Caroline Nolan, Mary Ostafi and Mélina Planchenault

In January 2008, Dublin City Council (DCC) began working with RealEyes Sustainability Ltd. and The Natural Step to move toward strategic, organisational sustainability using The Natural Step Framework.

In November 2008, Dublin City Council kicked-off its new “Sustainable Dublin” effort with Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt, founder of The Natural Step, providing inspiration through the keynote address. To date, the City of Dublin has already made significant strides with strategies to improve energy efficiency, waste management and protect biodiversity.

This past spring, Caroline Nolan, Mary Ostafi and Mélina Planchenault joined this collaboration as a thesis dissertation team from the Master’s in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability (MSLS) program at Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlskrona, Sweden. Their goal was to help the city envision an optimal planning and governance process, referred to as the “Golden Standard”, for achieving long-lasting cultural change from within the local authority. The “Golden Standard” acts as a process based on principles of success to lead local authorities through a transformational process while moving toward a sustainable vision. Backcasting from the ideal “Golden Standard” planning process, the team was able to analyse the current planning practices and generate key recommendations to help DCC move Dublin towards sustainability.

Feedback on the research results from Dublin City officials has been positive thus far:

“The City of Dublin was fortunate on two counts, firstly to have such competent ambassadors for The Natural Step who chose the Dublin City Development Plan as the practical focus for their master’s dissertation,” noted Dick Gleeson, DCC’s Lead City Planner, of the students’ work. “Secondly through a rigorous application of the Framework, the development of the Golden Standard establishes an inspirational and legible blueprint, which exploits the central role of a City Development Plan in forging a sustainable city.”

“In moving towards a sustainable Dublin we are committed to exploiting fully the platform provided by The Natural Step,” added Michael Stubbs, DCC’s Assistant City Manager.  “The Catalytic City Development Plan dissertation is particularly timely and helpful in tackling the challenge of extending a set of principals into a strategic framework and implementation methodology.”

With more than half the world’s population now living in urban areas, city governments and planning agencies are a critically important part of addressing the world’s social, economic and environmental challenges. The “Golden Standard” offers a macro blueprint for planning in today’s complex urban systems. Caroline, Mary and Mélina hope that other cities will be able to benefit from the “Golden Standard” they developed through the DCC case study and happy to answer questions about their work.

To download the team’s full thesis, please click here.
To download the full Golden Standard table synthesis, please click here.