A sustainable spatial planning framework for engaging diverse actors and citizens in revitalising in-between spaces for social inclusion, biodiversity, and well-being.



Project type


VIVA PLAN is a dynamic, multi-sited research project funded by Formas that aims to investigate issues of sustainability, social inclusion and belonging in residential housing areas of Copenhagen, Malmö and Södertälje. Research outputs are intended to support improvements in green space design and management, and to provide policy guidance on sustainable spatial planning across Sweden and Denmark.

It is coordinated by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in close collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, Södertörn University, Wagenignen University, University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba and a knowledge alliance of policy makers and practitioners (see details here). The team is composed of planners, geographers, ecologists and believes in community-empowerment as the basis of its research approach.

VIVA PLAN pursues a “multi-method” research approach, recognizing that different kinds of knowledge require different forms of attention, observation, and analysis. Uniting the different methods is the theory of “Mosaic Governance” which supports the formation of partnerships between local residents and varied cross-sector actors (e.g. state agencies, private firms, etc.). Different aspects of the Mosaic Governance approach proceed here according to four distinct ‘work packages,’ or collections of research tasks.

  • Work Package 1 (WP1) assesses the extent and quality of “green spaces and meeting spots” (e.g. parks, nature areas, alleyways) in the three study sites. It engages community members directly, and specifically youth.
  • Work Package 2 (WP2) develops new “photo elicitation” techniques and social network tools to understand the place-based needs and interests of children, the elderly and migrants. Like WP1, it is community-focused.
  • Work Package 3 (WP3) considers how the “mosaic governance” approach can lead to new understandings of local perceptions of biodiversity, social inclusion, and well-being – and specifically in relation to “green meeting spaces.” Here, we will speak with community members, and also planners, ecologists, and local decision-makers.
  • Work Package 4 (WP4) translates the above-noted district scale findings into city, regional and national sustainable spatial plans. This phase of the project is geared to institutional actors in cities and regional scale departments.

The goal of VIVA PLAN is to empower a broad range of actors concerned with and affected by green design issues. Working at the community level, we hope to generate shared understandings of how nature is conceived and managed in contemporary urban spaces, and how it might be done differently. We specifically hope to equip young people with some tools for voicing their unique interests, such as through the introduction of sound recording techniques for perceiving nature. For planning authorities and our larger knowledge alliance, we hope to clarify some of the concerns raised by local actors, and to provide some concrete steps toward their resolution.

VIVA PLAN will provide detailed, site-specific guidance on how to integrate social issues into the integrated planning and management of green spaces and meeting spots across several residential housing areas in Scandinavia. Our work proceeds through many of the most recognized tools of sustainable spatial planning: public participation geographic information systems (PPGIS), photo and map visualization, ethnography, and detailed policy review. Our study in social network and governance principles, as informed by mosaic governance, will provide planners with a range of materials from which to consider improvements to specific green areas.

Kari Lehtilä, professor, Södertörn university

Romina Rodela, senior researcher, Södertörn university

Clas Lindberg, lecturer, Södertörn university

Anna Peterson, doctor, SLU

Arjen Buijs, associate professor, Wageningen University

Alan Diduck, professor, University of Winnipeg

Christine Haaland, doctor, SLU

Natalie Marie Gulsrud, doctor, Köpenhavns universitet

Ted McLachlan, landscape architect

Research area / geographic area

Natural Sciences, Technology and Environmental Studies Environmental Science Environmental Studies Nature & the environment Baltic

Project time

2019 — 2022


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