Workshop with Manchester researchers

A group of researchers from the Centre for Urban Resilience and Energy (CURE) visited SpaceLab in early March to discuss core problematics in urban sustainability research. With Stefan Bouzarovski’s visiting professorship (Prof II) at the Department of Geography, there is emerging collaborations between our groups. The workshop ended with a discussion with practitioners in Bergen municipality.

Most of the workshop was held at Solstrand, half an hour outside Bergen.

On the first day, discussions revolved around two key themes in urban sustainability research. The first was on how we should best conceptualise systemic change and transformation. Many of the existing theories assume that innovative practices are developed in small niches, or protected spaces, and are then ‘upscaled’ or ‘diffused’ to other places and higher scales. As several participants pointed out, this conceptualisation is based on technological innovation, and does not work well for more political and social transformations. The discussion focused on how geographical perspectives can be used more productively to conceptualise transformation.

The other key theme was labelled ‘climate versus justice?’ As researchers working on climate related topics we are often confronted with instances where considerations for justice and considerations for climate diverge. Workshop participants shared experiences and ideas, and debated how considerations for justice and climate overlap.

The second day was focused on links between research and the world outside the academe. There was a morning discussion on ‘researchers as agents of change’ – the normative and methodological challenges of working in a field where one often also seeks practical influence. It seemed widely agreed that even as we work with co-production of knowledge and living lab approaches, the position of critical observer is important to maintain.

Then the participants took a bus to downtown Bergen, and were graciously welcomed by representatives from the municipality of Bergen. They presented past and on-going work by Bergen to improve sustainability, and Gabriele Schliwa from CURE presented examples of collaborative urban sustainability projects from Manchester.