Matching Items (5)
Despite widespread acknowledgement of the need for transformation towards sustainability, the majority of cities appear stuck in incremental change instead of far-reaching, radical change. While there are numerous obstacles to transformational change, one critical aspect is the process of selecting impactful sustainability programs. The unique and complex nature of sustainability suggests a different approach is needed to program selection than is normal. But, to what extent are cities adapting selection processes in response to sustainability and what effect does this have on sustainable urban transformation? Could there be a more effective process to select programs with greater transformational potential? This dissertation investigates these questions using case studies and action research to add to the general knowledge of urban sustainability program selection and to develop practical knowledge (solutions) for more effective sustainable urban transformation.
The dissertation consists of three studies. Study 1 uses a case study approach to investigate existing sustainability program selection processes in three cities: Avondale, USA; Almere, the Netherlands; and Freiburg, Germany. These cities all express commitment to sustainability but have varying degrees of sustainable development experience, accomplishment, and recognition. Study 2 develops a program selection framework for urban sustainable transformation drawing extensively from the literature on sustainability assessment and related fields, and on participatory input from municipal practitioners in Avondale and Almere. Study 3 assesses the usefulness of the framework in a dual pilot study. Participatory workshops were conducted in which the framework was applied to real-world situations: (i) with the city’s sustainability working group in Avondale; and (ii) with a local energy cooperative in Almere.
Overall, findings suggest cities are not significantly adapting program selection processes in response to the challenges of sustainability. Processes are often haphazard, opportunistic, driven elite actors, and weakly aligned with sustainability principles and goals, which results in selected programs being more incremental than transformational. The proposed framework appears effective at opening up the range of program options considered, stimulating constructive deliberation among participants, and promoting higher order learning. The framework has potential for nudging program selection towards transformational outcomes and more deeply embedding sustainability within institutional culture.
Public participation is considered an essential process for achieving sustainable urban development. Often, however, insufficient attention is paid to the design of public participation, and processes are formulaic. Then, participation may not match the local context of the communities within which a project is conducted. As a result, participation may become co-optative or coercive, stakeholders may lose trust, and outcomes may favor special interests or be unsustainable, among other shortcomings.
In this research, urban public participation is a collaborative decision-making process between residents, businesses, experts, public officials, and other stakeholders. When processes are not attuned with the local context (participant lifestyles, needs, interests, and capacities) misalignments between process and context arise around living conditions and personal circumstances, stakeholder trust, civic engagement, collaborative capacity, and sustainability literacy, among others.
This dissertation asks (1) what challenges arise when the public participation process does not match the local context, (2) what are key elements of public participation processes that are aligned with the local context, (3) what are ways to design public participation that align with specific local contexts, and (4) what societal qualities and conditions are necessary for meaningful participatory processes?
These questions are answered through four interrelated studies. Study 1 analyzes the current state of the problem by reviewing public participation processes and categorizing common misalignments with the local context. Study 2 envisions a future in which the problem is solved by identifying the features of well-aligned processes. Studies 3 and 4 test interventions for achieving the vision.
This dissertation presents a framework for analyzing the local context in urban development projects and designing public participation processes to meet this context. This work envisions public participation processes aligned with their local context, and it presents directives for designing deliberative decision-making processes for sustainable urban development. The dissertation applies a systems perspective to the social process of public participation, and it provides empirical support for theoretical debates on public participation while creating actionable knowledge for planners and practitioners.
Does school participatory budgeting (SPB) increase students’ political efficacy? SPB, which is implemented in thousands of schools around the world, is a democratic process of deliberation and decision-making in which students determine how to spend a portion of the school’s budget. We examined the impact of SPB on political efficacy in one middle school in Arizona. Our participants’ (n = 28) responses on survey items designed to measure self-perceived growth in political efficacy indicated a large effect size (Cohen’s d = 1.46), suggesting that SPB is an effective approach to civic pedagogy, with promising prospects for developing students’ political efficacy.
Sustainability challenges with severe local to global impacts require fundamental shifts in what industrial societies aspire to, generate, consume, and represent, as well as how they function. Transition governance is a promising framework to support these transformational efforts. A key component of transition governance is the construction of transition strategies, i.e., action schemes for how to transition from the current state to a sustainable one. Despite accomplishments in building theory and methodology for transition governance, the concepts of what transition strategies entail and how they relate to specific interventions are still underdeveloped. This dissertation further develops the concept of transition strategies, and explores how different stakeholder groups and allies can develop and test transition strategies across different scales, in the specific context of urban sustainability challenges. The overarching research question is: How can cities build and implement comprehensive transition strategies across different urban scales, from the city to the organizational level? The dissertation comprises four studies that explore the dynamic between transition strategies and experiments at the city, neighborhood, and organizational levels with empirical examples from Phoenix, Arizona. The first study reviews and compares paradigms of intentional change, namely transition governance, backcasting, intervention research, change management, integrated planning, and adaptive management in order to offer a rich set of converging ideas on what strategies for intentional change towards sustainability entail. The second study proposes a comprehensive concept of transition strategies and illustrates the concept with the example of sustainability strategies created through a research partnership with the City of Phoenix. The third study explores the role of experiments in transition processes through the lens of the neighborhood-level initiative of The Valley of the Sunflowers. The fourth study examines the role organizations can play in initiating urban sustainability transitions using exemplary strategies and experiments implemented at a local high school. The studies combined contribute to the further development of transition theory and sustainable urban development concepts. While this research field is at a nascent stage, the thesis provides a framework and empirical examples for how to build evidence-based transition strategies in support of urban sustainability.
Food insecurity is a global concern and is acute in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa as well as pockets in the global North. In the lush green spaces of “God’s Own Country”, the state of Kerala in India, about 379,000 women are engaged in farming in about 75,800 groups. Spearheaded by Kudumbashree, the State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM) the women farmers, along with women who co-own other micro-enterprises, totaling approximately 4.5 million members in all, are part of a quiet revolution. Through a powerful statewide network of tens of thousands of well-trained community-based educators, SPEM facilitates non-formal education in farming, other livelihoods, and gender-based oppression. Boosted by this non-formal education and abundant informal learning, the women group farmers have taken matters into their own hands. Rather than wait for their male family members to rescue them from economic hardship, the women farmers learn to grow nutritious food both for family consumption and for sale. In the process, they are creating pathways for the practice of food justice in their families, villages, and the entire state. The study focuses on two women’s farming groups, one from the highly marginalized Adivasi (ancient inhabitants, or tribal population) and one from the general population. The primary research question is: “How do women in collective/group farming initiatives learn to build capacity for food justice?”. The study found the building of a robust set of capacities such as effective leadership, participatory decision-making, and shared power critical to community development, thereby generating income, financial literacy, and a sense of empowerment. The findings also suggest that the women farmers are making steady gains in the arena of women’s agency and empowerment in harmony with their families, aided by 50,000 community educators who focus on building awareness about gender-based oppression and ways to combat it. This study pertains to two concerns in community development: 1) The role of the “invisible” learning dimension in capacity building and 2) food justice. The study is relevant to communities everywhere, including food-insecure pockets both in the global south and the global north.
Keywords: Learning, capacity building, the practice of food justice, women’s empowerment.