Research Topic

Governing Hybrid Urban Infrastructure - The Co-Production of Decentralized, Nature-Based and Localized Solutions

About this Research Topic

With the progression of climate change, rising urbanization and sustainability challenges, urban practitioners are agreeing on the need to change the trajectory of urban infrastructure towards more sustainable configurations that build on decentralized, localized or nature-based solutions, producing a hybrid infrastructure landscape. Many cities find it challenging to break away from centralized infrastructure systems. Hybrid decentralized infrastructure remains in visions and policies while planning and implementation is characterized by ad-hoc pilots. The governance of solutions is ambiguous as to who should manage them, as well as by lack of skills for maintenance. Urban infrastructure in cities in the Global South are already heterogenous. However, islands of conventional piped/ grid services are surrounded by spaces of legally-ambiguous, user-driven decentralized arrangements. In both contexts, learning from hybrid decentralized projects remains scattered and tacit. It is sometimes disqualified as it lacks systematic approaches or comparisons.

This Research Topic aims to enhance our understanding of the governance of the hybridization of water and energy infrastructure with decentralized, nature-based and off-grid solutions. While much work focuses on their technical feasibility, few studies engage with the lived realities of implementing and governing sustainability agendas such as the hybridization and decentralization of water and energy infrastructure in various contexts. Some authors propose a top-down and centralized management of hybrid decentralized solutions, and their integration into centralized water, waste, green space or energy systems. Others suggest a bottom-up approach as the involvement of multiple stakeholders is critical. Co-production and locally-adapted solutions may even lead to increased equity and efficiency, yet these are missing in the Global South as formal planning and management systems do not engage with and support user-driven hybrid solutions. In many cities, urban infrastructure provision is viewed as the domain of the State, i.e. the city government. However, it is often highly compartmentalized and has limited resources. Innovative governance solutions are therefore needed to enable collaboration between urban sectors and other stakeholders to optimize the use of resources, but to also enhance multifunctionality and adaptation to local contexts.

We welcome contributions on the following:
• From cities in various geographic and developmental contexts that focus on the governance of decentralized solutions and hybrid infrastructure landscapes, e.g. Nature-Based Solutions within the urban water, energy, waste, green space and other environmental sectors.
• Empirical work on the realities of how different institutions and actors such as public service providers, civil society and end-users take part in policy planning, designing, implementing, operating and managing hybrid decentralized systems.
• Interface between centralized infrastructure, formal public management, decentralized solutions and other stakeholders by examining the extent to which decentralized solutions are managed or integrated with the existing urban governance system, and what factors are important for various governance set-ups (co-production, centralized management and autonomous).
• How do cities and/ or other stakeholders govern or co-manage varying mosaics of local solutions, and what challenges and possibilities emerge.
• Conceptual and methodological contributions unpacking the phenomenon of hybrid decentralized infrastructure and their governance.


Keywords: Hybrid Urban Infrastructure, Co-Production, Localized Urban Infrastructure, Nature-Based Urban Infrastructure, Hybrid Decentralized Infrastructure, Hybridization of Water Infrastructure, Hybridization of Energy Infrastructure, Decentralized Water Infrastructure, Decentralized Energy Infrastructure, Hybrid Infrastructure Landscape


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

With the progression of climate change, rising urbanization and sustainability challenges, urban practitioners are agreeing on the need to change the trajectory of urban infrastructure towards more sustainable configurations that build on decentralized, localized or nature-based solutions, producing a hybrid infrastructure landscape. Many cities find it challenging to break away from centralized infrastructure systems. Hybrid decentralized infrastructure remains in visions and policies while planning and implementation is characterized by ad-hoc pilots. The governance of solutions is ambiguous as to who should manage them, as well as by lack of skills for maintenance. Urban infrastructure in cities in the Global South are already heterogenous. However, islands of conventional piped/ grid services are surrounded by spaces of legally-ambiguous, user-driven decentralized arrangements. In both contexts, learning from hybrid decentralized projects remains scattered and tacit. It is sometimes disqualified as it lacks systematic approaches or comparisons.

This Research Topic aims to enhance our understanding of the governance of the hybridization of water and energy infrastructure with decentralized, nature-based and off-grid solutions. While much work focuses on their technical feasibility, few studies engage with the lived realities of implementing and governing sustainability agendas such as the hybridization and decentralization of water and energy infrastructure in various contexts. Some authors propose a top-down and centralized management of hybrid decentralized solutions, and their integration into centralized water, waste, green space or energy systems. Others suggest a bottom-up approach as the involvement of multiple stakeholders is critical. Co-production and locally-adapted solutions may even lead to increased equity and efficiency, yet these are missing in the Global South as formal planning and management systems do not engage with and support user-driven hybrid solutions. In many cities, urban infrastructure provision is viewed as the domain of the State, i.e. the city government. However, it is often highly compartmentalized and has limited resources. Innovative governance solutions are therefore needed to enable collaboration between urban sectors and other stakeholders to optimize the use of resources, but to also enhance multifunctionality and adaptation to local contexts.

We welcome contributions on the following:
• From cities in various geographic and developmental contexts that focus on the governance of decentralized solutions and hybrid infrastructure landscapes, e.g. Nature-Based Solutions within the urban water, energy, waste, green space and other environmental sectors.
• Empirical work on the realities of how different institutions and actors such as public service providers, civil society and end-users take part in policy planning, designing, implementing, operating and managing hybrid decentralized systems.
• Interface between centralized infrastructure, formal public management, decentralized solutions and other stakeholders by examining the extent to which decentralized solutions are managed or integrated with the existing urban governance system, and what factors are important for various governance set-ups (co-production, centralized management and autonomous).
• How do cities and/ or other stakeholders govern or co-manage varying mosaics of local solutions, and what challenges and possibilities emerge.
• Conceptual and methodological contributions unpacking the phenomenon of hybrid decentralized infrastructure and their governance.


Keywords: Hybrid Urban Infrastructure, Co-Production, Localized Urban Infrastructure, Nature-Based Urban Infrastructure, Hybrid Decentralized Infrastructure, Hybridization of Water Infrastructure, Hybridization of Energy Infrastructure, Decentralized Water Infrastructure, Decentralized Energy Infrastructure, Hybrid Infrastructure Landscape


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2021 Abstract
31 December 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2021 Abstract
31 December 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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