Mistra Urban Futures involves co-creation of knowledge for sustainable urban development, with the aim of moving towards fair, green and accessible cities.
The objective is to contribute towards making a real difference to the environment and to people’s lives in the world’s cities. Practitioners and researchers work closely together to produce excellent and relevant knowledge. The centre offers an arena for development and engagement as well as for dissemination of knowledge, with developing cooperation with business, interest groups and the general public.
Mistra Urban Futures brings together actors from research and practice to work on co-creating and co-producing knowledge. This sharing of knowledge, understanding and expertise from both fields is needed to create sustainable futures.
The strategic plan for the second phase raises gender equality issues and intends to implement guidelines for projects. Social inclusion is part of the research and knowledge production agenda, particularly in activities and projects related to the centre’s objectives of fairness and accessibility. The centre also strives for diversity in topics, portfolios and perspectives. Though research themes reflect the competitive strengths and needs of stakeholders, the programme encourages participation from a wide range of academic and non-academic stakeholders in the production of knowledge.
Funding and support procedures are described in Swedish and English on the organisation’s website, which all stakeholders can access. The programme promotes dissemination of results and findings through scientific (journal articles, science newsletters) and non-scientific (reports, policy briefs, events, films) channels.
Major stakeholders elect the programme’s board, with the goal of maximising global experience and knowledge. All participants reflect on risks, benefits and existing beliefs to develop and modify the focus of projects. For example, an initial focus on ‘dense cities’ gradually developed into a focus on ‘accessibility’, a larger context that includes density.
By involving both academic and practicing stakeholders, the programme emphasises open communication and mechanisms that increase the visibility of needs and the accessibility of results. Perspectives and needs are considered in proposals to change or adapt existing activities, while external factors are considered in position papers concerning specific aspects of the field of interest.
Carefully designed, transdisciplinary approaches, co-creation and co-production of knowledge provide a kind of inclusive, bottom-up way of working that is at the same time inclusive and empowering, and may produce valuable data and qualitative findings that may be fed "upwards" into regional, national and international systems for planning, resource allocation and sustainability initiatives. A very recent example is the work being done for the Urban Sustainable Development Goal that is expected to be adopted by the UN General Assembly later this year. Mistra Urban Futures has led an international study on indicators on local level, with local authorities and other stakeholders.
More than 50 projects, in four locations, have been initiated. Dissemination and discussion of results have taken place through events, reports and a variety of academic and non-academic publications. Outcome studies at all four locations have emphasised the local stakeholders’ perceived value of the collaborative work process, as well as the works’ impacts (for example, on local policy development).
Introducing transdisciplinary and collaborative research and knowledge production takes time and includes development of new frames of reference, as well as new working modes and tools. The programmes’ general experiences are transferable to any kind of collaborative work involving multiple stakeholders.
Lessons learned point at the importance of patience and allocation of time for the processes of establishing working relationships. The other side of that coin are the overall positive, enthusiastic and engaging comments concerning the values of the process and methodologies using transdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to problem definition, data and analyses. The independent "outcome studies" produced during 2014 for all four interaction platforms of Mistra Urban Futures (Gothenburg, Manchester, Kisumu, Cape Town) describe the co-production of knowledge as most valuable, producing insights and results that would not have been reached without the other partners.
public engagementmutual learningcitizen scienceco-creationinclusionscientific impactinterdisciplinaritysocial valuemotivation for engagementmethodologyresults sharingunpredictable group dynamicsemotional aspects