The growing use of ICT technology and so-called Smart City-, community-, region- initiatives opens up new areas for public innovation, especially regarding the development of local dimension of governance in the High North. Such innovations can give greater voice to local stakeholders regarding strategic, urban and financial planning decisions in the High North territories. However, knowledge about the existing and new practices of local stakeholders' involvement/participation and Smart Cities in the High North context is mostly missing. Smart City initiatives suggest technological development of cities with a focus on infrastructures and services which improve citizens' life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory governance (PG). PG concept suggests that local stakeholders (e.g. citizens) become active contributors to the local governance, including strategic, urban and financial planning.
Founded on an international team of researchers from Norway, Russia and Finland, the SMARTNORTH project combines public administration, management and organizational science. By these means, the project group investigates the scope of and driving forces for developing PG and Smart City initiatives in High North along with their potential effects on sustainable development in High North communities.
In the first phase of the project, the project team has been mapping existing PG and Smart City initiatives via a comprehensive media and documentary review of 76 cities in the High North of Norway, Russia, Finland and North America. The findings demonstrate that: while the initiatives are growing in the High North, with minor exceptions, they are disconnected from each other. Moreover, the global Smart City technological solutions are introduced regardless of acknowledging local communities' needs and unique challenges of the High North.
A more deep investigation of Smart City and PG initiatives in the High North (stage 2), namely in Norway, Finland, Russia and North America, illustrates practice variation across countries, especially in terms of the link to sustainability agenda. Norwegian High North experience, in that sense, demonstrates that while striving for sustainability through Smart City initiatives and PG, the development discourse, with few exceptions, is still dominated by technocratic visions rather than a citizen-centric approach to address sustainability. Finish High North experience, in its turn, put national and international priorities towards sustainability via the creation of Smart City ecosystem (example of the city of Oulu) with the central role of collaboration between citizens, academia, business and public sector. North American Arctic cities, in general, more often use the term 'smart' to solely refer to telecommunication connections without a clear vision of PG and Smart City for sustainability needs. Last but not least, the Russian High North experience witnessed a top-down approach in defining smart city and PG via the creation of standard by federal authorities. While bringing vision from the top, the standard hardly matches with the realities and sustainability agenda of cities in the Russian High North. Following up these countries comparisons (stage 3), the project summarizes Smart City and PG initiatives in the High North and their potential opportunities and challenges on sustainable development in the region. Overall, the project argues that Smart City initiatives are not a panacea for the High North sustainable future as there is a risk of Smart Cities being in but not for the High North. In this regard, we suggest that the concept, developed outside the High North, requires careful interpretation and translation into its unique context using PG mechanisms and performance management.
For the current moment, the project resulted in 9 peer-review publications and a number of working papers presented in international conferences/seminars in Norway, Finland, Iceland, Russia and New Zealand. In addition, the project group published 9 newspaper chronicles and actively promoted the project ideas and findings via presentations for the public and practitioners. The project's ambition is to bring more knowledge to international academic journals during 2021, along with publishing a policy-oriented project report as a book chapter.
OUTCOMES: 1)new insights into academic debate on Smart City (SC) and PG initiatives in general and in the High North, including sustainability agenda, power aspects, role of context, bureaucracy and calculative practices 2)strengthened research expertise of partners in the field of SC, PG and High North sustainability 3)knowledge base for policymakers/practitioners working with SC and PG at different government levels 4) expertise in smart specialization and management for educating future leaders, public managers, politicians and citizens
IMPACTS: 1)impact linked to SDG8 "Decent work and economic growth" via creating a knowledge base and expertise for future-orientated jobs 2)impact to SDG11 "Sustainable cities and communities" via new critical knowledge formation on SC and PG initiatives 3)impact to SDG16 "Peace, justice and strong institutions" via knowledge development for socially, economically and environmentally robust communities/cities in the High North
The project investigates the scope of and driving forces for the development of participatory governance (PG) practices and their potential effects on sustainable development in High North communities. The growing use of ICT technology and so-called "smart" city/community/region concepts open up new areas for public innovation, especially regarding the development of new PG practices in the High North. Such innovations can give greater voice to local stakeholders, in relation to strategic, urban and financial planning decisions in the High North territories. However, knowledge about the nature of such PG practices in the context of the High North is mostly missing.
This project would address the need for new knowledge about 1) the variation of practices in the High North; 2) the driving forces behind the development of such PG practices, their divergence or convergence within the High North and towards global trends; and 3) the potential effects of such PG practices on the sustainable development of High North communities.
Founded on an international team, the project is an interdisciplinary research, combining the fields of public administration, management and organizational science. The two-year project will 1) map PG experiences in the High North via a comprehensive media review; 2) identify and conduct in-depth qualitative studies of several exceptional cases of PG experiences in the High North territories of Norway, Finland, Russia and North America, through documentary analysis, observations, interviews and experimental methodology. We will summarize and conceptualize PG experiences in the High North by incorporating the dimension of countries' comparison.
The output of the project will be five papers in top international academic journals, several chronicles in High North newspapers, a policy-oriented report, participatory practices' guidelines and a bank of best PG practices in the High North.