Socially sustainable neighbourhood transformation – indicators and tools

Today, a significant portion of our neighbourhoods are in need of being transformed, whether we are talking about refurbishments or new developments. Trying to understand how such transformations might influence various social values in the future - such as health, happiness, social cohesion, sense of security etcetera - is an important task. However, not much research has been done in this area previously. This project´s aim is therefore to investigate how the social implications of future neighbourhood transformations can be understood and predicted.

Central themes are:

•    To develop a theoretical and empirical foundation to identify social aspects and indicators in a systematic and transparent way.
•    Use this foundation to identify new - and refine already existing - social aspects and indicators. 
•    Develop theories and methods that can help us apply the social aspects and indicators in order to experiment with and discuss different predictions of the future.
•    Based on this research create experimental and participatory tools for stakeholders to use when trying to understand what social values specific transformations of neighbourhoods might enhance or destroy.

One part of the project focuses on investigating what a social value can be defined as in the context of neighbourhood transformations and to develop a number of social aspects (broad theoretical definitions of the social values) and indicators in order to study these. To accomplish this, theories from the field of normative ethics are used. As a complement the project also investigates various "everyday" definitions of what social value is, by conducting field work where citizens are asked to contemplate on these matters. Furthermore, previous research on how citizens are affected by the structure of our urban environments is being studied.

Another part of the project focuses on developing theories and methods that will help us to apply the social aspects and indicators in order to experiment with - and discuss - different predictions of how a specific neighbourhood transformation might influence various social values. Of special interest is to find ways to make explicit the assumptions, ethical stances, uncertainties and risks that the different predictions have as their base as well as to understand what predictions different stakeholder groups prioritize. This part of the project will be enlightened by research on innovation, social studies of technology and the ethics of risk.

The project will be conducted through field research and literature studies, within the context of a number of ongoing neighbourhood transformations, in Sweden and abroad.


Photo: FlickrNadir Hashmi 



Molnar, S., Mjörnell, K. & Eneqvist, E. (2015). Socialt hållbar stadsdelsomvandling: Indikatorer och verktyg. (Mistra Urban Futures Report 2015:3). Gothenburg: Mistra Urban Futures
Type: Report/Paper/Working paper/Brief

Project members

  • Stefan Molnar

    Stefan Molnar, PhD candidate, RISE Research Institute of Sweden & Chalmers University of Technology

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  • Kristina Mjörnell

    Kristina Mjörnell, PhD, Adjunct Professor at the Department of Building Physics, Lund University, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden

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  • Erica Eneqvist

    Erica Eneqvist works as a Project manager at Systems Analysis at the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden. She works with urban development, governance and environmental issues.


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  • Karl Persson de Fine Licht

    Karl Persson de Fine Licht, PhD in Practical Philosophy. Researcher at SP Technical Institute of Sweden, lecturer at the Center for Research ethics and Bioethics (CRB), Uppsala University.

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