ACSI Camp 2013

Culture as a sustainable driving force

The Institute for Sustainable Urban Development (ISU) joins ACSI Camp with a challenge that involves creating sustainable urban development with culture as the driving force. Together 22 building contractors are creating the neighbourhood Spårvägen, in the district Norra Sorgenfri in Malmö. One main issue is how the neighbourhood can be developed without it being at the cost of the more than 350 cultural entrepreneurs of Norra Sorgenfri. 

– Being part of ACSI Camp seems interesting as it might give us an international perspective on how to develop Norra Sorgenfri. We hope to get a specific kind of input from an international network, in a way that we could not have been able to reach ourselves. The context seems huge and solid, which is the reason we chose to join ACSI, says Clara Norell, Director of ISU.

Clara explains that ISU has been given the political assignment “to test the role of culture as a fourth dimension for sustainable urban development”. It is not a coincidence that this is happening in Malmö, as the city has been at the forefront for a long time now when it comes to using culture as a driving force for sustainable urban development.

01clara_norell– Writing beautifully about culture and sustainable development is one thing, but solving the issues in reality is another. To get 22 contractors, a number of expectations and other stakeholders to agree on what sustainable development really is and how culture can be used to profile the area is a tough nut to crack, says Clara Norell.

Clara has international colleagues working with similar projects in other cities, such as Berlin, Manchester, New York, Cape Town, Marseille and Amsterdam. Via ACSI Camp she is hoping to learn more about international examples of similar challenges. And to learn what other cities have done and what obstacles and success factors they have encountered.

What is new with the project of the neighbourhood of Spårvägen is that there is already a working group of 22 contractors. It is relatively unusual that they are part of the detailed planning process at such an early stage.

– In the same way as the ocean view attracted people to move to Bo01 in Malmö, we want to regenerate people to the neighbourhood of Spårvägen through culture. The idea is to develop Norra Sorgenfri without facing a typical scenario of gentrifying the area and consequently pushing away the cultural entrepreneurs who are the contemporary soul of Norra Sorgenfri. The issue is how we can, in the best way possible, involve them in developing the area without driving them away, says Clara Norell and adds:

– Another issue is that a very engaged visionary and enthusiast developed the program plan and the vision. What do we do when these kind of people no longer are part of the development project? What should we do in general when visions and project plans are dependant on visionaries?

Furthermore, it occasionally seems as if the project from time to time lacks leadership and mandate as well as a proper communication plan, both for internal and external use.

– There are many stakeholders in this project, which demands clear leadership and guidelines for who has the highest mandate as well as a communication plan to relate to, Clara says.

She does not expect ISU to get all the answers by being part of ACSI, but surely some answers.

– We hope to get inspired by international examples and we are curious as to how one can shape leadership for sustainability.

ISU – the Institute for Sustainable Urban Development – a joint venture between the City of Malmö and the University of Malmö. ISU takes part in transforming Malmö into a leading knowledge based city for sustainable urban development. The Institute deals with sustainability in its broad sense, which includes ecological, economical, social and cultural issues. The work comprises of taking part in processes of urban development (redevelopment as well as regeneration) projects in Malmö, and includes transfer of knowledge and experiences between researchers and practitioners. We initiate, lead and study change processes focusing on sustainable urban development.


Read more about ACSI here
Read about other challenges here


Written by Lotta Solding
Translated to english by Rebecca Allen Lamptey
Porträttfoto på Clara Norell taget av Johan Bävman


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