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Governance networks for sustainable cities

October 5, 2022

New publication: Governance networks for sustainable cities: Connecting theory and practice in Europe

We spoke to Visiting Fellow, Katherine Maxwell about her new book:

“My book is based on the premise that we live in a world where sustainable development has become an increasingly key issue for both national and local government. With most of the world’s population now living in cities, urban areas have become a focal point in addressing the climate crisis. European cities are actively developing sustainability strategies to reduce the impacts of climate change. However, strategies require collaboration between various stakeholders in the city. The book focuses on one approach many cities have taken, specifically the creation of ‘governance networks’; groups of public, private and third sector organisations that support the city’s sustainability efforts. These networks enable the municipality to build relationships with local stakeholders, as well as leverage expertise and financial resources needed to realise their sustainability targets. reveals

Governance networks bring a variety of benefits such as increased participation in the decision-making process, more resources to implement projects as well as stakeholder buy-in for sustainability policies. However, they also raise questions such as: How are stakeholders selected to participate in these networks? How do non-elected stakeholders influence policy? What is their motivation for participating in governance networks? How does this affect sustainability policy outcomes?

To answer these questions, my book explores the concept of governance networks within sustainability decision-making in a European context, drawing on city case studies to compare city approaches to governance networks. I provide recommendations for improving the efficiency of governance networks to academics and practitioners alike.

The primary audience are both academics and students who are interested in urban governance theory, sustainability, and approaches to local participatory decision-making within cities. The book provides comparative case study on sustainability strategy policy design and implementation. In addition, the secondary audience are practitioners and city officials who are looking for ways to engage with city stakeholders on their sustainability strategies – this book has been designed to provide practical insights and recommendations for European cities. The book has a European focus which would be of interest to academics and practitioners in the region.

Governance networks are used to address multiple ‘wicked issues’ within cities – not just sustainability. Local authorities have developed taskforces, steering groups, and networks to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, so there are transferrable lessons in how such networks operate and what this means for policy outcomes. GCHU works at the nexus of sustainable urbanism and healthcare – a critical area as the world recovers from a global pandemic and a looming climate crisis. The book complements GCHUs research as it explores collaborative networks and provides practical insight that can inform future policy and decision-making processes.”

Katherine went on to tell us:

“I’m delighted that my thesis has been published – when I was doing my D.Phil I wanted to ensure it was both grounded in theory but had a clear practical application and impact. I chose this topic as only recently have environmental-related networks been explored more widely in academia (the focus has predominately been on international city networks and city diplomacy) rather than focusing on the internal workings/networks within cities themselves. My book provides a much more detailed comparative analysis of governance networks in European cities to fully understand how they are developed, operated, and maintained over time. Currently all cities are facing a climate crisis – my book can be used by global cities as the lessons learned on sustainable urban development can be applied in various contexts.”

Katherine’s book is available to order here.