WIT Press

Urban Sustainability As Social Innovation


Free (open access)

Paper DOI






Page Range

97 - 109




452 kb


D. Müller-Eie, L. Bjørnø


Implementing urban sustainability strategies has proven to be difficult. Therefore this paper aims at developing a better understanding of the urban sustainability concept as well as its relations with other concepts. The visualisation of the complex and intricate forces which constitute urban sustainability is attempted with the help of a graphic model.

The dialectic relationship between global aims and local implementation, as well as the antagonistic relationship between institutional pressure and the behaviour of individuals and communities is discussed. Also, the sometimes opposing forces in the urban sustainability concept itself are discussed, as well as the difficulties individuals face when implementing urban sustainability strategies in the light if personal disadvantages.

Due to this difficult and resistant implementation process of urban sustainability, we search for new perspectives. Here, the diffusion theory of innovations by Rogers (Diffusion and Innovation, 2003) is applied in order to approach urban sustainability as ideological and social innovation, and interpret the implementation as a socio-dynamic rather than a political or planning process.

It seems that the understanding of urban sustainability as a social innovation holds some helpful insights into why implementation so far has been difficult. Based on this individuals and their choices are proposed to become in intrinsic part of the urban sustainability concept.


urban sustainability, individual and collective behaviour, behavioural change, diffusion of innovations, adoption, public travel