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The SymbioCity Approach - Achieving Urban Sustainability in Asian Cities

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The SymbioCity Approach - Achieving Urban Sustainability in Asian Cities

Deadline: Closed
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Web Based
12 Nov 2012 to 15 Feb 2013
Duration of event:
15 Weeks
Programme Area:
Governance, Local Development
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In the next two decades, the global urban population is anticipated to rise to 70%. This transition to a predominantly urban world is irreversible and brings with it equally irreversible changes in the way we use land, water, energy and other natural resources. With over half of humanity living in urban areas, cities already consume 80% of global energy output, generate more than 70% of all waste, and contribute directly to more than 60% of green house gas emissions, thus placing cities at the centre of the climate change agenda (UNHABITAT, 2010). This large-scale urban growth – especially in some areas of Asia and Africa – brings a pressing need for more holistic planning and governance of city development, including environmental system solutions. There is also an urgent need for improved management and operations of municipal technical infrastructure.

In this context, UNITAR and SKL International propose the e-Learning course on the SymbioCity Approach, with the support of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The course and the following conference will use the over-arching concept of the SymbioCity Approach as a basis for the learning and exchange of experiences. The concept provides concrete methods and tools for sustainable urban development with special focus on the promotion of inclusive and multidisciplinary working procedures in the municipality, encompassing all key stakeholders, including citizens. The concept can be applied within a range of development processes, such as when conducting sector reviews of the urban environment, or as support when formulating strategies for short, medium and long-term development on different urban scales – region, city, or city district.

The e-learning course's objective is to contribute to sustainable urban development in target countries in the Asia-Pacific region (Bangladesh – Cambodia – Indonesia – Thailand – Viet Nam) by supplying urban planners, environmental managers, project managers and other technical staff with knowledge, tools and methodologies that can enhance their capacity to build sustainable urban environments.

Participants selected from these five countries will work together in teams on concrete solutions through the use of tools and methods in order to achieve sustainable urbanisation in the context of decentralisation and increasing responsibilities at the local and regional level.

At the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the conditions for sustainable urban development based on the SymbioCity Approach;
  • Analyze and address urban challenges on the basis of the SymbioCity Approach by tailoring it to their local contexts;
  • Establish network for interchange of experiences and support  between participants;
  • Assess specific situations by developing scenarios, impact assessments, and strategies at the local level towards urban improvement.

The e-Learning Course is composed of Four Modules, with interspaced exercises, moderated forum discussions and graded assessment activities.

Module 1: Urban Phenomena and SymbioCity Approach

Module 2: SymbioCity Working Procedures

Module 3: Institutional Factors for Sustainability

Module 4: Urban Systems and Identifying Potential Synergies

Grading Structure:

Formal assessment activities throughout the course are organised as follows:

One Project Proposal per City team (80%): Each city team will identify a relevant urban development topic of interest in their own home municipality / organization, and formulate a comprehensive project proposal to integrate SymbioCity methods and tools in developing sustainable solutions to address a specific challenge. At the end of each module, city teams will complete short exercises to build up towards the final project proposal. These exercises will each be equivalent to 10 points, totaling 40% percent of the final grade. The final Project Proposal will be worth another 40% - with this total portion of the course being equal to 80% of the course grade.

One Peer-to-Peer Review exercise (20%):  This exercise will provide an ideal breeding ground for experience sharing among practitioners. Participants will evaluate and discuss each other’s final project proposals in the framework of specific group forums. Ultimately, the moderator will provide comments and give a grade to each team on the basis of their final review of another team’s project proposal. The Peer-to-Peer review accounts for 20% of the final grade.

Four Self-Reflecting Exercises to stimulate critical learning and assess participant's understanding of the course modules. These are mandatory, but are not part of the final grade. 

The minimum grade for passing this course and obtaining a Certificate of Completion is 70%.

Learning activities are distributed in such a way to ensure the achievement of the learning objectives in a flexible manner: learning materials can be consulted in a non-linear way to provide participants with flexibility in choosing the most adequate learning pace as the course is asynchronous. All learning activities are moderated by a SymbioCity expert.

Learning materials include the following elements:

  • Basic reading materials (compulsory) intended to understand the basic concepts and principles of modules’ subject-matter;
  • Advanced reading materials (optional) for participants willing to learn more about the topic;
  • External links to relevant, publications, reports and websites;
  • Glossaries of terms and of acronyms as supportive learning tools.
  • Case study instructions including case development exercises
  • A community discussion board (forum) will allow participants to discuss topics initiated by the course moderator and to post questions, comments or new discussions.

The learning time is estimated to be about 6 hours per week. This includes study time (about 3 hours/week) and participation in collaborative activities (about 3 hours/week).

The course is open to team delegations of 2-4 people from each city or institution. Team delegations will be composed of urban planners; environmental managers; technical staff and project managers from municipalities or relevant institutions.

Participation Requirements:

  • Participants must be from the project's following target countries: Bangladesh – Cambodia – Indonesia – Thailand – Viet Nam
  • Participation through a team comprised of min. 2 delegates is a mandatory criteria for selection.
  • Participants should also obtain approval from management for taking part in this course.
  • All applicants should have advanced English skills.


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