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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

A healthy city for all? Social services roles in collaborative urban development

Berglund-Snodgrass, Lina; Fjellfeldt, Maria; Högström, Ebba; Markström, Urban


There is broad consensus among policymakers about the urgency of developing healthy, inclusive, and socially sustainable cities. In the Swedish context, social services are considered to have knowledge that needs to be integrated into the broader urban development processes in order to accomplish such ends. This article aims to better understand the ways in which social service officials collaborate in urban development processes for developing the social dimensions of healthy cities. We draw from neo-institutional theories, which set out actors (e.g., social service officials) as acting according to a logic of appropriateness, which means that actors do what they see as appropriate for themselves in a specific type of situation. Based on semi-structured interviews with social services officials in 10 Swedish municipalities on their experiences of collaboration in the development of housing and living environments for people with psychiatric disabilities, we identified that they act based on (a) a pragmatic rule of conduct through the role of the problem solver, (b) a bureaucratic rule of conduct through the role of the knowledge provider, and (c) activist rule of conduct through the role of the advocator. In these roles, they have little authority in the development processes, and are unable to set the agenda for the social dimensions of healthy cities but act as the moral consciousness by looking out for everyone’s right to equal living conditions in urban development.


collaboration; healthy cities; psychiatric disabilities; social services; Sweden

Published in

Urban planning
2022, volume: 7, number: 4, pages: 113-123

Authors' information

Fjellfeldt, Maria
Dalarna University
Högström, Ebba
Blekinge Institute of Technology
Markström, Urban
Umeå University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities
SDG16 Peace, justice and strong institutions

UKÄ Subject classification

Human Geography
Social Work

Publication Identifiers


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