Bottlenecks in participatory urban air quality management

As part of the mid-term evaluation of the project, NordicPATH prepared a series of posters to present some of the research activities we have initiated in our attempt to co-create more sustainable Nordic cities. Today we would like to introduce you to the third of them which focuses on the bottlenecks we have found around the management of participatory urban air quality activities. You can also check the first one here and the second one here.

Like in any Urban Living Labs, the ones of the NordicPATH project promote participatory activities with a variety of actors. In particular, our activities aim to engage engage citizens, policy-makers, experts and industries in activities for the co-creation of urban solutions to improve the air quality in our pilot cities (Kristiansand in Norway, Lappeenranta in Finland, Aalborg in Denmark, and Gothenburg in Sweden). However, throughout our experience, we have come across a number of bottlenecks. That is barriers, obstacles and impediments towards that goal.

Some of the most common bottlenecks in Urban Living Labs (ULLs) can be categorized according to 1) the use of data, 2) the monitoring and collection of data, 3) the community and stakeholder engagement, 4) the organizational and bureaucratic issues, 5) the local needs and motivations to monitor data. Grounding on literature, the poster establishes a comparison between traditional bottlenecks that have been commonly identified in Urban Living Labs, and how they have been particularly present for us in NordicPATH.

(Click on the image to zoom in)

The participation model of the NordicPATH Urban Living Labs

As part of the mid-term evaluation of the project, NordicPATH prepared a series of posters to present some of the research activities we have initiated in our attempt to co-create more sustainable Nordic cities. Today we would like to introduce you to the second of them (you can check the first one here), which focuses on the NordicPATH model of participation in our Urban Living Labs.

The Urban Living Labs are some of the key elements of the NordicPATH project. Our Living Labs are the hubs in which we engage citizens, policy-makers, experts and industries in activities with the aim of co-creating urban solutions that respond to the needs of our pilot cities (Kristiansand in Norway, Lappeenranta in Finland, Aalborg in Denmark, and Gothenburg in Sweden). But, what is exactly an Urban Living Lab? What do they do? How do they operate?

Throughout the project, we have been researching this form of organization and trying to find our very own definition. Despite still being a work-in-progress, we came up with a model that reflects on the actions, the participants, the aims, and the context of each pilot city, and the commonalities shared by all the Living Labs.

(Click on the image to zoom in)


Data collection in NordicPATH – the case of Kristiansand (Norway)

As part of the mid-term evaluation of the project, NordicPATH prepared a series of posters to present some of the research activities we have initiated in our attempt to co-create more sustainable Nordic cities. Today we would like to introduce you to the first of them, which focuses on the flow of data in NordicPATH. In particular, we represented the case of our Living Lab in Kristisansand (Norway)

As the poster shows, the process started with some re-collection activities, in which local policy-makers and scientists discussed the areas where data should be collected to make informed decisions. Once the topic and the physical areas were agreed upon, the collection activities began. On one hand, we used high-quality sensors strategically located in the city to measure air quality. Complementary, citizens were invited to use fixed and mobile sensors in their homes or their bikes to complement the data collection. The data was then processed, analyzed and presented to local actors. Both decision-makers and citizens were invited to several activities to discuss the results and co-create strategies for city planning

(Click on the image to zoom in)

NordicPATH presented at the Nordic Council of Ministers in Copenhagen

Some weeks ago, our project coordinator, Núria Castell, received at the NILU offices the NordForsk team. The goal was to understand better how NordicPATH is working towards its goal, and the initial results obtained in the first half of the project. The interview was recorded and then presented at the Nordic Council of Ministers in Copenhagen as an example of praxis towards sustainable cities and was very well received.

You can access the video here and, soon, the full article from the interview will also be published.

Engaging Citizen Science Conference (Aarhus)

On the 25th and 26th of April, NordicPATH was participating at the Engaging Citizen Science conference in Aarhus. The conference aimed to engage the citizen science community to promote knowledge sharing on research, ideas, and innovations in order to make the field thrive and expand. The conference consisted on workshops, dialogue roundtables, posters, and demos from all main areas of research (natural and technical sciences, life and health sciences, and social sciences and humanities).

At one of the round table sessions on “Environment and Empowerment”, the NordicPATH representatives (Sonja Grossberndt and Nuria Castell) facilitated a dialogue with the participants on how low-cost sensor technologies and citizen science can make air pollution visible and shape policies towards healthier cities. Initially, the discussion versed on how to increase trust in sensor data. Among the responses, terms like standardisation, transparency and combination with other data were the most suggested, but also training and education of participants were mentioned.

The conversation then moved towards how data can be made more “attractive/actionable”. For this, different forms of visualization were suggested, preferably map-based. Additionally, peer-reviewed publications for policy makers and infographics for the public were mentioned. Further issues discussed included the ownership of citizen generated/collected data and how these data can be shared without violating European GDPR regulations.

From the project side, the session was a great scenario to constructively discuss on some of the most common challenges we face in our data-collection tasks. Having the opportunity to hear and learn from participants from academia, the public sector and NGOs from Europe and the US definitely enriched our visions and inspired us for the coming steps.

© Sonja Grossberndt

NordicPATH in the Nordic Smart City Network

A few days ago, the Nordic Smart City Network published an article featuring the activities of NordicPATH in Kristiansand. It echoes our aim to generate a participatory community of citizens, decision-makers, urban planners, and scientists that co-designs a healthy and sustainable future for the city.

In particular, the writing highlights the involvement of citizens in this strategy, mentioning the air-monitoring and urban-planning activities as concrete enablers of a “new participative planning culture in the Nordic countries that will not just reflect the democracy that the Nordic countries represent in the world, but also the progress towards deliberative democracy, involving and shaping important local and global issues (such as air quality) together with citizens’ input on decisions”.


Read the whole text here and follow on the Kristiansand activities here.

Wood burning perceptions in Kristiansand – infographic from survey results

During the early months of 2021, 255 Kristiansand citizens participated in the survey launched by the municipality in collaboration with NordicPATH about the use and perception of wood-burning for heating at home. The survey not only addressed practical issues on the frequency of use of fireplaces at households but also gave the opportunity to the respondents to step in the shoes of city planners and reflect upon ways to prevent the particle emissions from these practices.

The results were shared and discussed in a workshop during spring, and now have been gathered in an infographic that aims to encourage the reflections of citizens and decision-makers on the topic. As shown in the visualization, wood-burning practices are strongly rooted in the daily practices of  Kristiansand citizens. Yet, there is still a considerable crowd that remains unaware of the safest way for wood-burning in terms of health, and of the effect of not doing it correctly. This data is already being studied and considered by the Municipality for coming policies and urban planning. 

First (physical) NordicPATH Consortium Meeting

On the 19th of October, after a year and a half since the project started, most of the NordicPATH consortium finally reunited in person. Screen sharing was never easier, there were no forgotten muted microphones interrupting the conversation nor digitally raised hands. Maybe because of the last reason, our meeting extended so long through the day 🙂

Taking advantage of being physically together and the less-demanding meeting conditions in terms of concentration span, we did an intense activity of zooming out and looking at the big picture of the project. Aligning with the project aims, we worked on a model for citizen participation in environmental monitoring and urban planning to co-create sustainable and healthy cities, considering the evolution of our activities from the last months, the current challenges of the different work packages, and the next steps from a holistic perspective.

In the afternoon, we also had the opportunity to hold our second workshop with the municipalities of the project. Following a hybrid format, we discussed the challenges and opportunities of citizens’ involvement and participation, particularly in regard to air quality initiatives. We are currently analyzing the data and inputs that emerged during the discussion, which we will happily share with you soon.

Research stories from the Kristiansand Urban Lab

A couple of weeks ago,  the Municipality of Kristiansand published an article about the research taking place in our Kristiansand Urban Lab we are immensely proud of.

The article presents a human-centered view on the participation of the different groups that are involved in the monitoring and research activities in the city, both from the municipality and from the citizens’ perspective. With a combination of scroll-telling and media, you can dive into the investigation on wood burning, and hear from the researcher citizens, their first-hand stories using sensors to monitor the air quality around them, as well as their perceptions and insights.

Take a look at the full article (in Norwegian) and reach to us if you want to contribute to the project!

Lappeenranta in the EU Green Week

Some weeks ago, the NordicPATH Urban Lab in Lappeenranta (Finland) participated at the EU Green Week. The opening session of the event, dedicated to Citizen Science for Zero Pollution, was focused on shedding light on the citizen-driven research and planning activities that target towards Zero-Pollution future of Europe.

During the opening session, Sara Piutunen from Lappeenranta presented the Case Study of the city. The presentation, called Reducing street dust by co-operation with the municipality and residents in Lappeenranta, was supported by this video, created to show the topic and the collaborative activities and actions taking place within this goal.