Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

A Healthy City for All? Social Services’ Roles in Collaborative Urban Development

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Abstract:  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.

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



© Lina Berglund-Snodgrass, Maria Fjellfeldt, Ebba Högström, Urban Markström. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.