(January 2010) Governing sustainable urban development - an explorative approach to governance networks

Governing sustainable urban development - an explorative approach to governance networks image
My research aims at developing a methodology for a more proactive approach to governance in the context of urban planning. Rather than taking the starting point in existing cases the methodology makes use of a futures studies approach asking how a certain target can be met, i.e. a backcasting approach (Börjeson et al 2006). With input from focus groups scenarios are created and used as a point of departure to learn more about 1) what could change of physical structures, institutional settings and citizens' everyday life, 2) how much energy use could be decreased, and 3) how change could be achieved, in terms of governance networks managing the process of change. My research focuses on addressing the first and third of these questions.

In scenarios, visions and plans, actors are markedly often invisible or missing. Indeed some plans of the more detailed type include actors, e.g. building proprietors and architects, but as monoliths rather than being included in a governance network. Since all urban planning consists of not only what to change but also change by whom, including the dimension of governance in planning and futures studies could very well prove to be beneficial if aiming at using scenarios and visions as guiding planning. Moreover, iteratively identifying what can change (objects/institutions) and who can change (agency/governance networks), rather than adding on this dimension afterwards, e.g. as a strategy for implementation, presumably renders a higher degree of correspondence and relevance, both to scenarios and to pathways of transition.

The concept of governance is both complex and ambiguous and there are a multitude of dimensions on which different governance configurations could be elaborated. In this study we have chosen to assume that the process of transformation will take the form of network governance in which the planning authority takes the role as meta-governor of the network (Sehested 2009, Nyseth 2008). This is partly based on the assumption that local governance of urban development will continue to be at least partly subsumed to formal hierarchies and plans, but also due to the recognition of the need for coordination of activities when aiming for an overarching normative goal such as sustainable urban development (Lundqvist 2004). Given this and with the abovementioned goal of decreased energy use as a prerequisite, different configurations of governance networks are explored in terms of four main aspects; 1) which actors should be included; 2) which are their relations; 3) how does the network develop over time; and 4) how could the planner shoulder the role as meta-governor?

The methodology of outlining and analyzing the networks draws on futures studies and case study methodologies, together with empirically based (descriptive) theories on planning, network governance and meta-governance, and Social Network Analysis. The methodology has been developed and tested in one scenario study (Bromma) and will be applied to another two scenario studies this spring focusing on the energy use in buildings and innovative applications of ICT, respectively. The methodology could also be tested in real cases of planning.