SLU news

New forms of collaboration and learning are being tested in Malmö

Published: 11 April 2024
Illustration from workshop.

At the Botildenborg site, situated on the outskirts of Rosengård in Malmö, the Botildenborg Foundation operates a farm and meeting place. Here, urban farming converges with a spectrum of social activities, including vocational and language training, community gardening, team-building, and culinary workshops. In partnership with SLU Urban Futures, a new initiative is underway to cultivate innovative collaborations and learning experiences within a Social Innovation Living Lab.

The Botildenborg Social Innovation Living Lab represents a novel collaboration between SLU, Botildenborg Foundation, Lund and Malmö universities, Region Skåne, and the city of Malmö. This initiative aims to foster the development of practical tools and initiatives that foster ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable urban environments for the future. The insights and innovations generated within this Living Lab will be disseminated both nationally and internationally.

At the heart of the Botildenborg Living Lab is a commitment to forging a new paradigm of knowledge production and learning that transcends disciplinary and sectoral boundaries within society. This mission aligns seamlessly with the overarching vision of SLU Urban Futures, as articulated by the Vice-Chancellor of SLU. Nina Vogel, a researcher at SLU and the programme manager for SLU Urban Futures, has dedicated parts of her research to understanding the potential of living labs within research and educational settings.

"A living lab creates a unique opportunity for transdisciplinary collaboration where different actors can meet on equal terms to co-create, develop and learn together. Everyone contributes with their specific knowledge and expertise, everyone is needed and together we develop and own the new knowledge", says Nina Vogel.

Sustainable solutions for complex challenges

The Botildenborg Social Innovation Living Lab aspires to address the multifaceted challenges confronting contemporary and future urban landscapes. These challenges encompass issues such as unemployment, social segregation, public health disparities, limited awareness and engagement with ecological concerns in certain demographics, substantial environmental footprints associated with the food system, and the depletion of land and resources.

"To solve these challenges, we need the perspectives and insights of several actors. We offer an arena to meet, learn from each other and together develop more locally rooted solutions that have an effect. Within various thematic collaborations, we want to work with learning evaluation to systematically document and understand the processes and further develop new knowledge that is generated", says Nina Vogel.

Given the project's open and exploratory research methodology, the team must navigate unexpected findings and incorporate lessons learned through an iterative work process.

"Curiosity, reflecting on one's own perspectives and being open to new perspectives is the key and will contribute to shaping a language and way of working together", says Nina Vogel.

Theme areas and international cooperation

Several preliminary themes and questions have been selected:

  • Inclusion: how do we create community in the city, regardless of ethnicity/age/background/geography?
  • Language cultivation: how can we use nature-based solutions for language teaching and contribute to inclusion?
  • Health: Research from SLU shows that work training in cultivation at Botildenborg can contribute to increased well-being and health. How can the basic idea be spread to other social actors and several businesses?
  • Labor market: how can vocational training in food and farming contribute to those who are far from the labor market, or are new arrivals, getting closer to work?
  • Resilient, regenerative farming and food production: how do we create sustainable urban agriculture and how can we spread the knowledge through different types of educational materials for different target groups?
  • Site development: how are the surroundings of a farm, working as a, urban 'social innovation living lab' affected by the operations?
  • Social entrepreneurship: can we spread concepts around food and farming to more cities?

In these themes, researchers, residents in the immediate area, selected target groups, representatives from the city of Malmö and Region Skåne as well as international collaborative actors, together with Stiftelsen Botildenborg, will develop various methods and activities that can have an effect in both the long and short term, locally and internationally.

"The methods will be scientifically evaluated, adjusted, implemented and further developed to become concepts that can be spread to other cities, actors and organizations to create even greater social benefit", says Anna María Pálsdóttir, Associate Professor and University Lecturer at the Department of Human and Society at SLU.

This form of collaboration and co-creation requires time, recurring meetings, genuine commitment and respect for different voices. The group is therefore developing a work culture and a consensus to take advantage of the power of co-creating knowledge.

"Co-creation will primarily be related to local actors, but we also aim for national and international collaborations. A Living Lab is an arena for these different types of networks to meet", says Anna María Pálsdóttir.

Nature-based solutions and the New European Bauhaus

A key focus of the lab involves examining nature-based solutions (NbS) and their interrelation with the New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative.

"We would like to work on developing attractive, inclusive and high-quality places that can integrate people into their local communities and show how a society can develop socially and ecologically resilient places in combination with social innovations. For this we have applied for a Horizon project and we will be happy to tell you more about this when the application process is complete. Right now we are focusing on the collaborations that Botildenborg Social Innovation Living Lab is already generating, for example the work with the Ukrainian refugees", says Nina Vogel.


Read more about research at Botildenborg in an article published in the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture:
Exploring migrant’s sense of belonging through participation in an urban agricultural vocational training program in Sweden


Botildenborg - Social Farm & Kitchen 

Botildenborg is a sustainable farm and meeting place passionate about sustainability and uses food and cultivation to contribute to a better society.

SLU Urban Futures

SLU Urban Futures is a strategic research platform tasked with inspiring and supporting SLU's faculties in initiating, developing and strengthening interdisciplinary research, education and collaboration within sustainable urban development.
Read more about SLU Urban Futures

Living Labs (LLs)

Living labs can be described as open innovation environments where experimentation, collaboration and co-creation are central. The labs are established in a physical location, they often have a broad anchoring through local stakeholders and distinct frameworks for feedback and evaluation.
Read more about Living Labs

Social Innovation

Social innovations are new ideas that meet societal needs, create social relationships and shape new collaborations. These innovations can be products, services or models that address unmet needs more effectively.
Read more about social innovation

Nature-based Solutions (NbS)

Nature-based solutions are multifunctional and cost-effective measures to address various societal challenges by protecting, developing or creating ecosystems while promoting biodiversity and human well-being. Read more about nature-based solutions

New European Bauhaus (NEB)

In autumn 2020, the European Commission launched a new European Bauhaus. It is an initiative that highlights the importance of aesthetic, social and cultural values in the green transformation of society. The initiative contributes to the EU's climate goal of a climate-neutral union by 2050 at the latest.
Read more about NEB


Nina Vogel, Programme Director of SLU Urban Futures and Researcher at SLU affiliated to the Governance and Management theme group at the Department of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management, SLU Alnarp

Phone: +46 727 044 064

Anna María Pálsdóttir
Senior Lecturer at the Department of People and Society, 
SLU Alnarp

Telephone: +4640415536, +46730853219