‘Levers for a Sustainable City’ project promotes scaling of good practices
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Municipalities and cities across Finland have developed their activities towards better environmental, social and economic sustainability. The project ‘Levers for a Sustainable City’ (VIPU) looks for solutions for faster scaling of good practices. Besides urban development, the tools created can also be used for other purposes.
Municipalities and other organisations have been active in promoting the Sustainable Development Goals, but even good outcomes may remain as isolated and scattered achievements or fade out after the development project has ended.
The project ‘Levers for a Sustainable City’ (VIPU) developed new methods for scaling and tested how the means that have proven good can be turned into concrete actions in the municipalities. The project also produced a set of criteria for identifying a good practice for sustainable urban development: A good practice must have an impact on more than one dimension of sustainable development. The solution must find demand in the municipalities, the outcomes must be such that they can be proven, and the needs of different stakeholders must be taken into account at the different stages of the process. In order to be truly put to practice, the solutions must also be carefully documented.
Scaling of good practices can refer to operations of very different scales. In the narrowest sense it may mean the adoption of a good practice that will consolidate the activity and make it more effective in the location where it was created. Expanding the practice takes the solution to other environments and locations or to a national scale. The greatest impact is achieved when the solution is mainstreamed and leads to more comprehensive changes in society, e.g. in the legislation or people’s values.
Scaling requires tools to support the practical implementation of the solution and its adaptation to new conditions. “Wider introduction of good solutions makes it possible to achieve sustainability goals more quickly and efficiently. The work done in the project clarifies the concepts related to scaling, structures the often quite general way we talk about scaling, and offers tips for concrete work on this. The results also help us recognise the obstacles to disseminating good practices and find solutions to overcome these,” Programme Manager Virve Hokkanen says.
Good practices do not evolve, develop or pass on without people who do the practical work – those who develop their own activities and those who have the curiosity to follow the achievements of others. “At the core of good practices there always seems to be an enthusiastic individual or team who knows what to do and why. It has been great to see how willing these people have been to share with others what they have learned, and how contagious their enthusiasm may be,” says Senior Researcher Kaisa Schmidt-Thomé who led the project. “These teams truly create something new, and it would be important to give their achievements the attention they deserve,” she says.
The project was implemented as part of the Sustainable City programme that aims to boost the sustainable development of cities and municipalities, coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment. The work was done by a consortium of Demos Helsinki, Finnish Consulting Group FCG and Tyrsky Consulting, supported by a steering group composed of representatives of the Ministry of the Environment, General Secretariat on Sustainable Development at the Prime Minister’s Office and municipalities. The Sustainable City programme will continue the work on scaling and develop tools for this. The programme offers support to cities and municipalities both for the communication activities to disseminate good practices and dialogue between municipalities and for the concrete deployment of good solutions.
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