Mapping the diversity & transformative potential of approaches to sustainable just cities

Flor Avelino*, Frank van Steenbergen, Karlijn Schipper, Tamara Steger, Tom Henfrey, Ian M. Cook, Matthew Bach, Duncan Crowley, Panagiota Kotsila, Jakob Kramer, Franco Crudi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


How can cities be more sustainable and just? This question has guided a process of synthesizing insights from previously funded research and innovation projects that deal with approaches tackling urban sustainability and justice. As part of this process, a database in the form of a knowledge commons was developed to gather 40+ approaches: sets of interventions, actions, strategies, solutions or policies that address urban sustainability and justice. This paper reflects on what we can learn from this database of approaches from an urban transitions perspective, both by sharing the method we used to develop the database and by analysing the content of those approaches and what research has revealed in relation to them. Not only do we introduce our methodology of co-creating the database (Section 2) we also present its outcomes in terms of the interlinkages between sustainable and just cities in the identified approaches (Section 3), their transformative potential (Section 4) and which institutional logics are involved (Section 5). We conclude that in addressing sustainability challenges in cities, tensions and contradictions emerge between ecological sustainability on the one hand and inclusivity, recognition and equity on the other (Section 6). Based on the identified approaches, we find that issues linked to justice are frequently glossed over, implicitly addressed, and instrumentalized in favour of ecological improvements or profitability which causes serious implications for future urban research and innovation. In order to address this gap, we present four recommendations for city-makers and city-thinkers across the globe to integrate sustainability and justice at the urban level.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Number of pages29
JournalUrban Tranformations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2024


  • sustainable and just cities
  • urban transitions
  • tranformative potential
  • knowledge commons


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