Marianne Spang Bech sits at her desk at the Agenda21 Inner City office. The Copenhagen City Town Hall stands tall with its side to Regnbuepladsen (The Rainbow Square). She looks out on the little plaza that didn’t have a name until 2014. Its new name represents Copenhagen’s diversity and is flanked by LGBT cafées and non-profit offices. The rays of sunlight pass through the window as she elaborates on her sustainable vision for Copenhagen.
At the beginning of 2016 Spang Bech was appointed the director of the Agenda21 Inner City Center (Miljøpunkt indre by). The Agenda21 plan for sustainable urban development, originally authored by the UN, has been adopted by many organizations. Also to Spang Bech, it is easy to be passionate about the Agenda21 plan that also correlates well with her personal cause concerning a sustainable future.
Growing Pathways collaborates with the Agenda21 Inner City Center and studio Life Exhibitions on building the most comprehensive network for shapers of urban nature and the sustainable city.
We have interviewed Marianne Spang Bech to hear more about her take on sustainability and collaboration for a future fit society.
Networking for Mutual Benefit
“Our city’s sustainability will be determined by how we collectively manage our spaces. In our sustainable network, we will gain and generate more value together than by ourselves.” As a leader of sustainable organizations, Spang Bech has many years of experience with collaborative processes. She is of the opinion that such a network relies on engagement and active participation from stakeholders to accomplish their common goal. Actively adding insights and feedback having all parties mutually benefit from each other will strengthen the network and the path towards a more sustainable city.
Agenda21 Inner City partnered up with Growing Pathways to assess how urban green growth can sustain the livelihood of citizens in Copenhagen. The vision is to build a robust and motivated network of sustainability entrepreneurs, companies, and governmental organizations.
Alliance for Sustainability
“I believe that nature can increase livability in the city of Copenhagen but to let it do so, we have to promote awareness and demonstrate why sustainability issues are everyone’s concern,” Spang Bech sets a clear vision where needs of the citizens and nature complement each other.
From the vision about a resource-efficient city to today’s reality, Copenhagen like other cities faces sustainable challenges. It calls for individuals, “but especially decision makers to attend and incorporate a long-term perspective on sustainability issues,” she states.
“Moving towards a sustainable development path requires a network with multi-stakeholder participation and cross-sector approach. From citizens to organizations and private to public sectors. Whereas individual barriers might include a lack of expertise, a good collaboration is all about empowering each other and drawing on a range of expert knowledge across fields.
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Our collaborative work with Growing Pathways brings greater resources in realizing our shared goal. I have worked with many people, and Growing Pathways are some of the best. Kajsa and Oleg have a lot of credibilities, and you just want to follow them. It is not only their personality but also what they can do that draws you. You feel safe”, says Spang Bech.
Careful design of the collective processes has resulted in some very clear and positive results for the Agenda21 Center Inner City. The centre hopes that the collaboration with Growing Pathways and other partners will result in a network that can drive and awaken more impactful initiatives like Clean-Up Day and Drive Green:
“It is all about collaboration and social involvement from local areas in environmental sustainability work. We also work with social capital. Christianshavn is probably the most diverse part of Copenhagen regarding social classes. The challenge is how to include both lower and upper classes. Initiatives include Community Clean Up-Days where residents from Christianshavn are invited to eat breakfast together and improve their community through the removal of waste from green areas,” explains Spang Bech.
Drive Green serves as a platform for knowledge sharing as the participators will give feedback through qualitative and quantitative research.
“I consider our initiatives as inspirational projects. We want to activate and inspire people even though they are busy. For instance, the goal of our pollution initiative, Drive Green, is to reduce the number of private cars in the inner city by offering citizens to borrow a bike.”
Advocating for a more sustainable living is a full-time occupation for Spang Bech as inspiring individuals to take more sustainable choices is a lifestyle and not only a job. Her personal commitment to environmental ideals sets a strong, credible course toward realizing a green and healthy future for the citizens of Copenhagen.
“I envision a sustainable network where the citizens of Copenhagen are motivated to inspire each other to minimize their inputs of resources and outputs of waste. There is less to sustain today than earlier!”