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Retaining multi-functionality in a rapidly changing urban landscape: insights from a participatory, resilience thinking process in Stockholm, Sweden

Sara Borgström, Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
Erik Andersson, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden; North-West University, Unit for Environmental Sciences, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Tove Björklund, Department of Sustainable Development, Environmental Science and Engineering, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden


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Urban social-ecological resilience research has focused on conceptual explorations, while less attention has been paid to how resilience thinking in practice may inform urban development. Using the rapidly urbanizing landscape in Stockholm as a case, we explore the urban specifics of resilience thinking practice and thereby contribute to the development of knowledge and practice of social-ecological resilience thinking generally.
The study addresses an urban wicked problem: how to ensure that people continue to have access to the means necessary to realize benefits from green blue infrastructure, when the city is changing and governance is fragmented. Drawing on insights from the design and implementation of a participatory dialogue process, we outline methodological adaptations to a resilience informed system exploration, to better accommodate the complexity of urban systems.
The participatory process included three phases: basic system understanding, dealing with change over time, and identifying alternative ways forward. Different knowledge elicitation and deliberation methods were deployed within workshops, surveys, and interviews, and were paralleled by a thorough reflexive analysis of process outcomes. The main discussion points are stakeholder participation, the role of discourses, identities and mandates, agency, and adaptive capacity, and alternative strategies for dealing with change. Deep knowledge of the complexities of urban land use and governance requires the involvement of diverse stakeholders. Handling this diversity poses a challenge for process design: combining the ambition of an inclusive process and the need to be relevant with the use of bridging concepts increases the risk of reducing the level of complexity of the deliberative process. There is also a risk of participation bias, where stakeholders knowledgeable about the green blue infrastructure are easier to engage compared to stakeholders with knowledge about drivers of change and urban governance, which will influence the system understanding and envisioned alternative pathways for taking action.

Key words

agency; collective capacity; densification; green and blue infrastructure; participatory methods; process design; reflexive practice; scenarios; urban social-ecological resilience

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087