Setting the scene for transdisciplinary research and practical work

Ulf Moback, Coordinator, climate change strategies, City of Gothenburg

Adaptations to projected sea level rise formed the framework for an ambitious project involving practitioners and researchers in the Gothenburg area. Three approaches – adapt, attack, defend – were discussed from different perspectives in several groups, as a pilot for the Mistra Urban Futures way of working.

Ulf Moback, Coordinator for Climate Change Strategies in the City of Gothenburg, was one of the project’s two leaders. The final report of the pilot project was published in 2011 and was well received and discussed in several forums.

Q: How did you work to bring together academics and practitioners?

A: We didn’t know each other at all when we started – but we had no conflicts in the first year after we started together, which is unique I think. It was a mixed group. Very, very early, I set a frame of what to do. It was rather concrete, but still just a frame.

We had an extensive start-up meeting, lunch to lunch. When we left that meeting, we all knew what we would do and who would do what. We met during the seminars we arranged, but otherwise we had rather few meetings in person, but a lot of telephone conferences. And, well, it worked!

A lot of things may happen during such a long project, but people were enthusiastic. Some get pregnant and can’t work anymore and others get new jobs in China, but there were always some other persons to fill in the gaps.

Q: How can you use the results of the project?

A: During the workshops, we also got input to other issues like the regional objectives in western Sweden or in the municipality, which resulted in the report ‘Sweden: The Good Life’.  We also developed a social and children’s evaluation, which is both systematic and geographical.

The project got another life in another project I’m involved in – the onset of tropical nights in Sweden and how to use city design to minimize the use of air conditioning. That’s finished after 2 or 3 years. The answer is city trees.

Q: What was it like to work as a practitioner in an academic environment?

A: Firstly, I don’t like the use of words like academic and practitioner. I’ve been working between these boundaries all my life.

The researchers will write their academic reports, but I said it was important to work with short recommendations – only 4 pages – if you want it to be used in the planning departments because a practitioner hasn’t time to read research reports. The language should, of course, be easy to understand as well.

Finally, the network of Mistra Urban Futures is valuable – it’s rather broad, so that’s good.

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