Flaten area has been in a transition phase for the past few years and it has been the largest nature reserve in Stockholm since its founding in 2005. The focus of the project is on gathering data and knowledge about the specific conditions in Flaten and subsequently sharing these results within the larger Enable project (in which Stockholm’s Flaten is one of six cases in different cities).
Urban areas undergoing substantial changes and restructuring pose challenges regarding how to navigate natural resources in relation to local residents. The Stockholm case of the EU-funded research project Enable investigates the prerequisites for optimising the value of green and blue infrastructure in the rapidly changing area of Lake Flaten. The largest nature reserve in Stockholm since its founding in 2005, the Flaten area has been in a transition phase for the past few years. This has called for an investigation into how nature is being (and could be) used for recreation as the surrounding society gradually changes, while still maintaining its rich ecological qualities. In order to produce this knowledge, local stakeholders are approached on a broad level, although each actor participates on its own terms.
The project is largely focused on gathering data and knowledge about the specific conditions in Flaten and subsequently sharing these results within the larger Enable project (in which Stockholm’s Flaten is one of six cases in different cities). Thus, the results are mainly meant to provide value for the future development of Flaten Lake and are not generalisable. However, the methods evaluated during the process will be potentially applicable in a larger context, as well as certain aspects of the research results.
Good Practices & Solutions
The research process is designed to entail testing of a participatory resilience assessment adapted to an urban context. Thus, the project is both a learning process regarding the issues stated above as well as a meta-learning process, i.e. an exploration of participatory research methods. Knowledge is co-produced with researchers, public servants, individuals, associations, communities, and other stakeholders around Flaten Lake through a work package of citizen research, workshops, enquiries, and follow-ups and regularly updating participants while preserving results along the way. Each phase is designed so that all participants are able to give feedback on a personal level, largely avoiding group-based evaluation (and thereby risking consensus).
Obstacles for co-creation between actors often appear in the form of time, and voluntary organisations and individuals cannot always show up during the same hours as public servants and researchers. There are also numerous latent and active conflicts between some of the participating stakeholders, whether related to the project or not. Some participants are public servants and architects responsible for designing new local construction projects and are likely to receive critique when encountering local residents: “When things are being built, someone will always be displeased about it.” This creates a tension that needs to be taken into account so as not to jeopardise the overall objectives.
To logistically manage a chequered group of stakeholders with diverse schedules, interests, and resources, discussions are conducted parallel to one another and never with all stakeholders present at any single time. However, the leading actors have made sure that stakeholder groups inform one another regularly so that everyone has access to the same information. Furthermore, several different processes are designed to be going on simultaneously, thus enabling diverse forms of involvement. Although the research process has been prepared in advance, some aspects of the process are being altered according to needs along the way because not all prerequisites of all stakeholders can be foreseen.
A quite different potential stepping stone for the future application of the results is the fact that no decision-makers have been part of the project, hence there is a lack of a policy- driving aspect. This has not been a definite decision, but rather a consideration due to limited resources.
Outcome & Opportunities
As mentioned, the main outcomes are aimed at an academic context – mainly producing articles presenting project results – and less towards a policy-development process. However, having managed to bring so many local residents, businesses, and activities on board throughout the research project might potentially increase locals’ interest and commitment in developing the lake and nature reserve. Moreover, the process’s learning outcomes might be acknowledged as a substantial basis for future action-oriented research processes aiming at bringing in practitioners for producing knowledge for sustainable cities.
As part of the project, a review article published in 2017 highlights the apparent knowledge gap between decision-making for enhancing urban ecosystem services through green infrastructure and biodiversity and ecosystem services relations, stating that there is still little empirical evidence to suggest that biodiversity is substantially strengthened by urban ecosystems services.
Lessons learned & Recommendations
Far from surprising, dialogue takes its toll on the schedule. Having diverse groups working with a common vision is a “continuous headache”, requiring continuous discussions and re- formulating of objectives and boundaries and coordinating different points of view into a coherent process. One notable example is the systemic perspective not being embraced or even fully comprehended by all actors because many instead choose to apply an issue- specific perspective. On a higher level, coordinating an international co-creative project requires proactive communication structures. Co-creation is considered not to work well in large group meetings; instead, bilateral dialogues are held between managers of the six different projects.
There is a danger in trying to generalise one’s results. In a case study like this, it is more reasonable to assume that the outcome will be a rather particular one and, in this case, efforts should be focused on developing the Flaten area: “We are trying to work against the scientific illusion of things being generalisable.” Thus, each of the six case studies has relative autonomy regarding problem definition and methodology. This is also a reason why Agenda 2030 has not been explicitly part of the problem definition even though the SDGs cover the issues being investigated in Enable.
- 11.4 Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage
- 11.7 By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
- 14.1 By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
- 14.2 By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
- 15.1 By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements
Project: Stockholm Co-creation