Urban green communities: Civic engagement and citizenship in city-based nature and ecology

Interest in urban nature and urban ecology is growing all over the world, including Denmark, in the search for more sustainable and viable cities.

Urban green communities



This research project located at the Department of Sociology at the University of Copenhagen investigated new types of civil society-driven projects and municipal initiatives focusing on urban nature are gaining ground in, urban agriculture and townships; recovery of urban watercourses; protection of biodiversity; improvement of recreational opportunities; and the construction of green areas for climate adaptation. It was a part of the Centre for Sustainability and Society (SUSY). In Danish: Center for Bæredygtighed og Samfund.



New types of civil society-driven projects and municipal initiatives focusing on urban nature are gaining ground in, among other things, urban agriculture and townships; recovery of urban watercourses and streams; protection of biodiversity habitats; improvement of footpaths and recreational opportunities; creation of "wild" nature in urban areas; and the construction of green areas for climate adaptation.

Boundaries between city and nature are being negotiated

Together, these projects and initiatives can advance the profound understandings and practices in the modernist city, where city and nature were thought to be distinctly separate domains. Today, the boundaries between the city and nature are being negotiated, as urban planners, local politicians, associations and committed citizens seek new opportunities to unite city and nature into a richer urban environment in the "ecological city", (Franklin 2010).



The purpose of the project was thus to investigate the societal processes that promote or prevent such entrenchment, through a continuous focus on new forms of civic engagement in the city's nature. The bearing thesis was that in these years we are experiencing emerging green communities in the city, rooted in new forms of urban-ecological citizenship. The “GrønBy” project investigates this thesis based on a city-sociological research framework and in close collaboration with the Danish Outdoor Council (på dansk: Friluftsrådet) as a central volunteer actor in the field of urban nature and urban recreation in Denmark.



Empirically, the project aimed at mapping and analyzing civic engagement in urban nature in Denmark. It was about investigating the following questions (these are further elucidated in the description of “GrønBy's” three sub projects):

  • How to create and maintain voluntary engagement in urban nature? (sub projects 1 and 2)
  • What formal or informal organizational forms take this engagement across smaller, medium and larger Danish cities? (sub project 1)
  • How are civic voices involved in practical urban planning? (sub project 2)
  • What divergent or overlapping wishes for the urban nature of the future thrive broadly in the Danish (urban) population? (sub project 3)

Answering these questions enriched the research (and society's) understanding of civic ideals and practices for future more sustainable and viable cities, as well as offered support for further theory and method development in the field of research.

Read more about the Danish Outdoor Council here.

The associated knowledge and capacity building will, in a wider sense, benefit the country's many thousands of volunteers in the environmental field, as well as provide enhanced partnerships between civilian actors and municipalities in the planning and management of urban nature.



Project Manager: Anders Blok, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen (UCPH)

Partner in practice: Danish Outdoor Council, with Jakob Simonsen, Head of Department for Outdoor Activities, the Danish Outdoor Council Secretariat, Copenhagen




The project was funded by:

VELUX logo

Project name: Urban Green Communities

Principal investigator: Anders Blok

Period: The project ran until 2019


Name Title Phone E-mail
Blok, Anders Associate Professor +4535323577 E-mail