To be liveable, equitable, resilient and positive contributors to global sustainability, cities need to be designed and governed as complex systems where technological and digital infrastructure supports ecological-biophysical and social-institutional-economic dynamics. However, social and ecological dimensions of urban design and governance are not well integrated into “smart” city agendas.
How can investment in smart cities jointly support multiple urban objectives? Smart cities have so far failed to address nature-based solutions in urban forests, parks, and community gardens and their contribution to human well-being, including stress relief and heat mitigation. The SMARTer Greener Cities project aims to develop and test novel tools and processes for explicitly converging social, ecological, and technological systems (SETS) approaches for improving life in cities. The convergence of these approaches will promote resilient and equitable urban futures in Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, and generate new opportunities for transformative change and increasing resilience to extreme events in other Nordic cities. The comprehensive integration of emerging science and practice connected to each of the three couplings (social-ecological (S-E), ecological-technological (E-T), and social-technological (S-T)) into a combined SETS framework is essential for the development of “smarter” (through systems) solutions for resilience and equity.
Despite the challenge of systems oriented research and practice, we must cut across silos in disciplines, approaches, and knowledge systems by bringing technology, people, and nature together. The advances in system understanding and integration we’ll make in the SMARTer project are critical in light of current challenges and goals already outlined in the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Agenda Goals. Our project will both help the Nordic countries, autonomous regions and multiple actors to better understand the intended and unintended consequences of SMART and greener solutions, and to support the harnessing of the co-benefits of resilient solutions through cross-sectoral planning.
Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Stockholm will serve as our case study cities. These cities have diverse climate, infrastructure, social, and ecological challenges, as well as different stakeholder political agendas—all of which are important use cases to test conceptual frameworks, analytical methods, community engagement processes. In addition, we will leverage our strong foundation of research and practitioner engagement with local partners through a continuous process of knowledge co-creation and learning where we will identify, assess and manage the intended and unintended consequences of smart technologies in each of our cities and beyond.