Skip to main content
RISE logo

How to create a sustainable city

A city should be sustainable, meet a variety of needs and requirements, and also meet challenges that we do not yet know about. By working with evidence-based information, there is a greater chance to act correctly from the start.

Humans have been building cities for thousands of years, and there are probably just as many ways to build a city as there are cities. In the past, a city would fulfil the simplest of needs: a roof for shelter and roads for transportation. As society has progressed, the requirements for what a city should be and contain have constantly increased.

Today, in addition to those basic requirements, a city should also be able to meet everything from digital technology needs to sustainable environmental goals, while also being designed to tackle everything that the future may bring, such as climate change. At the same time, the demands on those who will plan and build our cities are increasing.

“In order to create sustainable cities, we need to start working in new ways, we need to act differently in our professional life and reflect on how we work. But it can be difficult to work with long-term, complex issues while continuously having to deliver with short deadlines. It’s easy to get caught up in routines and do as you always have,” says Magnus Johansson, Senior Researcher at RISE.

Decisions based on multiple perspectives

Evidence-based work can be described as taking in more perspectives, pitting them against each other and then evaluating them and making decisions.

“When we talk about evidence-based, we mean that we need to reflect more. Why do I do this and how do I know it works and what am I basing it on?” says Johansson.

Johansson and his colleague Joakim Forsemalm have written a book titled ‘Evidence-based urban development - beyond urban anecdotes’. Evidence is defined by the authors as information. By publishing a book, the authors want to reach those who work daily with urban development and who feel the need to work in new ways.

“RISE is an organisation that works systematically with knowledge, ensures that knowledge is useful and that it is used. This book is completely in line with that,” says Johansson.

Our societies face major challenges

Four areas for evidence-based work

To make it transparent, Johansson and his fellow author have categorised four areas for how to work evidence-based: a) organisational evidence, which is the capacity possessed by an organisation, b) professional evidence – experience and knowledge of those who perform the job, c) scientific evidence, which constitutes findings from research, and d) stakeholder evidence, that is, the perceptions and experiences of those who are to live and work in the city.

In today’s urban development, is not uncommon for knowledge and experience from only one or two evidence areas to be used, instead of from all four.

“The risk of only utilising your professional evidence, for example, is that work only follow routine  and that you do what you have always done because it is easiest,” says Johansson and continues:

“The problem with scientific evidence, which is based on research, is that it can be too abstract and general to be applied in a specific situation. We need to get better at combining different kinds of evidence and letting them challenge each other.”

Lack of methods and ways of working

According to Johansson, there is no resistance among professionals to working systematically with knowledge. It is more a question of a lack of methods and ways of working, all the while having to deal with time constraints and demands for cost-effectiveness.

“There is a great need for methods that can be used to systematically consider whether you are doing the right things and that you are going in the right direction. The interest we are seeing also involves a desire to be able to apply research and obtain tools and methods to do the right thing and to also know that you are doing the right thing,” says Johansson. 

Working evidence-based can also be a way to cope with the challenges ahead. 

“Our societies face major challenges, such as how to deal with the consequences of climate change. Working evidence-based is a way to accelerate learning and become better at learning,” says Johansson.

Evidence-based urban development for professionals

RISE also provides a training course based on the book and geared towards professionals, where participants are given the opportunity to test this way of working. Parts of the course can be tailored to different needs.

Read more about the education.

Published: 2020-07-13
Magnus Johansson

Contact person

Magnus Johansson

Senior forskare

Read more about Magnus

Contact Magnus
CAPTCHA This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

* Mandatory By submitting the form, RISE will process your personal data.