Thesis 2019: Scaling urban experiments for sustainability transitions: Exploring opportunities for organisational transformation by integrating values created in experiments


To meet the grand challenges facing humanity sustainability transitions are needed. The United Nations’ Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, ‘Transforming our world’, calls for urgent transformation. Urban experimentation has emerged as a form of governance for sustainability transitions, where Urban Living Labs (ULLs) are emerging arenas. To achieve the desired sustainability transitions, it is necessary to scale up experiments and change the existing socio-technical regimes. Sadly, it is common for experiments to stay only within the original ULL. Embedding is a mechanism of scaling, denoting alignment and integration of the learnings and experiences from participation in ULLs into practices, policies etc. It’s creating institutional change through new ways of thinking, doing and organising, whether formal and informal. This thesis aims to explore the opportunities for municipal organisations to embed the learnings and experiences from their ULL participation into their ways of working, and thus transforming their organisations. The municipality of Gothenburg, Sweden, will be studied through a qualitative single-case study of Stadslandet, a municipal sustainability project. Semi-structured interviews were used as the main data source and were complemented with added insights from documents from Stadslandet and workshops during the analysis. The data was analysed through a five-phased cycle including; compiling, disassembling, reassembling, interpreting and concluding. Among the values created in Stadslandet, are the large multi-stakeholder networks established during the project, the collaboration between participating actors and the new perspectives gained by participation, including a better understanding of the other organisations and a more holistic perspective on addressed challenges. Stadslandet provided space for experimentation, where complex challenges could be discussed in an open way. The stakeholders stressed the importance of having this space within the municipal organisations. In addition to the values that have emerged from the project processes, more tangible values were created, such as a local food strategy for Gothenburg and a prestudy for multi-functional neighbourhood greenhouses. Barriers for embedding the values were identified: the complexity of the challenges; lack of mandate and leadership, including political leadership, within the municipal organisations; the size of Stadslandet in terms of scope and number of participants; circumstances changing over time within the organisations; the system and structures around Stadslandet are not designed for experimentation. Identification of values from the Stadslandet and barriers for embedding those values, are important first steps for achieving organisational transformation. Further research is needed for determining how the learnings and experiences can be embedded.