Urban and regional development

My research for sustainable urban and regional development

Cities are economic powerhouses and major consumers of resources, which means they will play a central role in sustainable development in the 21st century.

Yet urban development is complex, dynamic and often unpredictable. Interactions between people and organizations affect and are affected by administrative processes; political decisions take into account economic aspects and legal frameworks. Systemic research methodologies already have these meso and macro levels well covered.

Far less is known about the psychosocial motivators and conditions that enable actors in transitions to successfully cooperate on the micro level, to develop shared visions for the future and to shape their environment in a sustainable way. This is where my research comes in: I look at interactions across all of these levels.

Designing future cities together

In my transdisciplinary city-based projects, I investigate the conditions, resources and goals that make it possible for planners, citizens, companies and researchers to collectively develop urban spaces in a transformative and sustainable way. I gain valuable insights by assisting and contributing to actual planning projects.

These include Sweden’s Viable Cities strategic innovation program as well as ‘living laboratories’ in German cities, such as the Quartier Zukunft project run by the Karlsruhe Transformation Centre for Sustainability and Cultural Change . Both rely on participation and use experimental approaches.

Exploring the possibilities and limits of transferability

Participatory, experimental approaches and formats for sustainable transformation are becoming increasingly important in urban and regional development, because they legitimize interventions with unpredictable results and create space for new knowledge and surprising revelations to be incorporated into decision-making processes.

However, with regard to global climate change mitigation and species conservation, these formats present project planners and researchers with two key challenges: To what extent can the results and successes of local experiments be generalized and applied to other places? Which processes and measures can be repeated elsewhere and under which conditions? After all: Urban and regional planning takes place in highly specific spatial, cultural, political and economic contexts.

My research contributes towards a better understanding of what differentiates individuals and organizations in Swedish, German and Spanish cities, and what enables or prevents them from shaping sustainable development.