Translation and implementation of nature-based solutions in cities : Experimentation, learning and knowledge production

Abstract: As part of current efforts to work towards sustainable development, find solutions to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and adapt cities to the effects of climate change, such as floods and extreme heat, there are high hopes that nature-based solutions (NBS) can support the transformation needed. Based on the knowledge that implementation and governance of urban NBS is still emerging and constrained by various barriers, e.g., regulatory, institutional, political, financial and cognitive, it is important to improve the understanding of processes that can help overcome the barriers to NBS implementation. NBS is an umbrella policy concept for a range of green space governance approaches. It is derived from the policy sphere and, therefore, needs to be translated into scientific knowledge and practical knowledge. This thesis applies an inter- and transdisciplinary research approach, using qualitative methods to investigate how the NBS concept is translated in science and into local implementation in Swedish municipalities. Since research influences knowledge production and implementation in practice by framing and defining NBS, this thesis also seeks to investigate how research interprets and uses the concept, as well as how it addresses implementation. With a dual focus on research and practice, the aim of this thesis is to study in what ways the processes of experimentation, learning, and knowledge production enable and/or constrain the translation and implementation of NBS. NBS is an emerging concept and still subject to definitional efforts on the boundaries between scientific disciplines and science/policy. Most studies on NBS focus on environmental benefits, in spite of a need to consider all dimensions of sustainability, including issues of justice. So far, few NBS frameworks explicitly address implementation. In those that do, stakeholder collaboration and co-production of knowledge are key elements of NBS implementation, which could be further considered in both formal planning and experimentation. Here, targeted strategies towards collaboration and transformative learning can help overcome barriers to implementation and mainstreaming of NBS. However, this requires reflexive governance and cross-boundary interaction among stakeholders, including action-oriented knowledge production and strategic citizen involvement. Thus, it is important to build trust and foster inclusive communication, which warrants increased focus on relational/emotional capacities. Transformative learning requires supportive institutional structures and resources that safeguard the continuity and evaluation of NBS implementation processes and associated learning. Transdisciplinary and collaborative platforms for experimentation, which include both research and practice, have the potential to stimulate and support further learning and knowledge to build transformative capacity and advance NBS implementation, and ultimately, sustainability, in cities.

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