Prof. Dr. Martina Keitsch, Department of Design, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Ph.D Nuno Martins, architect, Executive Director of Building 4Humanity, Design and Reconstructing Communities Association, CIAUD, Research Centre for Architecture, Urbanism and Design, University of Lisbon

The main goal of this track was to share knowledge and experiences on possibilities and challenges of rural-regional-urban collaborations towards sustainable societies with a special focus on SDG 11. Track 6b comprised 18 presentations from international researchers and practitioners addressing issues on sustainable urban and rural development at local, regional and national levels. The presentations in the track were focusing on three key areas: Theories and concepts on sustainable urban and rural societies, models and measurements for planning strategies and study analyses and practices of green planning and design.

The presentation ‘Questioning existing discourses and practices of environmental protection: an anthropological approach’ analyzed discourses and practices concerning environmental protection. Based on a case study it showed how different actors and institutions contribute to shape environmental policies at the local level. The presentation connected anthropological research methods with policymaking, thematizing the difficulty of endorsing a paradigm of sustainable development in local contexts. It was paying special attention to contradictions regarding environmental protection and value exploitation of natural resources, intrinsic in contemporary environmental policies. ‘Revisiting ecovillage as a sustainability approach – A system's perspective’ challenged the common view of ecovillages as environmentally sustainable ways of living in response to the widely discussed unsustainability of modern lifestyles. The presentation emphasized two issues. First, problems beyond local scale are not addressed in current eco village literature. This means bypassing existing stakeholders such as government, experts, and other authorities. Second, the cultural dimension in ecovillage approaches is missing. The authors presented system theory as a methodological remedy to meet these challenges, spatially and temporally with the goal to illustrate how strategies in ecovillage approach could align to sustainable system of interconnectedness and vice versa. ‘A review on Territorial Innovation Models in Less Developed Regions’ discussed lack of SD goals in literature on territorial innovation models. The review concluded that few articles addressed SD as an outcome of a territorial innovation and that proposed innovation models for less developed regions in the European Union, predominantly focus on economic and institutional factors. A similar view expressed ‘Exploring the Relation between Urban Entrepreneurship and UN Sustainability Goals’. The presentation used the UN Sustainability Goals to identify key aspects crucial for a sustainable development in urban entrepreneurial development. Analysis of two cases showed a complexity of references while a growth- oriented discourse was emphasized in literature.

Presentations focusing on model and indicator analysis for urban and rural development were among others comparing strategies and measurements. The presentation ‘Are strategic plans of cities focusing on sustainability? An analysis of the use of indicators’ reviewed strategic plans of 32 cities where 18 cities proposed using indicators. Only 8 out of 18 strategic plans have an even distribution of environmental, economic and social indicators. Cities with a high economic income do not have a more even distribution of social, economic and environmental indicators. However, cities with better environmental conditions have a more even distribution of these triple-bottom line indicators. ‘The KRAFT Index: Creative Cities – Sustainable Regions’ presented a regional development analytical tool to assess connectivity and ‘creativity potential’ key players in a regional economy. Findings showed a large potential in creative collaboration between different stakeholders towards sustainable development paths.

Several presentations were based on study analyses. ‘A Strategy for a Sustainable Tourism Development of the Greek Island of Chios’ discussed pros and cons for different stakeholders related to Sustainable tourism development strategies with the goal to design a Sustainable Destination Management Plan for the island of Chios. Findings of the analysis showed a tourist destination of potential growth while interactions between stakeholders would benefit from the establishment of a participatory strategy to the plan and manage the sector based on sustainable development principles. A presentation on sustainable transport was addressing the question ‘Can car sharing and e-hailing change vehicle-ownership-based mainstream mobility culture in China?’ Focusing on possibilities for a sharing economy in Chinese transport and mobility system with the assistance from smart-phone apps the presentation showed results of the first study, exploring car sharing and ride sourcing within Chinese urban context. Findings indicate that car sharing in China as a business model can help the country to promote electric vehicles while ride-hailing enables greater access for passengers in urban areas and it improves the occupancy rate for vehicles. Effects on reduction in private vehicle ownership are still questionable due to design and attitude challenges, but car sharing and e-hailing can contribute to improve the overall mobility system in the future.

A few presentations emphasized the potential of local partnerships in achieving sustainability goals of both local communities and the administrations. ‘Scalar partnerships, renewable energy, and community livelihoods in Indonesia’ addressed small-scale power generation distribution in Indonesia highlighting the needs of rural and remote communities, and discussed how the location-specific challenges can be cultural, technical, practical, and socio-economic, as well as financial in nature. The findings of a transdisciplinary research project that involved academics from Indonesian and Australian, a local specialized NGOs and the community members, showed how renewable energy might be most effectively implemented to meet the livelihood needs and aspirations of rural and remote Indonesian communities, with a particular focus on connections and partnerships that crossed spatial, temporal, and governance scales. The presentation ‘Incremental Housing and Social Sustainability issues. Revisiting the World Bank Site and Services Project. The case of Brazil’ stress a particular operation carried out by the World Bank (WB) in Brazil, a Site and Services Projects (SSP) taking as a case study a large resettlement operation carried out conducted in the eighties, in favelas of S. Paulo, Recife and San Salvador. This triple action consisted of providing infrastructure, a plot and a core-housing unit to each family to enable the self-construction of their new dwellings. The aim of the study was to understand how this operation has evolved through time, how communities have tackled risk, resilience and sustainability issues, and subsequently grown up. The research method focused on consultation in libraries and archives, interaction with local technicians, and fieldwork. Conclusions stressed the importance of the social networks, that resulted from the SSP and IH process and qualify the interactions among the members of those networks. The presentation ‘Social Network Analysis of two Afro-Ecuadorian ancient communities with successful histories of resilient social-ecological systems and adaptive governance paradigms employed a Social Network Analysis, by the means of a focus-group mapping approach. It had the aim of studying the governance framework of Afro-Ecuadorian ancient communities, identifying the key components of their resistance and resilience against external environmental pressures, and finally evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their social structure. The participants were asked to list the actors involved in conservation, the relationships between them and assign a value for the perceived influence level of each actor. The results showed that communities share the same non-hierarchical commune organization, with shared land ownership, assembly based consensus decision-making and communal economy. The presentation ‘Towards an Integral Heritage Rehabilitation: A Case Study of a Wooden City in Southern Chile, Valdivia’ brought the topic of the built heritage as a feature for sustainability to discussion, arguing how the regulation and active preservation of old historic settlements called “Wooden Cities” can contribute to the enhancement of the local cultural landscapes. It argued that trough interpreting the protected site as a dynamic context a local model could be initiated for Wooden Cities.

Finally yet importantly, the diachronic analysis and the association to positive externalities establishes alignment within global framework and sustainability measures. Two of the presentations focused on solid waste, suggesting particular approaches te related environmental problem. The first study on ‘Recycling Cooperative and the Challenge of Shared Management Of Solid Waste In Brazil: A Case Study’ aimed to characterize the working environment in a recycling cooperative in the state of Paraná, southern Brazil. The main environmental problems were identified through the observation technique, based on five items related to environmental and quality of life factors of the Environmental Impacts Manual. Results highlighted the degradation of the economic value of the place, the lack of community collaboration in the separation of household waste, the presence of perforating materials or contaminants and produce odors, the need for joint actions between public authorities and the community. Further encouraging communication campaigns and environmental education in order to promote worker's quality of life in cooperatives of recyclable materials and, at the same time, environmental preservation was highlighted. The second investigation, ‘Recycling of Food Waste And Wood Waste As Biochar For Enhancing High Performance Concrete, to explore the recycling of horticultural and food wastes into additives in cementitious mortar, which is widely used as a building material. Biochar, a by-product of pyrolysis of sawdust and food wastes, was evaluated as an additive in mortar, in terms of compressive and flexural strength, absorptivity, and depth of water penetration. The results confirmed the potential of biochar as a mean of waste recycling that also improves the overall performance of mortar. Socially and economically, this technology has the potential to spur local employment by creating additional purpose to salvage wood and food waste for pyrolysis. Having more durable and stronger buildings reduces the frequency of repairs over the service lifespan of buildings, thus contributing to the economic and environmental sustainability of the building industry. A final presentation, ‘Developing a conceptual framework towards sustainable development in a less developed region of the EU: The case of Centro Region’, discussed how Smart Specialization has been used as one of the main theoretical frameworks behind Regional innovation and development policies in the EU in recent years. It argued that it is not evident that Smart Specialization strategies (S3) integrate SD goals and practices. An assessment of the S3 of the Centro Region was carried out, through a content analysis, examining the conceptual integration of SD concerns and goals into the strategy. Following this, a two-stage workshop was held with local civil society organizations, universities, industry representatives and local governments. Preliminary findings point to the conceptual apprehension of the SD discourse in the regional development strategy focusing on sustainability practices but suggesting a mismatch among the positions and practices of different stakeholders.


Conclusively, the presentations illustrate that the track covers a variety of topics within at least three areas categories: Theory & method development, and (related) outcomes in form of applications and innovation in urban and rural development. We recommend that further work in 6b should discuss similarities and differences concepts and approaches, and focus more detailed on challenges and possibilities for SDG 11.