Turn the wheel and take the journey.

SymbioCity Scenarios

Practice makes perfect!

SymbioCity Scenarios aim to increase awareness of some of the numerous opportunities available to local councils seeking to steer their cities towards sustainable development. 

In this area there are many valid and different points of views and large- and small-scale solutions depending on differing conditions and cultures. Swedish expertise offers support and knowledge to help you to create your plan towards a more sustainable city.

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Build the platform – start the journey

SymbioCity offers a model for making the leap to sustainable urban development. You simply adapt it to your local context so it matches the needs of your town or city.

Like all the best ideas, SymbioCity is founded on simplicity and clear thinking. The key to success is good planning. 

A castle built on sand won’t last long. Do the

groundwork right and your efforts will stand the test of time. A strong political vision is key to success in applying the SymbioCity approach. Make a list of goals and see how the vision can complement your city’s strategies and activities. Harness your strengths and integrate them into a single platform.

The building blocks are slotting into place. Now it’s time to start the work!  

Six steps to success

Span boundaries and cross the frontier

SymbioCity offers a loop-based approach in six steps to achieve the holistic and boundary-spanning partnerships that will drive your transition to sustainability.

Each step or turn of the wheel offers you tools to help achieve an optimal outcome (see Toolbox). Drawing on our experience of practical planning, we offer an approach to help you integrate sustainability into your planning and review processes.

The steps will vary according to your city’s needs and visions. They can help in redeveloping existing areas or planning new urban areas. And they can include dialogues with partners and other stakeholders.

The beauty is that they can be applied on different planning levels ­– region, city, district or neighborhood.

Want to know more? For further reading browse our downloads.



Step 1 – Define. Organize. Plan

Who should you involve in driving the sustainable development of your city? At this initial stage, you need to identify possible stakeholders for the review phase and define an organizational structure. Bring in representatives from different fields, tiers of government and other community stakeholders.

Your organizational structure will reflect your specific conditions. But a steering group, multidisciplinary planning or review team, and involvement from local and regional level are all potentially useful. 


Step 2 – Diagnose current conditions

Analyze existing urban strategic plans, policies, statistics and other relevant data to gain oversight of primary challenges and potential opportunities in your city. Even if problems tend to dominate in many urban areas, it’s vital to identify assets and qualities too! 

Look at how issues interrelate and connect to different sources and causes. Here you can also start to delimit and concentrate on specific areas. Communication with stakeholders – ranging from ordinary citizens to businesses – is crucial in this phase. 


Step 3 – Set objectives, indicators and targets

Your next step is to specify objectives, targets and indicators. The aim is to formulate the ambitions for your city’s future without defining specific proposals and solutions – that part can wait. 

The main overall objectives should reflect the basic ambition of improving sustainability over the short, mid and long term. Draw up targets and indicators to formulate measurable objectives. 





Step 4 – Develop alternative proposals

Now’s the time to use your findings from the first three steps to identify and formulate a range of alternative development proposals for your city.

Here you can conduct backcasting exercises (see Backcasting) and devise scenarios for your city highlighting different options for urban infrastructure and systems development.

The idea is to find different ways to reach your targets and identify potential opportunities and limitations so you can make the right choices going forward.


Step 5 – Analyze impact

Studying and evaluating the economic, social, environmental and spatial impacts of alternative proposals and solutions is a critical step towards finding the right way forward for your city.

Pay special attention to the conditions of the urban poor to ensure best practice in this field. This exercise will give you a better overview of alternative strategies and a solid base for choice and decision-making. 



Step 6 – Choose your implementation strategy

You’ve reached the final step – congratulations! Now you’re ready to present recommendations for measures to improve your city. These measures will take account of the full range of sustainability challenges in your location. They will also mesh with existing plans and strategies.

From here, you’re ready to decide on a suitable implementation strategy for a sustainable urban development of your city.

Public Participation

Talk and listen!

Urban development is about people and their lives. People grow up, live, work, consume, access services and interact in cities and towns. They should therefore be involved in shaping the development of their urban environment, and the participation of diverse stakeholders contributes to good urban planning, poverty reduction and sustainable development.

Participation is closely linked to internal and external communication. Effective communication will counter misunderstandings and rumors, prevent conflicts, share information, and provide important input to discussions, analyses and plans. Communication and information sharing are essential for transparent and accountable governance.

The purpose of the SymbioCity thematic module of Communication and Participation is to enhance city capacity to manage effective participation and communication in urban development by:

›› improving understanding of the links between participation and communication, and sustainable urban development

›› introducing adaptable approaches to participation and communication that serve different purposes

›› developing capacity to apply a strategic approach to participation and communication

›› promoting multi-stakeholder involvement and participation in all SymbioCity processes.

Gender equality in urban planning

Equal right to the city!

Gender mainstreaming is a key element in the SymbioCity Approach and is seen as crucial for sustainable urban development. Mainstreaming gender equality ensures that planning and services are equitable, evenly distributed, and of equal quality for men, women, boys and girls.

Gender issues in urban development include unequal resource allocations in planning, unequal or discriminatory service delivery, and city planning based on men’s perceptions and use of infrastructure and services. Gender mainstreaming within the SymbioCity Approach is addressed in design of activities and pre-analysis and takes into consideration aspects relating to prioritization and equal distribution of resources and opportunities in decision-making and planning processes as well as during the realization of operations and in follow-up/monitoring of activities.

SymbioCity thematic module on gender equality in urban development provides tools on how to integrate gender mainstreaming in the six process steps of the SymbioCity Approach as well as a guide on:

›› How to help politicians understand and apply a gender equality perspective

›› How to help politicians actively promote gender equality in urban planning

›› How to help officials understand gender equality, and apply it in planning and daily work

›› How to help facilitators, trainers and managers facilitate gender mainstreaming in programme operations.


Work, shape, move, transform!

SymbioCity offers a toolbox to help users reach sustainable development. The tools are there to help and guide you throughout the planning process – from start to finish. 

Organizational diagram – identify key stakeholders

An organizational diagram is a useful tool for developing and presenting the intended organization for planning and review work. 

It gives a clear picture of the intended organization but also provides an opportunity to discuss possible alternative structures for specific tasks.

Use the organizational diagram to identify which stakeholders should be involved in the process to ensure ownership and a multidisciplinary approach. 

SWOT analysis – study your city’s potential

A SWOT analysis pinpoints strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It’s a classic tool for identifying and weighing up the negative and positive qualities of an urban territory. 

Implementing a SWOT analysis will give you an overall picture of the sustainability and environmental conditions in your city.

A SWOT analysis can be performed in a qualitative

and participatory way in a process involving different stakeholders. 

Structured brainstorming is an excellent way to crystallize opinions, ideas and key issues from stakeholder groups. It works well in combination with SWOT analysis and backcasting.

Indicators – Measure urban sustainability

Indicators and targets are a tool for tracking progress in planning and development. Quantified and measurable ambitions are a prerequisite for success in making the leap to urban sustainability.

See the indicators as a menu to help in your planning. They can serve as a valuable tool for post-implementation follow-up in a wide variety of 

areas – from urban density to public transport access. From water and waste management to public sanitation. From built environments to public spaces. And from energy networks to high-tech IT infrastructure. 

The potential applications – and the opportunities – are manifold.

Backcasting – make the future tangible!

Backcasting is about imagining the future outcome you want to achieve and then working backwards to work out what you need to do today to get there. Going back to the future – literally!

Use backcasting to develop scenarios, visions or images that illustrate what can be achieved in your city or town – and how innovative systems and synergies can support the future as you have conceived it.

You then identify policies and programs that can achieve a successful outcome. See it as a key plank in your strategic approach for sustainable development.

Impact assessments – seeing is believing

Environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and strategic environmental assessments (SEAs) are tools to evaluate economic, social, environmental and spatial impacts of different proposals.

By allowing you to see the concrete impact of future projects, impact assessments offer an excellent base for decision-making and interventions. EIAs have an excellent track record in evaluating the 

environmental risks and opportunities of project proposals and smaller-scale urban development plans, along with social and economic impacts. SEAs analyze environmental impact on a strategic level and for larger urban areas and are at the core of the long-term planning process.

SymbioCity offers a number of tools that facilitate dialogue within EIA and SEA processes.