need for sustainability. For me, as new chair of Mistra Urban Futures, it is an opportunity to keep that work going and to be able to share my experiences. It is challenging but also very exciting, and I was happy to be asked and almost immediately said “Yes, please. I would like this!”.
The board has a great responsibility but also an opportunity to make this the basis for the continuation of Mistra Urban Futures, maybe with new funders, maybe with a different organisation, but with the work that has been done to continuously keep us moving forward.
To me, a just city is a city that provides equal opportunities for good lives for everyone in the city, it is a city that doesn’t exploit the nature resources more than necessary. You need to have social equality and you also need to make sure that everything you do is within the framework of the nature.
Interview video with Anna Johansson — 2 minutes 45 seconds
Comparative projects form a significant part of the Centre’s intellectual work.
In many ways, they are also the basis for Mistra Urban Futures’ external recognition as reflected in publications, talks and presentations at international conferences and proposals for collaboration. However, the local activities at the local platforms, not forgetting their relative differences, are where much of the actual and essential research is undertaken. The comparative projects are about drawing on the outcome of these projects – relevant results, findings and knowledge are compared and aggregated into globally useful knowledge for practice and research.
This way, the co-creation methodology and transdisciplinary approach may be developed, based on observations and results in different places.
The comparative projects relate to different urban transformation processes: socio-spatial, socio-ecological and socio-cultural as well as different aspects such as urban change, governance and knowledge. However, as the primary research methodology and objectives are based on transdisciplinary collaboration and comparison, it seems relevant to present these comparative projects under a common headline. In this way, the projects themselves become more of indicators of progress towards ‘Realising Just Cities’
Comparing research across 4 continents,
6 countries and 8 cities.
Cultural Heritage and the Just City
The Cultural Heritage and the Just City project is a baseline study exploring the role and value of cultural heritage in the context of Realising Just Cities.
Culture has been increasingly prominent on global urban agendas – being recognised within the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda, Agenda 2063 and through Agenda 21.
Culture is often regarded as the fourth pillar of sustainability. Global instruments such as UNESCO Conventions have resulted in a growing recognition for the importance of cultural policy, and since Habitat III, this has increasingly coalesced around the urban. With this comes a range of risks and opportunities.
The purpose of this project is to explore how cultural heritage can better contribute to realising more just cities in different contexts. The project started in 2017 and the first year focused on understanding the role of festivals in cultural heritage, as well as collaborative writing and presenting the ideas at a major conference.
Neighbourhood transformation and housing justice
The Neighbourhood transformation and housing justice project focuses on questions of socio-spatial urban justice and the inclusive and democratic potential of housing innovations.
Delegates linked to Mistra Urban Futures’ platforms in Sheffield-Manchester, Skåne and Gothenburg will be drawing together their experiences of housing initiatives that seek to combat the exclusionary effects of gentrification. Exchanges and site visits will focus on initiatives that combine aims of tenant empowerment, affordability, scalability and accessibility to city centres.
The three platform teams will engage in a series of learning exchanges and reflective dialogues across the three cities. The two Swedish delegations will visit Manchester together for learning exchange and the Manchester delegation will visit both Malmo and Gothenburg on a joint learning exchange with both of the other delegations. The three day exchanges will include contextual overview, visits to case studies of different housing models, and one final day of reflection. This project will create space for building relationships, sharing experiences, and engaging in joint reflection in pursuit of comparative lessons on housing justice amidst gentrification and neighbourhood change. The work will be supported by literature review in support of contextual knowledge of varying housing regimes.
Solid Waste Management
The flows of solid waste and the opportunities for improvement form the basis for the comparative project Solid Waste Management. As a case study and ground for practice improvement, the market of Kibuye and the Kachok waste dump in Kisumu, Kenya, are used.
The current research activities are designed to contribute towards effective and sustainable waste resource management systems and networking, including the creation of a resource centre for waste management technology and collaboration among various stakeholders within the waste management value chain.
In this phase, the project is primarily based on a collaboration between the Mistra Urban Futures platforms in Kisumu and Skåne. The Vera Park ‘Sustainability Hub’ in Skåne is a testbed environment for innovative solutions within municipal infrastructure systems, such as waste management. Experience and research from Vera Park may be useful to support the development of the solid waste management in Kisumu. The activities are concentrated within market places, informal residential areas lacking waste management services and the Kachok dump site located within the City of Kisumu.
The research activities and collaborations are carried out in a transdisciplinary environment and incorporate academia, public sector (city and county officials), private sector, civil society and the community in the entire scope of the research and implementation period.
Specific aspects include formulation of frameworks for developing mechanisms for effective and sustainable waste resource management systems and networking andcreating a start-up platform and a resource centre for new companies, universities and other organisations.
Migration and Sustainable Urban Development
The comparative Migration and Sustainable Urban Development project has emerged from the Swedish-based research activities following the large flows of migrants and asylum seekers coming to Sweden in late 2015.
This project addresses migration and urbanisation from an integrated perspective. As migration studies and urban studies are generally treated as two separate discourses, Mistra Urban Futures has the opportunity to contribute to a new research direction where aspects of sustainable spatial transformation and urban governance, as well as constraints of urban-rural development, are seen through the lens of migration.
Migrants, internal and international, move to urban areas and to smaller municipalities where they bring diversity, but also connect localities within and across state borders. A key message from the World Migration Report 2015 is that urban partnerships among, for instance, migrant groups, local governments, civil society and the private sector are central to addressing the challenges and optimizing the opportunities presented by the growing trend of migration towards cities.
This compartive project focuses on how cities receive and prepare for in-migrants, including persons of varying legal status, and the effects of this on local and regional development. The comparative studies aim to understand the challenges and opportunities that migration presents in the face of sustainable urban development.
Mistra Urban Futures Annual International Conference in Kisumu 2017 provided an opportunity for the team members to discuss ideas relevant to the project, with a focus on translocality as both an effect of migration and a precondition for planning.
Questions that present opportunities for collaborative research include:
- How can cities plan for and adapt to mobility and fluidity?
- Temporality – how is it perceived on different scales?
- How do new migrants access urban resources and navigate (trans-local) inclusion?
- How does migrants’ agency shape and contribute to cities?
- How to combat unequal access to the city – in terms of citizenship, border control and ethnic/racial discrimination?
- What does the interconnection between the urban and rural look like in terms of migration? Who moves to the urban and why?
Implementing the New Urban Agenda and The Sustainable Development Goals: Comparative Urban Perspectives
Cities’ interpretation, implementation and engagement with the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals form the basis for this Mistra Urban Futures project. It is partly based on the outcome of the 2015 pilot project where the then suggested targets and indicators for SDG 11 – the Urban Goal – were tested against the realities in a number of cities.
The present project started in 2017 and will go on until 2019. The aim is to actively work with cities to support understanding and implementation, and to facilitate cross-city learning and interaction between the seven participating cities. The findings, conclusions and results will be used as feedback to ongoing UN revisions of targets and indicators.
The range of issues encompassed by the New Urban Agenda, SDG11 and the urban elements of other Goals makes this comparative Mistra Urban Future project comprehensive and provides a holistic perspective on urban sustainability. It also reflects Mistra Urban Futures’ approach of co-producing knowledge with different stakeholders and working from the local to the global. In this case with the global initially informing the localwhile the co-production approach with the respective municipalities in turn fee back to inform the global.
Cities participating in the comparative project are Cape Town (South Africa), Sheffield (UK), Gothenburg and Malmö (Sweden), Kisumu (Kenya) and new partners in Shimla/Dehradun (India) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). An in-depth analysis and research will be carried out in each city, in parallel with a comparative component, with all cities involved in learning and interaction.
Food Value Chain
The Food Value Chain is a cross-cutting thematic project that covers several different aspects of the food value chain: production, distribution/marketplace systems, processing, packaging, product design and development, consumption, networks and knowledge exchange.
It involves understanding the existing patterns of various food items for comparison and identifying practical opportunities for actions to ensure urban food security and sustainability. It will provide policy makers at local and regional levels with ideas, experiences and evidence regarding local food production, security and distribution.
Initially, the project consists of two clusters of activities, one focused on Kisumu, with involvement from Kisumu, Cape Town and Gothenburg, and one involving Sheffield, Manchester and Gothenburg.
The first cluster of activities has its focal point in Kisumu, with a focus on urban food security, value chain, nutrition and systems, including the Consuming Urban Poverty and Nourishing Spaces projects, as well as the Urban-Rural Gothenburg and the Craft-Kisumu frugal innovation hub.
In the second cluster of activities, as part of the Self-organising Action for Food Equity (SAFE) project, the platforms in Sheffield-Manchester and Gothenburg have developed a process of mutual exchange to support the various food projects that make up the food ecosystem on the ground in their cities. Members of the Action Research Teams (ARTs) in each of the three participating cities (Sheffield, Manchester and Gothenburg) engage in learning exchange activities and will contribute to the support of the development of digital and social infrastructures.
One of Mistra Urban Futures strategic goals is to improve relationships and processes amongst governance stakeholders in order to ensure decision-making and urban management practices that will help achieve just cities.
This ambition is reflected within both the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda. Goals 11 and 16 commit to:
- developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels (16)
- ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels (16)
- enhancing inclusive and sustainable urbanisation and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries (11)
This project will seek to draw on existing and new knowledge across the LIPs to identify lessons and insights about the realisation of the two SDG goals by asking the following questions:
Q1: How can cities develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions? Our contribution will reflect on the local interaction platform as a governance innovation and space for cross-institutional ways of working.
Q2: How can cities ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making? Our contribution will be to review existing debates, identify secondary cases and undertake interviews with senior decision-makers to understand elite perspectives on this issue.
Q3: What needs to be done to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanisation and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management at the urban level? Our contribution will be to review lessons from existing projects in participation in spatial planning and to identify good practice methods and processes.
Urban public finance
Urban public finance plays a crucial role in urban transformation. The fiscal architecture of cities and the choices regarding revenue and expenditure fundamentally shape city development processes. In addition, the ways in which infrastructure is funded and financed has implications for urban access, participation, and equity.
In order to make cities more just, it is essential that the operations and logics of urban public finance systems are better understood. It is equally important that potential levers for change are identified.
This project will help those involved with public finance recognize their urban impact, not least concerning socio-spatial justice. In the longer term, the aim is to co-produce knowledge on creative, innovative, and just modes of urban public finance.
The first phase, the Urban Public Finance comparative project examines urban public finance in Cape Town and Kisumu. What are the fiscal architectures of the cities? What are the main sources of revenue? How are different types of infrastructure and services financed? What are the key obstacles and opportunities?
In a second phase of the project, innovative ways of leveraging additional financial resources and making better use of these resources will be explored. The scope of the project may then be extended to other cities, and to including new global initiatives such as green financing.
Knowledge Transfer Programme
Policy responses to complex urban sustainability challenges require knowledge from many different areas to be appropriately responsive.
This forms a starting point for the Knowledge Transfer Programme in Cape Town, where researchers are ‘embedded’ in the policy processes in relevant departments of the city. An additional value of the South African project is joint writing, where city officials contribute to the academic output as co-authors of scientific articles.
In Southern Sweden, the three universities in Lund, Malmö and Alnarp have joined forces to find new ways to support municipal strategic challenges connected to sustainable development, primarily building and planning activities.
The purpose of this collaborative project is to learn from experiences of the programmes in Sweden and South Africa in order to implement more innovative ways of working in the two countries. The focus will be on comparing different kinds of partnerships in order to strengthen collaborative work between the state, universities and society, and to try those methods in practice in Sweden and South Africa.
The research has three priorities:
- Exploring different state-university-society partnerships and collaborations, with a specific focus on how they function as brokering communities
- Deepening theoretical understanding of conditions for co-production and collaborative and comparative research in different national and institutional contexts
- Developing methods for successful transfer and implementation of good practices in university-society collaboration between two different national contexts, in this case Sweden and South Africa.
The both research teams, in Cape Town and in Skåne, will visit each other, arrange workshops, and interview municipal officials and relevant researchers at the African Centre for Cities and at the Swedish universities.
Realising Just Cities
Across the world, cities face a range of complex and interrelated challenges. It is therefore important to think about what just cities should look like, what practical steps we can take towards trying to achieve them, and what the impact of these steps are.
The purpose of this over-arching research imperative is to draw across different projects within the Mistra Urban Futures Local Interaction Platforms to reflect on the role of coproduction, collaboration and comparison in an effort to achieve more just cities.
Key research questions concern just cities in different urban contexts, key role-players that can enable – or inhibit – the realisation of just cities in different contexts, and how comparative projects within Mistra Urban Futures can contribute to realising just cities.
The first phase of this project was a baseline study looking at terminology and definitions, relevant literature on academic works as well as on policy issues. Substantive issues related to social justice and possible strategies for achieving just cities were discussed and presented in the Mistra Urban Futures book published in 2016 “Co-Production in Action: Towards Realising Just Cities”.
During 2017, the first part of the second phase of the research tried to fill in gaps that were identified, including:
- Who are the key role-players in the local transformation towards just cities?
- What are the key initiatives being undertaken locally that explicitly focus on increasing urban fairness/equity/justice?
- What are the impacts and how can they be measured?
- How can these initiatives be supported to enhance their impact?
The research will work towards three workshops in 2018 where all platforms will gather to reflect on realising just cities.
The output of this project will not only be academic, but first and foremost will result in user-friendly summaries and policy recommendations, including evidence, findings and reflections on how to ‘realise a just city’. It will be about presenting impact and impact stories of various strategies and interventions to support a transition towards more accessible, fair and green cities.
Transportation and Urban Development
The Transportation and Urban Development comparative project has its basis partly in the Urban Station Communities project, a long-term project within the Gothenburg Platform, and partly in the work concerning Transit Oriented Development at the Cape Town platform.
Furthermore, the Kisumu platform is engaging with the Urban Station Communities project as an approach to the location and construction of a new railway station in Kisumu. The project and activities will provide policy makers and local and regional stakeholders with opportunities to initiate, research, test and implement evidence-based solutions and ideas within local contexts.
Urban Station Communities is a project that focuses on revitalizing and supporting the regular and often complex planning processes of municipalities to stimulate the building of efficient transport regions with attractive and dense station communities. This approach and methodology may be valuable also for the development of the new railway station in Kisumu, with a direct impact onlocal communities as well as on the re-development of the local transport industry.
Transit Oriented Development is an investment and performance driven approach for the City of Cape Town, with several issues for further exploration. The Cape Town platform of Mistra Urban Futures has two embedded researchers working within the City of Cape Town’s Transit-Oriented Development programme. Although not directly related, findings will be shared across the participating Centre platforms.
The global network of Mistra Urban Futures expanded significantly during 2017 through two new partner agreements in India and Argentina
Mistra Urban Futures comparative research reaches the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and across to the foothills of Himalaya in Shimla, India.
In India, an agreement was signed with Nagrika – Hindi for ‘Citizen’ – a social enterprise focusing on locally relevant research and policy work. Based in Delhi and Dehradun, Nagrika will primarily be engaged in the Sustainable Development Goals project in collaboration with the city of Shimla, a city with 200,000 inhabitants at the foothills of the Himalayas in North Eastern India, capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh.
The Observatory on Latin America, based in Buenos Aires, is the other major new partner in the SDG project. The Observatory is a research centre within the New School, a renowned university in New York. Founded in 2006, the Observatory on Latin America works with many academic, civil society and governmental institutions in Latin America, with a focus on political reform, social inclusion and processes of urban change across the region.
United Nations – UN Habitat – World Urban Campaign
Mistra Urban Futures took an active part in a range of presentations, meetings and sessions at the Habitat III summit in Quito in October 2016.
This engagement has been strengthened during 2017, not least through the Urban SDG project about comparing perspectives and experiences from a range of cities around the world.
In September 2017, Mistra Urban Futures was selected as one of a handful of international organisations to participate in a ‘High-Level Forum’ at the United Nations General Assembly. The organisation of urban issues within the UN and UN Habitat has been under discussion and the New York meeting was considering the national responses to an evaluation report, where several countries also emphasised the need to strengthen the collaboration between member states and non-national entities, such as cities, regions and others.
Towards the end of 2017, the Centre planned for participation in the World Urban Forum, to take place in Kuala Lumpur in February 2018, including a ‘Networking Event’ on trans-disciplinary work and co-production of knowledge.
Finally, as the links between climate change and sustainable urban development are drawing increased attention, Mistra Urban Futures will be participating in the first IPCC meeting focusing on ‘Cities and Climate Change’ which is supposed to be a significant part of the next Assessment Report of IPCC.
Gothenburg / Centre
Gothenburg, Sweden: a medium-size city facing some of the same challenges as the mega-cities, but on a smaller scale, thus making it possible to experience, analyse, develop, and initiate actions and studies. The centre´s secretariat is also located here.
Skåne, Sweden: a dynamic region developing rapidly with several cities including Malmö, the hub of activities for the new platform. Three renowned universities in Lund and Malmö, and the Agricultural University in Alnarp bring multifaceted knowledge profiles into Mistra Urban Futures, including ecosystem services and real estate management.
Kisumu, Kenya: local knowledge production and research very close to the actual development of the city bring most valuable experience and first-hand knowledge to monitor and improve conditions, reduce poverty, local economy and sustainability.
Stockholm, Sweden: the capital of Sweden, well-known for its sustanability and climate work. The Stockholm node – estasblished in March 2017 – offers an arena for collaboration between the universities and public sector authorities.
Cape Town, South Africa: a close collaboration with the African Centre for Cities and the City of Cape Town provide an insight into practical as well as academic insights concerning the rapid growth and development of the African continent’s urban areas.
Sheffield-Manchester, U.K: an experienced and highly qualified academic team at the Salford Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures (SURF) ensure the quality of research and knowledge for true evidence based policy making.
Shimla, India. Newly formed partnership with Nagrika, a social enterprise focusing on locally relevant research and policy work, will primarily be engaged in the Sustainable Development Goals project in collaboration with the city of Shimla.
Buenos Aires, Argentina. Newly formed partnership with The Observatory on Latin America that works with many academic, civil society and governmental institutions in Latin America, with a focus on political reform, social inclusion and processes of urban change across the region.
Mistra Urban Futures global network now spans across 4 continents, 6 countries and 8 cities.
Mistra Urban Futures has established five local platforms, a node and two partnerships, each with its own context of research, challenges and practice in urban development. These are located in:
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Gothenburg, Sweden
- Kisumu, Kenya
- Sheffield-Manchester, United Kingdom
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Skåne, Sweden
- Shimla, India
Cape Town Local Interaction Platform (CTLIP)
A more equitable, efficient and sustainable future is essential for the City of Cape Town and all its citizens; whereas one-third of the population lead privileged lives all year round, two thirds struggle with poverty, unemployment, food security and street violence.
The legacy of colonial and apartheid urban planning has resulted in a socio-spatially segregated city where many people struggle with poverty, unemployment, food security and street violence. A more equitable, efficient and sustainable future is therefore essential for the City of Cape Town and all its citizens. Socio-spatial, socio-cultural and socio-ecological transformations are key drivers for academics, city officials and civil society in the move towards a more just city. Hence, a key characteristic of the Cape Town Local Interaction Platform is its focus on sharing knowledge amongst different institutional role players in order to strengthen policy-related praxis and civic engagement.
In response to the complex challenges faced by the urban majority, the CityLab programme facilitates the co-production of policy-relevant knowledge to reduce urban poverty and the ways urban poverty is experienced by diverse role players. The CityLabs bring together researchers, public officials and civil society in meetings and working groups to undertake collaborative research.
The Knowledge Transfer Programme is a signature activity of the Platform, embedding academic researchers in City of Cape Town departments, working on sustainability policies. 2017 saw researchers being embedded in the City of Cape Town in the Transport Development Authority, Operations and Policy Management and in the Social Services Directorate. In parallel, city officials spend two months at the University, writing up the development and implementation of policies within their specific areas.
Ongoing in 2017 were projects focusing on food systems and food security in the global South; experiments in artful urbanisms; exploring the role of culture and heritage, and cultural planning in sustainable and just urban development.
Warren Smit, Director
Rike Sitas, Coordinator
Gothenburg Local Interaction Platform (GOLIP)
During 2017 the Gothenburg platform was reshaped to a profile even more as an open arena for everyone determined to realise just cities which are fair, green and accessible.
During 2017 the Gothenburg platform was reshaped to have a profile that is even more of an open arena for everyone determined to realise just cities that are fair, green and accessible.
The platform now offers five different thematic networks around urban food, learning about sustainable cities and regions, co-creative leadership, climate friendly vacationing and urban mobility. The networks are opportunities for actors across different organisations and fields to meet and contribute to the development of sustainable cities.
Another exciting thing that happened during 2017 was the launch of the Urban Futures Open Research school, open to both PhD students and practitioners. “Co-producing knowledge in transdisciplinary research – From practice to theory” was the first course that attracted more than 20 participants.
The platform welcomed three inhouse researchers. Their focus areas are the co-creation methodology, urban-rural development, the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda with one of the researchers being part of the central working group on this assignment in the City of Gothenburg.
A range of different events created a meeting place throughout the year as 1500 people met around topics such as migration and urbanisation, designing out waste and Business Improvement districts (BID). The highlight was the Gothenburg Conference in October, where around 155 people from practice, research, politics, business and civil society gathered for a day to discuss fair, green and accessible cities.
The projects have always been the backbone of the Platform and the portfolio continued to develop during 2017 with projects around urban transitions, dialogue, integration and culture. A range of projects was completed. Culture and heritage in sustainable urban development, , local-regional planning, sustainable lifestyles, socially sustainable urban planning & development, and accessibility to culture have been the project focus areas.
Margareta Forsberg, Director
Sanna Isemo, Coordinator
Elma Durakovic, Coordinator
Kisumu Local Interaction Platform (KLIP)
Kisumu in western Kenya is situated on the shores of Lake Victoria. With a population of around 400,000, Kisumu is the principal city of western Kenya and one of the fastest growing cities in Kenya.
Environmental degradation and poverty are two of the main challenges Kisumu share with other cities with a rapid urbanization. Despite a growing economy, Kisumu still registers one of the highest poverty levels in Kenya. The infrastructure development and service expansion has not matched the rapid population growth. Other challenges include the political situation – Kisumu has been the bedrock of the opposition – as well as migration, planning and waste.
Rural urban migration has been a major contributing factor to the population explosion in Kisumu. Young people come to the city in search of employment opportunities. The population growth is accompanied by poor planning of infrastructural development. The growth and development of the city has also turned its back on the immense potential of the lake front, where port and railway activities once contributed to the City’s development.
As a growing city, Kisumu has not been able to cope with the massive solid waste handling issues.
Discharges from the small industries and liquid refuse from the hospitality industry and households within the city occasionally finds its way into the lake leading to eutrophication, which is a major contributing factor to the survival of water hyacinth.
Migration, solid waste handling and the development of new livelihood opportunities for the population, as well as following the re-vitalisation resulting from a potential re-built railway connection to Nairobi form significant parts of the KLIP agenda. Thus, the Platform increased its research capacity significantly during 2017.
Finally, the Kisumu Platform hosted the Centre’s Annual Conference in November 2017. See the ‘Conference’ section for more information.
Stephen Agong, Director
Alfred Otom, Coordinator
Sheffield-Manchester Local Interaction Platform (SMLIP)
In 2017, the Sheffield–Manchester platform established itself as the Centre’s leading partner for projects concerning citizen action and deepening democracy.
SMLIP has developed a broad portfolio of work including action research to enhance participatory governance; experiments in self-organising food systems and resident-led organising in deprived urban neighbourhoods; and a new community-led housing partnership.
Two ESRC match-funded research partnerships gained momentum in 2017. The Action Research Cooperative (established in 2016 under ‘Jam & Justice’) selected and launched a number of projects associated with enhancing democracy within the new Greater Manchester context of city-regional devolution. Fieldwork also began around dissensus and citizen protest in spatial planning, through the ‘Whose Knowledge Matters’ project.
Numerous food initiatives exist in Sheffield and Manchester, but there is a lack of understanding about how to harmonise and capitalise on the energy each project is drawing on.
In 2017, a partnership emerged to evaluate how food systems information is curated, represented and shared using a digital commons.
Another highlight in July was a learning exchange to South Africa for two women’s groups from low-income neighbourhoods in Greater Manchester. The women were hosted by the South African Alliance (a federation of low-income women’s savings schemes and their partner organisations). The Manchester groups are now applying lessons they have learned from the experience within their own communities as part of action research into the dynamics of community-ledorganising in the UK and the possibilities of ‘seeing from the South’.
2017 was the first complete year for the Platform at Sheffield University’s Urban Institute. The location has benefited the work, as several new networks have been created – while retaining and further developing relationships in Greater Manchester.
Beth Perry, Director
Victoria Simpson, Coordinator
Skåne Local Interaction Platform (SKLIP)
In 2017, the Local Interaction Platform in Skåne (SKLIP) has worked to promote and harness participatory research for sustainable urban development in and beyond the region.
The platform has a robust academic presence, consisting of a consortium of three institutions: Malmö University, Lund University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, as well as support and co-operation from the city of Malmö. Additionally, the platform has also had support from other municipalities and private sector actors, including the co-operative housing developer, HSB, Helsingborgshem.
During the year, the platform supported a number of innovative projects. Project examples include an anthology of the Augustenborg neighbourhood in Malmö, innovative partnerships in sustainable urban transformation, focusing on the real estate sector, and a project on the ecosystem service city, concentrating on developing tools and methods for identifying and mapping connections between the physical elements of ecosystems and the values they hold for citizens. The individual projects are either region-specific or carried out in collaboration with other Urban Futures platforms around the globe.
In addition to the projects running in the region, SKLIP has made initial progress (especially during the autumn) in forming three platform expert panels concentrated on urban environment themes; urban ecosystem services, migration and urban development, and sustainable neighbourhood development. Each panel, for example, consists of academics, city officials, and representatives from the private sector, and the panels are responsible for collecting and systematically analysing the knowledge and experiences generated from each theme, and broadcasting that knowledge, in different ways, to help promote sustainable urban development. The formal work of the panels will get underway throughout 2018.
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Barry Ness, Director
Magnus Johansson, Researcher
Stockholm Node (SNODE)
In March 2017 a Mistra Urban Futures node was established in Stockholm, thus connecting the three cities initially competing for the Mistra grant to establish an international centre for sustainable urban development in Sweden, i.e. Gothenburg, Malmö and Stockholm.
The new node in Stockholm is the result of a year-long development period including partners such as the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Openlab.
Openlab is a centre for researchers and students at the Royal Institute of Technology and Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and is an arena for collaboration with public partners such as the City, the Region and the County of Stockholm.
The Stockholm region is internationally renowned for its climate and sustainability work, and the need for transdisciplinary arenas
for collaboration between different sectors, actors and levels has been identified and acknowledged.
The Mistra Urban Futures node, with access to the experience and knowledge of the centre and its global platforms, and Openlab as a neutral arena constitute an opportunity to make significant contributions to the development in Stockholm as well as in the global context.
Sofie Pandis Iveroth, Project Coordinator & Project Manager
Impact & Outreach
What is the societal impact of the research produced within the Mistra Urban Futures Network?
Impact & Outreach
What if we could say that the recommendations we published a few years back actually resulted in new policies or new municipal strategies, thus forming the work of a city on a longer-term scale?
Or what if we could point at the results of a particular project, claiming that these contributed to changing mind-sets, both among researchers and practitioners?
Assessing the societal impact of research is a challenging task. Traditionally, research is evaluated – and rewarded – based on numbers such as citations in academic journals. The idea of looking at its effects on a decision-making level is rather new, and the experiences are limited. Furthermore, the long-term perspective is challenging; expected changes in policies, behaviour and attitudes can take years or even decades.
The transdisciplinary approach to sustainable urban development issues, including the co-creation and co-production of knowledge, has been the subject of several articles. One of these was actually honoured with the ‘Best article of the year’ Award by the Springer journal Sustainability Science.
During 2017, the outcome and impact of the work done at Mistra Urban Futures has been discussed and a framework for assessment has been added to the Quality Monitoring and Evaluation (QME) Framework.
Literature on the evaluation of societal impact suggests to look at first, second and third order effects. First order effects are such as capacity building and actual products (e.g. plans, reports, web sites) whereas the second order include longer-term effects like new policies and organisational changes.
Below is a pilot story that came out of the project Valuation of ecosystem services provided by urban greenery. Watch the video to learn more of what came out of the project and what effect these results had.
Impact & Outreach
Valuation of ecosystem services provided by urban greenery
Urban greenery has proven to be beneficial for the urban environmental quality. Sofia Thorsson and Bengt Gunnarsson from Mistra Urban Futures project Evaluation of ecosystem services talks about the the results and impact that the project has led to.
Impact & Outreach
The transdisciplinary co-production approach of Mistra Urban Futures by default leads to a range of different outputs; what normally would be easily identified as scientific articles and books will in this case be made available to different audiences through not only articles and books, but also as reports, blogs, summaries and video clips.
Impact & Outreach
Events constitute a significant and integrated part of making accessible the output of Mistra Urban Futures’ research and knowledge production activities.
Hence, the Centre’s researchers are frequent speakers at conferences and workhops, at all Platforms.
The Urban Lunch-time and Urban Research events in Gothenburg and the Brown Bag lunch in Cape Town are well established series of presentations and workshops.
In 2017, much focus was set on the Annual Conference in Kisumu. In Sweden, the Gothenburg Conference attracted more than 150 persons to presentations and inspiration for sustainability work.
Urban Transformations was the theme at the Royal Geographic Society in London, where Beth Perry, platform director in Sheffield-Manchester, participated in one of the round-table debates.
The platform also took a very active part in the ’Rethinking Global Urban Justice’ conference in Leeds – thus creating opportunities to discuss and get feedback on the Centre agenda.
On an international level, Mistra Urban Futures participated in the ICLEI Resilient Cities conference in Bonn in April 2017, with a panel on Migration and a keynote talk by David Simon. The Migration panel session was based on the experiences of the three Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg from 2015, when the number of asylum seekers reached its highest point.
The 2017 Annual Lecture was held on ’World Cities Day’, 31 October, with Maruxa Cardama from the Cities Alliance as invited speaker.
Impact & Outreach
Climate change is a reality that is already having significant effects on the four interrelated dimensions of sustainability: social, economic, ecological and environmental as well as cultural. The work and research of Mistra Urban Futures reflect this in various ways.
Climate change cannot be viewed as a scientific and technical matter disconnected from the realities of millions of people and the domains of power and social relations. It is also a social, economic and political phenomenon with profound implications for social justice and gender equality, where the consequences are not evenly distributed or experienced.
The links between climate change and urbanisation have been even more emphasised since the COP21 meeting in Paris in late 2015. Not least the resources and potentials of cities and other organisations than countries have been highlighted; the growing insight that cities and urban regions may be well positioned and ready to be more involved in meeting the serious challenges ahead.
As urbanisation and the urban areas are major causes of greenhouse gas emissions, the agenda of ‘Realising Just Cities’ is also about the unevenly shared consequences of climate change; the undermining of the built environment, sea level rise and extreme weather to which vulnerable groups in vulnerable areas are most at risk.
Impact & Outreach
An intersectional perspective is essential to the realisation of just cities – accessible, green and fair.
The requirements of the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda demand cities of the world to become more equal, where stereotypical norms and values are challenged. An intersectional perspective is essential to the realisation of just cities – accessible, green and fair.
The co-production and transdisciplinary research approach of Mistra Urban Futures must reflect these requirements in project design as well as in communication, monitoring and evaluation of the work done – whatever the context and background.
Cities are far from being gender-neutral places. Far too often these differing lives are seen through one lens – mainly ‘white, male, middle-class, middle-aged, employed, and with full physical and mental capacities’. This represents only one understanding of what everyday life consists of and how urban development should be perused. People are not just people; they also comprise different genders, classes, sexual preferences, physical abilities and ethnicities that interact in different and interconnecting ways. This means that one has to consider a person’s or group’s multiple identities when aiming to expose how different types of discrimination and disadvantages occur as a consequence of the combination of identities.
An intersectional perspective provides a broad and inclusive vision of people by outlining how all people live and experience the urban space differently. This makes us recognise and be aware of the daily experiences of everyone and the needs and responsibilities associated with and within groups. It aims to address the manner in which racism, patriarchy, class oppression and other systems of discrimination create inequalities that structures the relative position of an individual.
Furthermore, this takes into account historical, social and political contexts and creates an understanding that people both have privileges and lack of privileges in different contexts. As such, without an intersectional perspective, urban development will continue to reproduce, rather than challenge, stereotypes within communities and thus hinder the realisation of just cities.
During 2017, Mistra Urban Futures has carried out an intersectional analysis of both projects and administration, and has also developed some guidelines for the continued work. A practical workshop was arranged in January 2018.
Impact & Outreach
Global South and Global North
Across the Global South, many countries and cities have experienced not only a rapid urbanisation and globalisation, but also unprecedented economic growth, where poverty is decreasing and a new middle-class with new lifestyles is emerging.
Mistra Urban Futures, positioned in both North and South, has a particular responsibility to bridge the divides and contribute to the mutual use and learning from knowledge reserves in both hemispheres. More sophisticated and contextually relevant knowledge can be advanced and developed with the support of citizens, community organisations and NGOs.
Impact & Outreach
Open Science and Responsible Research & Innovation
Mistra Urban Futures’ work aligns well with the Open Science Policy, that is the European Union’s stakeholder driven mechanisms and policies to improve the quality and impact of European science. It includes, among other things, commitments to Open Access.
Responsible Research & Innovation is the European Union’s concept for involving society in science and innovation. This includes different aspects of the relationship between research and society, such as public engagement, open access, gender equality, education, ethics and governance.
In 2016 Mistra Urban Futures was awarded the European Foundations Award for RRI, as a ‘best practice’ example in Europe. Following this, part of the development work undertaken within the Centre during 2017, has focused on gender and intersectionality issues.
On the global level, Mistra Urban Futures has developed its comparative work between the different platforms, hence adding knowledge and mutual learning between the Global South and the Global North, as well as to the urban aspects of Climate Change.
Impact & Outreach
Urban Futures Research School launched in late 2017
In 2016 the Gothenburg Platform initiated the Urban Futures Open Research School with the aim to foster research in a collaborative and transdisciplinary context and to support with courses and seminars on methodologies for transdisciplinary research towards the realisation of just cities.
In the spring of 2017 two PhD courses of each 7,5 ECTS were launched with the title Co-producing knowledge in transdisciplinary research – From practice to theory. The courses invited PhD students and practitioners from the public and private sector jointly. They both received a great response with about 20 accepted participants to each course, with PhD students from Gothenburg, Stockholm, Lund and Malmö attending together with practitioners from different public authorities and private companies in Gothenburg and Stockholm. The mixed groups of PhD students and practitioners presented a wide spectra of disciplines with research fields and practices from pedagogy, architecture, design, planning, sociology, industrial ecology, to medicine and political science.
The full curricula of the two courses was organised along four extensive workshops with invited experts focusing on different methods for co-production of knowledge: Explorative Scenarios, Integral Process for Complex Issues (TIP), The Inquiry Based Approach (IBA) and Collaborative Writing as Research Inquiry. Shorter workshops contributed with further methods, either derived from earlier Mistra Urban Futures’ projects, or as complementing introductions to Systems thinking, Designerly thinking, Mapping, Deliberative methods and methods for Power analysis.
As the fall term 2017 focused on practiced based experiences of co-production, the spring term in 2018 will more specifically investigate the nexus of facilitation and research, to end with theoretical modules on Reflexivity, on possible TD-theory, and on Evaluation and Validation of TD-research. During the two courses the participants are also introduced to context relevant concepts, such as Urban justice, the Sustainable Development Goals, Networked Governance, Institutionalisation and Boundary Critique.
The outcome of the spring course will be a collaboratively written proposal for a TD-project, possibly presented as a compilation for wider usage.
Impact & Outreach
Collaboration student exchange
Students and PhD candidates constitute an excellent resource and opportunity in the knowledge processes as well as in dissemination of research and collaboration between academy and practice.
Mistra Urban Futures supports a number of PhD projects, some of which also include collaborative work between PhD students at different local platforms.
In 2017, a PhD collaboration between Kisumu and Gothenburg platforms was finalised. The efforts to develop livelihood and income through tourism offers in the Kisumu area, primarily along the beaches at Lake Victoria, became the framework of several activities.
New railway community development, Khaleb the bookseller, waste actors and new models for sustainability.
Theoretical, practical and very personal stories made Mistra Urban Futures’ Second Annual International Conference in Kisumu from 13-14 November 2017 both a memorable and thought-provoking event.
Sub-titled ‘Learning through comparison’, the conference highlighted the eleven comparative projects that now form the lion’s share of Mistra Urban Futures’ research portfolio, supported by the keynote talks by two leading African urban specialists, Caroline Wanjiku Kihato and Edgar Pieterse, who are both associated with the Centre. The comparative projects cover a wide range of topics, from solid waste management to sustainable neighbourhoods, from urban food chains to the significance of cultural heritage for sustainable development.
At the same time, all projects contribute to the overarching theme of ‘Realising Just Cities’. In most cases, projects are based on local activities at one or several of the Centre’s Local Interaction Platforms. The Platforms form both the enabling environment for, and part of, the reflective research methodology, because through local partnerships between academy and other partners like the public sector, NGOs, local companies, the co-creation of new knowledge for sustainability is enabled.
In parallel with the conference, almost all of the eleven comparative projects took the opportunity to arrange partner workshops, to kick-start the next working phase and to strengthen the networks and partnerships of each of the teams.
The teambuilding efforts were emphasised elegantly and with great hospitality by the Kenyan hosts, i.e. the Mistra Urban Futures Kisumu Local Interaction Platform and its Trustees, through field visits and meals.
Furthermore, the significance of the conference was underscored by the participation of the Governor of Kisumu County, HE Peter Anyang Nyong’o, Hon Nerry Achar, the incoming County cabinet minister for Infrastructure, the former Mayor of Kisumu, Mr Sam Okello, and the Rector (President) of Chalmers, Prof Stefan Bengtsson, as well as diverse members of local civil society. In keeping with the Centre’s transdisciplinary approach, the teams from all Local Interaction Platforms comprised both academics and practitioners.
Secretariat & International collaboration
Core funders and consortium
Mistra Urban Futures is financed by Mistra, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and a consortium constituted by several organisations in the Gothenburg region, combined with key international partners.
Mistra Urban Futures Staff
Stephen G Agong
Kisumu Platform Director
Head of Administration
Gothenburg Platform Coordinator
Gender and Intersectionality Intern
Gothenburg Platform Director
Gothenburg Platform Coordinator
Skåne Platform Director
Kisumu Deputy Platform Director
Kisumu Platform Coordinator
Centre Deputy Scientific Director
Sofie Pandis Iveroth
Stockholm Project Coordinator & Project Manager
Sheffield-Manchester Platform Director
Cape Town Coordinator
Cape Town Platform Director
USDG Lead Researcher
Buanos Aires Researcher
Sheffield-Manchester Research fellow
Sheffield-Manchester Research fellow
Sheffield-Manchester Methodological Advisor
Mistra Urban Futures Secreteriat
411 33 Gothenburg
Bus: 16, 19, 158 and 753
Tram: 7 and 10
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