Co-creation: Joining forces for change

Mistra Urban Futures positions itself in the field of urban development where the challenges are complex and of concern to different sectors, disciplines and cultures, and where responses and solutions need to be found through cooperation and collaboration.

Despite this, many challenges are today managed within traditional organizational structures in local government, regional agencies, research institutions and universities. 

Our way of working

Accordingly, our approach is to bring different actors together, both from research and practice, who together co-create knowledge and understanding that promotes sustainable urban futures. We provide an arena for addressing the questions and challenges within and between individual cities that no single actor can manage alone. 

At Mistra Urban Futures many different competences and disciplines meet. People from a wide range of research fields and expertise work in our research projects, ranging from business, sociology, political science, architecture, biology, physical resource theory, law, human ecology and, engineering sciences to design. 

When knowledge is co-created and when those who will use the knowledge take an active part in shaping it new critical insights are identified. We believe this provides a better basis for taking the appropriate paths towards enabling a sustainable urbanisation.  

What do we mean by co-creation  

Co-creation is a holistic approach, starting from the very conception of individual projects and continuing through to adoption, communication and publications of findings. One could say that co-creation is co-design, co-production and co-implementation combined. 

Co-creation means both to learn from each other and to learn with each other. It is not a single method, but rather a methodological ethos that can be implemented in different ways. It is a means to an end – tackling complex challenges. 

At Mistra Urban Futures co-creation is built on financial, communicative and organizational co-operation beyond the individual projects. The projects are the fundamental activity, but the overarching activities for the whole Centre creates specific conditions for the success of the projects. 

Manual – how to work together 

Co-owned collaboration processes are rare. We have collected our experiences from the start-up phase, and particularly the five pilot projects in Gothenburg that were conducted 2010-2011, in a manual. It highlights success factors and gives recommendations on how to overcome some of the challenges that might arise. 

Read more and get concrete tips in our manual Joint Knowledge Production for Urban Change. 

Further reading

Some suggestions on further reading: 

Polk, M. (ed) Co-producing Knowledge for Sustainble Cities: Joining Forces for Change. Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2015

Polk, M. 'Achieving the promise of transdisciplinarity: a critical exploration of the relationship between transdisciplinary research and societal problem solving'. Sustainability Science, 2014, DOI 10.1007/s11625-014-0247-7

Jordan, T. 'Deliberative methods for complex issues: a typology of functions that may need scaffolding'. Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal, no.13, pp. 50-71

Polk, M. 'Institutional capacity building in urban planning and policy making for sustainable development: success or failure?' Planning Practice & Research, vol. 26, no. 2, 2011, pp.185-206

Polk, M. 'Integration and implementation in action at Mistra Urban Futures: a transdisciplinary center for sustainable urban development'. In Disciplining Interdisciplinarity: Integration and Implementation Sciences for Researching Complex Real World Problems, G. Bammer (ed.). Canberra: ANU e press, 2013

Polk, M., Kain, J-H. & Holmberg, J. 'Mistra Urban Futures: a living laboratory for urban transformations'. In Regenerative Sustainable Development of Universities and Cities: The Role of Living Laboratories, A. König (ed). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2013, pp. 173-193

Polk, M. 'Transdisciplinary co-production: designing and testing a transdisciplinary research framework for societal problem solving'. Futures, Doi:10.1016/j.futures.2014.11.001