C/O City

Norra Djurgårdsstaden, Sweden

SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 15: Life on land
C/O City is about connecting and assessing ecosystem services (ESS) for development in urban environments. It has substantially contributed to spreading knowledge about ESS, which is a social- ecological concept that can be applied to various societal sectors, including private businesses, building companies, non-profits and policy-makers.



Ecosystem services (ESS) are functions within the ecosystem that improve or sustain the well-being of mankind. Among these services are pollinating insects, leisure from green areas, and purification of water and air. Green infrastructure refers to various areas and connections of natural life and wildlife contributing to maintaining these services.

Difficulties of ESS being included in city development processes, as well as the fact that biodiversity was greatly discussed within city development without mentioning the human benefits of this diversity, triggered the launching of C/O City. Connecting ESS to the development of green infrastructure in the building process would therefore create better conditions for sustainable urban development. The newly developed area of Norra Djurgårdsstaden (also featured in this report) became the central location of the project, and the development of the area invited a range of R&D projects to enhance its sustainable features. The C/O City project was carried out in three stages, beginning with a pre-study conducted by U&WE, a consultancy bureau promoting socially and ecologically conscious enterprises. This was followed by the City of Stockholm carrying out the main work during stage 2, and then presenting and promoting the results during the last stage.

Good Practices & Solutions

The project nurtured a co-creative approach between the participating actors, although citizens were not part of it at any stage. The approach used no explicit tool or method to achieve its co-created solutions but employed the collaboration consultancy firm LÄNKA as facilitators during kick-offs, seminars, and for general process support.

As mentioned above, the three stages activated different partners. Whereas U&WE provided expertise on the variety of relevant actors, projects, and already existing businesses working with social and environmental innovation, the public servants from the City of Stockholm provided the main expertise on planning and construction processes. The Sweden Green Building Council, a non-profit organisation, provided a vast network of construction companies and building certification systems for implementing ESS as a relevant part of these systems. However, a conscious strategy from the start was to co- produce knowledge, so environmental and other relevant expertise from researchers and U&WE as well as the operational expertise of the municipality and construction actors were integrated during the course of the project. Participatory dialogue was likewise consciously not included; the results from the project would instead serve as a tool for facilitating future participatory dialogue processes, particularly within city development and construction programmes.

Outcome & Opportunities

C/O City managed to include the concept and evaluation of ESS into the programme of Citylab, a certification system for sustainable housing created by the Sweden Green Building Council. The Excel-based tool Grönytefaktor för allmän platsmark (GYF AP), used for quantifying the values provided by different types of green areas, was also introduced into the green certification process and presented in a report. C/O City decided to continue operations as a non-profit organisation through the digital platform Hållbar stad beginning in 2018. Moreover, several public authorities and municipalities now have ESS included as part of their mission. On a broader level, C/O City has substantially contributed to spreading knowledge about ESS to various societal sectors, including private business, building companies, non-profit organisations, and policymakers.

“ESS” is a social-ecological concept, making it more suitable for sustainable urban development than the hitherto more commonly used “biodiversity”. The concept has virtually exploded in recent years and is rapidly becoming a general guiding variable used in the context of city planning.

Lessons learned & Recommendations

Communicating the concepts of ESS and green infrastructure in a pedagogical manner was a great challenge. Lack of willingness to be influenced by others proved too significant an obstacle for one of the actors who left the project in its third and final stage.

Existing legislation constituted another stepping stone when, for example, building green roofs (due to fire risk). Promoting the modification of policies thus became an additional part of the project.

Devoting one year almost exclusively to discussion concerning objectives, vision, and principles was worthwhile, although it demanded a firmly held belief in the fundamental idea of the project. Getting researchers on board is also vital to such projects. The project was successful because the stakeholders managed to achieve a shared goal, with each actor having an interest in promoting the project.

Having different actors sitting “on the same side of the table” for once was empowering with regards to the objectives of C/O City. Such collaborations between construction companies and municipalities are fairly unusual, but these created a level of mutual understanding that proved essential for the project’s outcome.

Related SDGs
Further Reading

C/O City


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Project: Stockholm Co-creation