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How to engage citizens in climate change to achieve sustainable cities?

November 30, 2021 | News,

During the Climate Agreement 2030 process, several strategic development areas have been identified; areas that need to be strengthened to accelerate climate change. One is citizen engagement. Last spring, Anthesis Sweden was commissioned to develop a strategy for how citizens and civil society can be involved as co-creators in the city’s future.

Anthesis Sweden’s  Managing Director Agneta Persson shares her reflections:

Everyone knows that real efforts are needed for us to achieve our climate goals and to stop too far-reaching climate change. And everyone knows that it affects us all, we all need to change and become climate-smart.

It is a shared responsibility, and it requires the mobilization of civic engagement of an unprecedented format for us to achieve the goals. For us to achieve the mission of climate-neutral and sustainable cities, a mobilization of citizens is required like never before.

How come this mobilization is so slow? And that in principle it must not cost money?

That measures for civic engagement for climate change do not have their own budget, at least not with most actors working with climate change? It is easy to get a little jealous of those who work with digitization and technical development of various kinds, they often have their own development budgets.

Perhaps the inertia is due to the fact that civic engagement for climate change is a complex area of work. You have tested some measure before, and it did not work… Or you have never tested, so it probably does not work… An important factor is probably that it can quickly become political, and then it becomes sensitive. There is also a lot of uncertainty about which methods and tools to use, and how and by whom the citizen should really be involved?

One effect of the fact that civic engagement for climate change rarely gets its own budget is that there are generally no regular follow-ups and evaluations. We simply have a lack of knowledge about what gives the best climate effect and the best result per invested krona.

Another reason may be that it is so difficult to get people to get involved in climate change, there is a lot of competition for interest and time in life. But is it really true? We see many examples of people who are involved in climate change, both Fridays for Future with Greta Thunberg at the helm, “Greta’s old people” who demonstrate in the square in Gävle and many, many other organizations and people. We must build trust, find triggers that engage, and combine with other benefits that can be achieved by living climate-smart. Better health, improved school results and new jobs, for example.

And we must stop believing that we ourselves must invent all the methods and measures from the beginning, and stop believing that everything must be innovative and new. Of course, new thinking is needed. But we must also “copy more”. Do you see a method or action that has worked for someone else? Steal it with pride, modify it a little if necessary and make it yours!

It is often a matter of working at the intersections between different actors and/or different disciplines. In order to work successfully with civic engagement for climate change, one must work together with other actors, of various kinds, and work with the architecture of the spaces. And invite to a tie party, where everyone contributes their parts.

Working with civic engagement for climate change involves many complex situations and many challenges. But also many opportunities: first and foremost to succeed in mobilizing for and co-creating a sustainable future, but also to have an exciting and stimulating job, to meet many interesting people and to feel meaningful in contributing.

We at Anthesis, together with our colleagues at Actinate and Sustainable 3.0, on behalf of Viable Cities, have worked out a proposal for a strategy for civic engagement for the transition to climate-neutral cities. It has been a very stimulating assignment, and we have happily and proudly submitted our proposal to Viable Cities.

Let’s together be the architects of the spaces and contribute to climate change!

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