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  • Author or Editor: Michael Oloko x
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This chapter presents and reflects on a process of international comparative and transdisciplinary co-production research referred to as ‘local projects retrofitted’, or, more precisely, retrofitting a comparative dimension on to an existing unilocal project. The intention is to demonstrate how the comparative process is understood and operationalised in one of the urban contexts to contribute towards sustainability and justice through joint research and problem solving for mutual benefit. We demonstrate how this may trigger surprising results and innovative solutions.

Such possibilities to relate and analyse situations from different cities, countries and regions make this process of retrofitting instructive for governments, private firms and donor agencies that are willing to facilitate access to and transfer good practice, knowledge and technologies between global South and North or South and South, to help meet international environmental obligations and commitments (UNCTAD, 2001; UN, 2004; UNEP, 2013). The focus on comparative dimensions helps to stimulate increased possibilities for sustainable urban change, enhance learning from both the positive and negative experiences in the cities being considered, and foster translocal links to promote sustainable urban change. This chapter draws on our experiences in developing and implementing the process of retrofitting a local project in Kenya with comparative dimensions drawn from ongoing developments in Sweden. In particular, we discuss the process of how a unilocal research project based in Kisumu (Kenya) was retrofitted, or adapted, to include comparative dimensions based on practices and experiences of a related project in Helsingborg (Sweden).

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Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the dedicated urban goal SDG 11 and New Urban Agenda (NUA), represent a landmark acknowledgement by the international community of the critical role of cities and other sub-national entities in achieving sustainability. Both the SDGs and NUA will require the engagement of local governments and citizens to be successful. Mistra Urban Futures has been engaged in these processes since 2014 and in 2015 undertook a highly innovative three-month pilot project to test the then draft targets and indicators of what became SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities. This pilot proved instrumental in deepening several LIPs’ partnerships with their respective local authorities, in generating awareness in the city administrations of what would be required in terms of implementation of SDG 11 for the period 2016–30, and also fed directly into modifications to the final versions of several targets and indicators (Simon et al, 2016; Arfvidsson et al, 2017; Patel et al, 2017; Hansson et al, 2019).

The comparative project discussed here commenced in mid-2017 and was a longer sequel to the pilot, designed to follow and support the understanding, engagement and implementation of these two global agendas at the city level. It included seven cities of small to medium size, including all of Mistra Urban Futures’ LIPs (Cape Town, Gothenburg, Kisumu, Malmö and Sheffield), plus Shimla in India and Buenos Aires in Argentina through new partnerships with the social enterprise Nagrika and the New School’s Observatory on Latin America, respectively.

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