Delivering sustainable, resilient and liveable cities via transformed governance

Christopher D. F. Rogers*, Nick Grayson, Jonathan P. Sadler, Lee Chapman, Christopher J. Bouch, Marianna Cavada, Joanne M. Leach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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In the context of steadily declining Natural Capital and universal recognition of the imperative to reverse this trend before we get to the point that nature is not able to restore itself, cities have a crucial role to play. The UK Government commissioned a comprehensive study into the value of biodiversity, and by extension nature, reinforcing “why we should change our ways”—yet what is missing is the “how?”. This paper uniquely describes both the “how?” and a conclusive demonstration of the remarkable benefits of implementing it in a city. Critical to this process, it took a UK Parliamentary Inquiry to reveal that nature has become invisible within the economy, yet the ecological ecosystem services nature provides have enormous benefits to both people and the economy. Therefore integration—or seamless weaving—of urban greenspace and nature into people's lives and the places where they live, work, and spend their leisure time is vital. Moreover, what nature does not provide must be provided by engineered systems, and these have an economic cost; put another way, there are enormous cost savings to be made by taking advantage of what nature provides. In addressing these issues, this paper is the definitive paper from a 20-year portfolio of research on how to bring about transformative change in the complex system-of-systems that make up our cities, providing as it does the crucial in-depth research into the many diverse strands of governance—the last link in a chain of the creation, testing and proof of efficacy of methodologies underpinning a theory and practice of change for infrastructure and cities. The impact of this portfolio of research on Birmingham is two-fold: the Star Framework that placed natural environment considerations at the heart of all decision-making in the city, and the successful bid for the largest of the UK Future Parks Accelerator awards. While both are transformative in their different ways, yet mutually supportive, the latter enabled the design of a suite of system interventions from which the value of Birmingham's greenspaces is estimated to rise from £11.0 billion to £14.4 billion—a remarkable return on investment from the research's conceptualization of Birmingham's urban greenspace as a “business” (with its associated business models). In achieving this, the necessary enablers of thinking and practicing systemically, seamlessly working across disciplinary boundaries, an unusually strong focus on both the aspirations of all stakeholders and the context in question to define “the problem,” and the testing of proposed system intervention(s) both now and in the future have been iteratively combined. However, it is the critical enabling steps of identifying the complete range of value-generating opportunities that the interventions offer, formulating them into alternative business models to underpin the case for change and ensuring that they are synergistic with all the dimensions of governance that yielded the profound outcomes sought.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1171996
JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Cities
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

The authors gratefully acknowledge the funding provided by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for Liveable Cities (or Transforming the Engineering of Cities to deliver Societal and Planetary Wellbeing; Grant reference EP/J017698), iBUILD: Infrastructure BUsiness models, valuation and Innovation for Local Delivery (Grant reference EP/K012398), Urban Futures (or Sustainable Regeneration: from Evidence-Based Urban Futures to Implementation; Grant Reference EP/F007426) and the UK Collaboration for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) via its Coordination Node (Grant reference EP/R017727). Equally they wish to acknowledge the joint funding from EPSRC and the Economic and Social Sciences Research Council for Urban Living Birmingham (or From Citizen to Co-innovator, from City Council to Facilitator: Integrating urban systems to provide better outcomes for people; Grant Reference EP/P002021).


  • infrastructure
  • cities
  • governance
  • urban systems
  • transformation
  • framework
  • business models
  • business case


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