onsdag 25. februar 2015

Bringing environmental knowledge into action!

By Lina H. Ingeborgrud(http://www.ntnu.no/ansatte/lina.ingeborgrud), PhD Candidate at Center for Technology and Society Department of interdiciplinary studies of culture, NTNU

Exploring “Cities of the future” and local transportation systems through environmental knowledge management 



In BREV (bringing environmental knowledge into action) we study environmental knowledge management in Norwegian municipalities. This means how municipal employees learn and acquire environmental knowledge, how this knowledge is shared and made use of and how it is brought into plans and strategies. First we study a national initiative called “Cities of the future”. The purpose is to examine what kind of input to local environmental knowledge management that may be produced through national policy-making. Second we will take a sector approach to investigate how environmental knowledge management is performed in the transportation sector, which we see as a particularly important and pertinent area of concern with respect to sustainability. We have chosen Bergen and Trondheim and their transportation programs, respectively “Bergensprogrammet” and “Miljøpakken”.


Background and objectives

Our point of departure is that the enactment of environmental knowledge raises a fairly wide-ranging set of problems.

Our empirical concern is that climate science is difficult to understand, use and translate into policies. This is partly because of a lack of collaboration and ’bureaucratic technologies’, like guidelines and regulations. Further as a theoretical concern we assume that the dominant accounts of knowledge transfer are too narrow, and propose to study the problem with uptake and transfer of environmental knowledge under the label of environmental knowledge management. We would like to explore how environmental knowledge is understood and made use of in projects to promote and improve sustainability, like in our case study “Cities of the future”. This was a Norwegian collaboration program between the 13 largest cities in Norway, four ministries, the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities and private sector, running from 2008 to 2014.

The project addresses the significance of and the interaction between different forms of knowledge (scientific knowledge, professional knowledge, experience-based knowledge, knowledge from lay-people) and how this interaction is co-produced with values, concerns and politics.


Our assumption is that cities of the future are not stable and bounded entities, but objects continuously made through diverse and situated practices. We consider one of these practices as framing, and as we conducted a media analysis from the online archive Retriever, we found two main framings of “Cities of the future”: in the first one “the hopeful city” Cities of the future is described as a great possibility in developing urban areas. This in contrast to the framing of “the vulnerable city”, were Cities of the future is rather looked upon as necessity, highlighting mitigation approaches. The controversies within the framing stories deal with densification of cities, tensions between national and local responsibilities and collaboration in the program, and what part users will play in these future cities. Cities of the future had to an extent an aim to engage citizens in urban development, but the program failed in user involvement, according to some of our respondents. Democratic citizenship is of great interest here: in the media stories users are described as hopeful and collaborative, but also non-cooperative and pessimistic to the life in Cities of the future. Regarding the level of user involvement, this represents a democratic challenge.

Usefulness and application

In November 2014 we arranged a workshop with representatives from municipalities, ministries, KS, directorates and scientists. Here we discussed municipalities` ability to deal with climate change in general, and climate adaptation more specific. In BREV we have an aim to engage and collaborate with people dealing with these issues daily, to integrate their concerns and experiences. We will arrange at least one more workshop with participants during the project period. Previously, knowledge management has been studied in so-called knowledge-intensive service industries. We want to turn this set of approaches to be concerned with local governments’ work with environmental issues. Many municipalities lack the sufficient knowledge to handle the range of environmental concerns. Weaknesses in the knowledge transfer processes has been explained through lack of communication, lack of access to information, lack of dialogue, as well as lack of intermediaries or boundary organizations. There is clearly a need to know more about how environmental knowledge “travels” both within local government as well as between municipalities and other actors.

About the project:

BREV is a three-year research project, running from 2014-2017. The project is funded by The Norwegian Research Council, in the “Miljø2015” program.

Three researches are involved in the project:
Vivian Anette Lagesen: Project leader and supervisor
Lucia Liste: Post.doc
Lina Ingeborgrud: PhD candidate

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