Culture & sustainable cities

How can culture be used as a driving force for urban development?

Culture. Photo Ewa Levau

Culuture is increasingly important to discuss in relation to sustainable urban development.

UN Global goals

Connected to goal 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11 and 12.

The concept of culture is difficult to define but is, nevertheless, important to discuss in relation to different aspects of urban development. What definition(s) and use(s) of culture are supported by and through planning processes? How does culture thrive outside of urban management frameworks? And how does it affect urban development? Culture gives meaning and a sense of participation in the city and creates context.

The City of Malmö shall therefore work to make culture and artistic expressions accessible and will create conditions for Malmö’s residents to enjoy culture in the city.

Making culture and art accessible is about working to diversify the offering of artistic and cultural experiences, to increase citizen influence, to provide greater access to arenas for artistic and cultural experiences, and to increase opportunities for people’s own creativity. The work to make art and culture accessible to more people is intended to create equal access to culture regardless of position in society, sex, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age. In what way can this tie in with and be implemented through the Malmö Culture Strategy and Action Plan 2014-2020? And what place does culture have in the UN sustainable development goals?

The notion of culture – contentious and changing as it is – is increasingly important to discuss, especially in relation to aspects of sustainable urban development. The dialogue seminar and round table discussions will include many engaging speakers presenting a variety of topics, from local case studies to global issues.

Technical visit: Lindängen - Responsible Consumption and Production
This technical visit takes off from Anna Seravalli’s research "Design and Social Innovation"; to ReTuren and Lindängen as site-specific projects for civic dialogue and more perspectives on how change can be achieved through collaboration.

We will also visit the Lindängen Library where the city’s Department of Culture and Southern District administration, will present and guide us through plans for the new library-vision. We will also visit Framtidens Hus, ReTuren/VA-Syd (Malmös first local recyclingcentre), Tvättoteket/Trianon and Gatukraft.

The visit is arranged by the Department of Culture in the City of Malmö together with ISU (track 9). In cooperation between local government and communities.

Hosts: Magnus Metz - the Department of Culture, City of Malmö, Clara Norell - Institute of Sustainable Urban Development

Date: 30 November, 1.30 pm – 4.00 pm

Dialogue seminars - “Culture Strategy (pdf, 251.2 kB) and Action Plan of Malmö 2014-2020 (pdf, 682.3 kB)

Goal: In 2020, Malmö's sustainability has been strengthened with the aid of artistic and cultural processes and forms of expression

Vision: Malmö – where art and culture make a difference

In 2020, Malmö is a culturally active city where it is easy to both pursue and participate in artistic endeavours. Malmö's residents are more creative, feel more involved, close-knit and enjoy an increased sense of well-being. It is easy to find and create meaningful contexts and experiences throughout Malmö. Malmö's residents have greater and equal opportunities to participate in art and culture. It is easy to develop one's opportunities and capabilities regardless of background, social standing or other personal circumstances.

With a starting point in the realms of art and culture, cultural activities and creativity will help enrich and develop the entire city. Freedom of expression, artistic freedom and every individual's right to culture are fundamental principles.

Introduction: 10-minute presentation of Culture Strategy and Action Plan 2014-2020
Linda Johansson, City of Malmö

Questions for discussion (35 minutes)

  • Measuring instruments – How do we know that we have succeeded?
  • Practice and experience – Do’s and don’ts What to consider when working with culture and sustainability
  • Influence and participation – How to involve groups that do not currently partake of the city's culture offering 

    • Elisabeth Lundgren, Cultural director, City of Malmö
    • Frida Trollmyr, Municipal commissioner City of Malmö, Culture and leisure
    • Jordi Pascual, Coordinator in Committee on Culture  in UCLG – United Cities and Local Governments, Agenda 21 for Culture
    • Per Möller, Lecturer, Malmö University
    • Federico Moreno, freelancejournalist
    • Åsa Sandström, ABF -an adult liberal educational association

Date: 1 December, 10.00 am - 12.00 pm

Round table discussions

1. “Culture and sustainability – For whom? By whom?
A discussion about practical projects in Malmö's work with culture and social sustainability.

Starting point: Discussions about culture and social sustainability often strive to establish general explanatory models and concepts. Parallel to this, we see how concepts tend to be assigned varying content depending on the concerned city district or social context. We believe that the ambiguity of these two concepts – culture and social sustainability – must be raised and dealt with. Otherwise we risk reproducing tacit agreements and implicit assumptions that can easily result in simplified solutions to complex problems. The starting point for this round table discussion comprises two ongoing projects in Malmö, both of which concern the establishment of a new library/culture centre, one in the thriving district of Västra Hamnen, the other in the socially deprived district of Lindängen.

Issues we would like to discuss:

  • In the case of Malmö, what do we mean when we say culture and social sustainability? 
  • What examples do we raise and what is being done in the different city districts?
  • What concrete problems prevent a city from remaining a whole? Can they be overcome? What role does culture play in this work?
  • What do the following concepts entail in the two different contexts, Lindängen and Västra Hamnen?

    • Social sustainability
    • Communication with citizens
    • The citizen's role
    • Culture's role
    • Civil society's role
    • Ownership
    • Consumption as a parameter in the image of social sustainability
  • What narratives define the two districts? How do they affect the meaning of the different concepts and views of culture and social sustainability in the different cases? 

Hosts: Linda Johansson - Operations Developer, Department of Culture, City of Malmö, Per Möller - Lecturer at School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University,  Doctoral Student at Tema Q (Culture and Society), Linköping University.

Date: 1 December, 1.30 - 3.30 pm

2. “The joys and pains of establishing a culture of co-production"
This round table discussion will be coordinated with ISU (track 9) and also ties in directly with our Technical visit.

In the paper “The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture’s essential role in public planning”, Jon Hawkes puts forward the idea of culture as a system of values upon which society as a whole is based. Among the values that might become a new set of core values underpinning planning, he mentions participation, engagement, democracy, creativity, imagination and innovation. These could all be related to the idea of co-production – of bringing together concerned members of a community to explore, create and produce something. This view of culture as something that concerns participation, involvement, security and trust is also put forward by the Commission for a Socially Sustainable Malmö, which also stress the importance of collaborative learning between actors with varying perspectives.

Co-production might be rewarding but it also presents challenges regarding power relations, roles and ownership. In this round table discussion we will begin with the case of ReTuren, a local upcycling station in Malmö, to discuss the opportunities and challenges of co-production. ReTuren is an example of an emerging culture of co-production in Malmö where projects are developed in collaborative efforts between public, private and third sector organizations. How is power and ownership distributed and who is allowed to participate?

Hosts: Anna Seravalli - Ph.D in Interaction Design, Malmö University, Anders Emilson - researcher at School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University and ISU Gränsgångare, Savita Updhyaya - VA Syd, Jörgen Andersson - City of Malmö, Malin Harder - Gatukraft and ISU Gränsgångare.

Date: 1 December, 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm

3. ”UCLG Culture 21 Actions: the global toolkit on culture in sustainable cities”
At the dawn of this, the twenty-first century, we know that development can only be “sustainable” if culture is given a central role. Human development is defined by the expansion of the freedoms and capabilities of all, and this process is only sustainable when it respects the rights and freedoms of future generations. These values are based on the real, practical experiences of cities and local governments, as well as contributions from international organizations, universities, and activists. “Culture 21: Actions (pdf, 4.3 MB)” aims to be an international guide that is applicable all over the world; a tool that promotes knowledge, facilitates the exchange of good practices, and strengthens a global network of effective and innovative cities and local governments.

Host:Mr. Jordi Pascual - UCLG Coordinator in Committee on Culture, Agenda 21 for Culture

Date: 1 December, 1.30 pm - 3.30 pm

“Urban transition insights - Culture and sustainable cities” presents the latest research from different universities.

  • A shared path
    Christoph Rat-Fischer, SynappCity consulting, Karlsruhe, Germany
  • "Remembering ´Culture´?”
    Britta Acksel, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen, Essen, Germany

Moderator: Maria Hellström Reimer - professor in design in theory and practice at Malmö University.

Date: 1 December, 1.30 pm - 3.3 pm

All abstracts presented in Urban transition insights will also be included in the conference anthology.

For more information contact:

Magnus Metz

Development Strategist

Sustainable Development

Culture Department

City of Malmö

Cell phone +46 733 924717