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Social Sustainability: Linking Research to Policy and Practice

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1 Social Sustainability: Linking Research to Policy and Practice
Dr Andrea Colantonio Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) Oxford Brookes University 'Sustainable Development - a Challenge for European Research' , May 2009, Brussels

2 Today’s presentation 1. Background
Social Sustainability Theory and Definition Theory-Policy Linkages Assessment Methods and Practice Metrics Conclusions

3 Background The paper draws upon our EIBURS (European Investment Bank University Research Sponsorship Programme) study Three year research project examining ‘best practices’ to measure and monitor socially sustainable urban regeneration (e.g. assessment methods, metrics etc.)

4 Why is social sustainability important?
Emerging concept although least studied and often overlooked dimension of Sustainable Development At the heart of the sustainable communities agenda (Bristol Accord, 2005)

5 What is Social Sustainability?
the social preconditions for sustainable development or the need to sustain specific structures and customs in communities and societies? (Sach, 1999) the finality of development whilst economic and environmental sustainabilities are both goals of sustainable development and instruments to its achievement (Assefa and Frostell, 2007)? Is it an end state? or a socio-economic process?

6 Definitions of Social Sustainability
Fuzzy understanding of the concept and no general agreement over its definition Our definition: … how individuals, communities and societies live with each other and set out to achieve the objectives of development models, which they have chosen for themselves taking also into account the physical boundaries of their places and planet earth as a whole…

7 Traditional Emerging Social Sustainability Key Themes and Domains
Demographic change (ageing and international migration) Empowerment, Participation and Access Identity, Sense of Place and Culture Health and Safety Social mixing and cohesion Social Capital Well being, Happiness and Quality of life Basic needs, including Housing Education and skills Equity Employment Human rights Poverty Social justice

8 Theoretical Research Approaches to Social Sustainability
Main Authors Timeline Equity and Human Rights (e.g. poverty studies and unequal development) Sen (1985, 1992), Sachs (2001) Since mid-1980s Capital Stock (e.g. Social Capital, Environmental capital equity and cities’ footprint) Coleman (1988), Putnam (1993), Rees and Wackernagel (1996) Since late 1980s Institutional Theory and Governance (e.g. participation and stakeholder analysis) Chambers (1992) Healey (1992) Since early 1990s Business and Corporate studies (e.g. Triple Bottom Line, Corporate Social Responsibility)  Elkington (1994) Since mid-1990s Behavioural and Social Sciences (Well-being, health and happiness perspective) Layard (2005) Since late 1990s Transition Theory Rotmans, Loorbach et al. (2006) 2000s

9 Theory-Policy Linkages

10 The linkages between theory and policy depend on
Level of abstraction of the theory Feasibility and implementation costs Complexity and sophistication Nature of the dialogue and communication channels existing between researchers and policy-makers

11 Social Sustainability Assessment
There is paucity of specific social sustainability assessment (SSA) methodologies The assessment is often conducted through social impact assessment (SIA), which is extended to include other sustainability pillars by ‘stretching’ Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to incorporate social issues by broadening the definition of environment, and hence the thematic coverage of theme-specific assessment such as SIA Hacking and Guthrie (2007)

12 The scope of SIA content has widened since the 1990s, however,
limited methodological information there is insufficient analysis of the links between socio-economic components quantification is limited and mainly focused on demographics, employment, services and facilities provision, and limited community engagement and reduced involvement of a wide range of stakeholders (Glasson and Wood, 2008)

13 Recent Sustainability Assessment-Related Legislation in the EU
Environmental Impact Assessment, since through Directives 85/337/EEC and 97/11/EC Strategic Environmental Assessment since mid 1990s and formally adopted in 2001 through the SEA Directive 2001/42/EC Sustainability Impact Assessment, introduced by DG trade in 1999 EU Impact Assessment System introduced in 2003 to enhance the quality of the Commission regulatory activity

14 Social Sustainability Metrics
Early emphasis on basic needs vs recent attention towards governance, representation and other institutional factors Trade-offs: technical weights vs recent emphasis on ‘sound judgement’, as well as leadership and communication skills (Egan, 2004). Reemergence of ‘community’ and the ‘local level’ Shift from purely statistics-based indicators toward hybrid sets of indicators that mix quantitative data and qualitative information

15 Traditional Emerging Social Sustainability Indicators
Intergenerational with uncertainty Hybrid Process Strategic Multi-dimensional Principles and Objectives driven Deliberative and reiterative selection Static Mainly Quantitative Product Descriptive Mono-dimensional Target oriented Top down selection

16 Sustainability Assessment
Draft of © Colantonio (2009) Social Sustainability Assessment Framework (SSAF) (not included in the paper) Social Sustainability Social mixing/ cohesion Identity, Image, Heritage Well-being Empowerment, Participation, Access Practice Methods, Themes and Indicators Housing & Environment Education Employment Demography Health and Safety Sustainability Assessment Policy Principles and Objectives Intra- and inter- Generational Equity Recognition and Preservation of Diversity Protection and Promotion of Health and Safety Uncertainty Principle Precautionary Principle Theory Approaches Equity and Human Rights Capital Stock Institutional Theory and Governance Business and Corporate studies Behavioural and Welfare Economics Transition Theory

17 Conclusions Emerging ‘soft’ themes are becoming central to the social sustainability debate, together with traditional ‘hard’ themes Future growing importance of softer themes as societies become more affluent and less worried about basic needs Importance of principles, objectives, themes and indicators for policy-making Need for a systematic study of the linkages between theory, policy and practice at EU level

18 Contacts Dr Andrea Colantonio
Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) Oxford Brookes University United Kingdom

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