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2021/2022  KAN-CCBLV1040U  Governance for Sustainability: the case of cities in Northern Europe and US

English Title
Governance for Sustainability: the case of cities in Northern Europe and US

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Min. participants 40
Max. participants 50
Study board
Study Board for BSc and MSc in Business, Language and Culture, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Luise Noring - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • CSR and sustainability
  • International political economy
  • Project and change management
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 18-06-2021

Relevant links

Learning objectives
At the end of the course, students should be able to:
  • Identify the opportunities, challenges, tensions, risks and efforts needed to address the business of sustainability in cities
  • Apply key notions of sustainability transition and the ambition for governing such a process, appling two theoretical angles: sustainability and governance. Exam the implications of sustainability in the governance processes and governance attempts.
  • Explain through practice and cases how specific institutional, financing and methodological approaches can address and solve multiple urban problems, such as improve inclusive economic growth and sustainability.
  • Examine the role of business in city economic growth and sustainability, new business models and approaches.
  • Discuss and evaluate innovative collaboration models and tools for new governance approaches which enable public, private and civic actors to engage in urban development.
  • Identify and use relevant scholarly literature, reflect critically on the choice of theory, methods and data used by key scholars to understand urban challenges addressed in the literature .
  • The ability to generate coherently argued business cases for the governance of sustainability in cities, combining theory, methodology and data, that will offer the potential for actual improvements in urban governance practices.
Course prerequisites
This course is for students interested in cities, city solutions, urban sustainability, inclusive growth, governance and finance to name but a few of the aspects covered by this course.
Governance for Sustainability: the case of cities in Northern Europe and US:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Project
Duration 2 weeks to prepare
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Description of the exam procedure

Each student must deliver an individually written report on their chosen urban challenge and city solution. The report reflects the process and outcome of their group projects

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

New business models and types of businesses are fueling the development of urban areas and cities around the globe.  Urban governance and financing are typically missing pieces of the urban development jigsaw puzzle that stand between grand visions and plans, however necessary and laudable these are, and actual realization on the ground. Making the right decisions is only halfway toward achieving success with the other half being implementation. In this context in Western countries, it is imperative to unravel the varying, sometimes complementary and sometimes conflicting, roles and relationships of the public, private and civil sectors in city development. The question is how the interests of the different actors are best aligned and marshalled to achieve successful results, which is ultimately down to governance and finance. On the one hand, collaboration brings many benefits, not least in terms of additional finance and other assets, as well as through the consideration of a wider set of competences, ideas and experience, whilst, on the other hand, many city actors can slow decision-making, increase bureaucracy and organizational inertia, and thereby degrade efficiency.

In the complex world we live in, we are faced with multiple challenges including population growth, urbanization, climate change, and shifts of economic epicenters towards Asia and the global south. Yet, we have solutions to solve most of the challenges we face in our cities today. We know how to reduce urban poverty and inequality, air pollution, mitigate flooding and heat islands, tackle traffic congestion, economic slow-down, build renewable energy infrastructure, educate children and provide shelter for those in need, to name but a few. But we are stuck on negative trajectories stemming from fixed patterns of production and consumption, outdated business models, costly transportation and energy infrastructure, vested political interests, regulatory environments and deeply held values.

The course draws on the vast body of real-life cases of city solutions available in literature and practice. Students will study the following cases:

  • Urban Governance: Cities’ ability to conduct radical transformations depend on their governance cultures and traditions, and how these impact each cities’ approach to delivering public value. Based on case studies, the students will explore how cities deliver large-scale transformative projects in sustainable urbanization, including identifying similarities and differences across case cities.
  • Affordable Housing: Many cities strive to create inclusive economic growth. Yet, if poor people struggle to find safe and good homes, they do not have the resources to work, learn and care for their families. We will study the Danish model of affordable and social housing that is entirely privately run and financed.
  • Infrastructure Financing: Copenhagen City & Port Development Corporation was established to revitalize Copenhagen and its dwindling economy that was on the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1980s. Thus, the predecessor of City & Port was established in 1980 to leverage publicly owned land through infrastructure investments.
  • Urban Regeneration: The Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation exemplifies how the nonprofit institution drives urban regeneration in Cincinnati’s impoverished area Over-The-Rhine district.
  • Inclusive Growth: HafenCity Hamburg GmbH development corporation leverages Hamburg’s urban quality vision to increase the value and standards of public and private land in urban redevelopment areas. This model shows how adding value in cities help propel inclusive economic growth.
  • Devolved Power: Based on a case study, research into how Denmark devolved power to municipalities in a successful and replicable manner, bolstered by the institutional innovation enshrined in KL - Local Government Denmark, which represents all Danish municipalities in labor market negotiations and finance negotiations with the national government.
  • Circular Economy: Based on a case study of Amsterdam, research on how cities are approaching circular economy approaches, what has been successful and what challenges and barriers are encountered.  The case study shows how a city can use circular economy approaches to transform the city and tackle deeply embedded problems such as affordable housing, sustainable food  production and consumption and resource inefficiencies in a city ‘construction activity
Description of the teaching methods
Students will work together in mixed study-groups across culture and disciplinary backgrounds. The course is structured through lectures, site and company visits, group and field work, and project presentation. Students will be grouped into cross-disciplinary teams so as to identify and analyze complex urban challenges – teams may choose to focus on a self-selected urban challenge.

During the group work, students will assess and compare case studies with regards to the specific urban challenge that they have chosen to focus on. Based on their analysis, students will also identify public, private and/ or nonprofit approaches to address the challenge bringing together their unique experiences in different academic disciplines.

Students are expected to take part in all planned activities and help make the City Solutions course a great experience for everyone, - both academically and culturally
Feedback during the teaching period
1) Time dedicated to questions and open discussion during teaching.
2) Teacher will rotate during class assignments and workshops.
3) Possibility to schedule a meeting with the teacher.
Student workload
Preparation 130 hours
Teaching 30 hours
Exam 46 hours
Expected literature

Literature will be available on Canvas

Last updated on 18-06-2021