Healthy and sustainable cities: issues and opportunities in Melbourne’s knowledge system to transition to a healthy and sustainable city

Urban planning Energy transition Sustainable development Public health Melbourne
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This research report is based on a cooperation between the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) and the Connected Cities Lab at the University of Melbourne. The goal of this report is to inform the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation (LMCF) on potential future themes and activities to support Melbourne transitioning toward a more sustainable and healthier city.

To create an overview of Melbourne’s knowledge system in the context of sustainability and health, the authors identified key stakeholders and topics through desktop research and expert consultations in November and December 2018. As a result of this screening, the authors identified 90 organisations and 130 publicly available reports. Based on this data the authors identified main themes and opportunities which could help Melbourne transition toward a more sustainable and healthier city.

Key findings and recommendations:

1. The knowledge system hosts high-quality, and in some instances, world-leading expertise and knowledge in particular domains and areas of sustainable and healthy cities. The system is however fragmented and disconnected. To avoid expertise remaining piecemeal and locked within disciplinary silos, Melbourne needs more inter-disciplinary knowledge creation that integrates various topics around urban sustainability and health.

RECOMMENDATION: The LMCF could further support interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research in the context of urban sustainability and health that helps to break down silos between disciplines and find innovative ways of initiating new project approaches.

2. In addition to disciplinary silos, the knowledge system is also limited by fragmentation along sectoral fault-lines. As a result, research translation and actionable research remain under-exploited. Melbourne would benefit from collaborative approaches that bring together stakeholders from public, private and academic sectors.

RECOMMENDATION: The LMCF could support applied research projects which build new networks of researchers, private sector actors, and policy partners. Furthermore, the LMCF could support specific collaborations between universities but also between universities and policy makers to further bundle knowledge and expertise. The City of Melbourne Chair of Resilient Cities at the University of Melbourne is an example of a closer cooperation between public sector and academia. Furthermore, the support of approaches such as ‘Urban Living Labs’ could help to break down these silos through new partner constellations which could include local government, NGOs, non-profit organisations, consultancies, artists, business and entrepreneurs.

3. Faster translation of knowledge into action would benefit from more policy-relevant demonstration projects that help to trial, test and showcase mission-oriented innovations (technologies, policies, infrastructure, business models). 

RECOMMENDATION: The LMCF could support embedded research and impact activities in demonstration projects at different stages: development, assessment, knowledge translation and communication of results of learning-by-doing processes in demonstration projects. The support of intermediaries which connect all sectors and leads projects in an open way is needed. The Resilient Melbourne Delivery Office is a good example of such an intermediary cutting across sectors across the whole of Metropolitan Melbourne.

4. Melbourne would benefit from more evidence-based and innovative urban planning approaches in various fields related to sustainability and health (eg housing, transport, urban greening).

RECOMMENDATION: The LMCF could support new and experimental approaches in the public sector which seek to foster cooperative projects with stakeholders from academia and private sector. Moreover, the LMCF could support research endeavors which seek to produce a collation of best practice examples of completed projects. This knowledge would help Melbourne to drive and scale up experimental approaches.

5. There is particular place-based opportunity for Melbourne to combine its world-class knowledge in relation to a number of specific themes to generate a range of social and environmental outcomes and co-benefits: 

  • Sustainable and healthy urban built environments
  • Urban greening for a cooler and more active city
  • A healthier and sustainable food system
  • Digitalisation as a driver of urban sustainability and health.

RECOMMENDATION: The LMCF could support interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and applied projects that seeks to further explore these topics. New collaborations could be initiated through the support of Urban Living Labs.

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