Fostering research collaborations on co-creation for sustainability

Fostering research collaborations on co-creation for sustainability

by Wai-Fung Lam and Vivian H Y Chu


The studies of co-creation and commoning emphasise the value of bottom-up initiatives for sustainability.  Co-creation research examines cross-sector collaboration with a focus on bottom-up innovation.  Since 2022, the Centre for Civil Society and Governance (CCSG) at the University of Hong Kong embarked on an exciting journey to study co-creation with the “GOGREEN” project ( led by Professor Jacob Torfing at Roskilde University.  The project involves researchers from across the world, altogether contributing thirty-six case reports for comparative analysis driven by the mission to better understand the governance factors supporting co-creation for local sustainability problems.

Earlier in May, we met with forty scholars in Sorø, Denmark during the GOGREEN Partner Conference organised by the Roskilde team.  Writing workshops were filled with insightful discussions about cross-case findings as we begin to work on a series of papers for a special issue in Policy & Politics and book chapters for an edited volume.  Our team is working on a paper that focuses on comparing the characteristics of facilitative leadership across co-creation processes that are led by different types of actors.

The conference ended with a discussion of the prospect of developing a global platform for researchers and practitioners interested in local partnerships and co-creation for sustainability which sparked much excitement amongst all partners.

If you are passionate about the potential of co-creation, check out the GOGREEN research protocol and theoretical framework at


Researchers flew to Denmark from different parts of the world to attend the GOGREEN Partner Conference.

Governance for co-creating sustainable solutions

Governance for co-creating sustainable solutions

by Prof. Lam Wai-Fung and Dr. Vivian H Y Chu, Centre for Civil Society and Governance,

The University of Hong Kong


Studying the governance of institutional arrangements for collective action, the literature on commoning and co-creation both build on the premise that local partnerships are important levers for change.  While research on commoning examines the ongoing process of the governance of commons and identifies principles of institutional design for robust governance of commons, research on co-creation focuses more specifically on a form of collaborative governance which facilitates bottom-up innovation.

In many parts of the world, different actors have engaged in co-creation to develop and implement green transition solutions.  The Centre for Civil Society and Governance at the University of Hong Kong has been invited to be a research partner in a collective effort to study co-creation projects from a global comparative perspective led by Roskilde University, called the GOGREEN project.  Alongside research partners from 28 countries, we have traced the impact of different governance factors on the co-creation process and its outputs and outcomes based on the analysis of policy documents, interviews, on-site observations and mini-surveys.

The Centre for Civil Society and Governance contributes a case study examining the co-creation process for the revitalization of Hong Kong’s Northeastern New Territories (NENT) spanning a ten-year period (2013-2023).  The most important governance factors for the co-creation process identified in this case were inclusion and empowerment, interdependence between the various stakeholders and facilitative leadership that was played by different representative figures.

In relation to the Centre’s research on co-creation, a seminar titled “Leadership and Governance for Co-creating Sustainable Solutions” was organized in March featuring Professor Rosemary O’Leary from University of Kansas, Professor Jacob Torfing and Professor Eva Sørensen, both lead researchers of the GOGREEN project from Roskilde University.


A seminar on “Leadership and Governance for Co-creating Sustainable Solutions” was held at The University of Hong Kong on 22nd March.


As the first speaker, Professor Torfing opened with the importance of robust governance for co-creation to address ‘super-wicked’ problems.  Professor Sørensen then shared her research on interactive leadership, arguing for the need to understand the influence of political culture on political leadership styles.  This is followed by Professor O’Leary’s presentation of her findings on why local government managers collaborate and the common personal attributes of those who do.

Professor Lam Wai-Fung, Director of Centre for Civil Society and Governance, moderated an inspiring panel discussion between the speakers and discussants.


Professor He Shenjing and Professor Andrew Wong, from the University of Hong Kong were inspired by the presentations and shared the challenges they have identified in governing co-creation initiatives and for government managers to work across organizational boundaries in the local context.  The case study of collaborative rural revitalization in Hong Kong was also discussed as an example of how some of these challenges could be overcome by different actors assuming leadership roles at different stages of the co-creation process.


Professor Rosemary O’Leary, Professor Jacob Torfing and Professor Eva Sørensen visited Lai Chi Wo village in Hong Kong which was heavily featured in the collaborative rural revitalisation case study in the GOGREEN project.

Lessons in experimentalism and collaboration from rural communities: building sustainable urban-rural social-ecological systems

Lessons in experimentalism and collaboration from rural communities: building sustainable urban-rural social-ecological systems

By Dr Winnie Law and Dr Jessica M. Williams


Rural decline is a pressing matter for rural communities and for the continued strength and vibrancy of urban areas.  Building sustainable and resilient urban-rural systems requires increasing collaborative approaches between communities and finding innovative solutions to maintain functional and mutually-beneficial connectivity.  The APAC Initiative for Regional Impact (AIRI), initiated by the Centre for Civil Society and Governance at The University of Hong Kong, the HKU Hong Kong Lab, has adopted the “network of networks” collaborative approach and established a regional consortium of university intermediaries to create ties and facilitate revitalisation actions within and between communities at the local through to regional levels.

As part of this initiative, the university intermediaries and change fellows, recruited from civil society, conducted a knowledge exchange tour in January 2024.   They witnessed inspirational examples in Bangkok of rural communities coming together to co-create and innovate to restore, revitalise and safeguard their communities and values.  The Organic Farming Group, in Nong Bua Sub-district, established community rules between farming groups to enable standard- and protocol-setting for participatory and green production.  This facilitates the group in experimenting to create their own markets and products and build long-term relationships with their broader community.  The Thaiberng Folk Museum demonstrates a socio-economic revival model of traditional cultural practices, providing an alternative source of revenue and social support for the community, whose land was repossessed due to a nearby dam, and a retreat for urban dwellers.  In another example, the Hua Takhe community, using a local school as the hub, has organised to proactively revive their town, which was destroyed in a fire, in an environmentally conscious manner while re-instating itself as a culturally attractive and sustainable alternative to over-crowded and resource-intensive floating markets for the wider community.  These examples helped inspire the AIRI fellows and the university intermediaries, providing lessons into how communities can converge, overcome adversity and innovate, creating more sustainable and resilient rural societies, while also contributing to broader rural/urban systems.


Demonstration of traditional weaving practices at Thaiberng Folk Museum.


The HKU team and change fellows from civil society in Hong Kong, part of the HKU Hong Kong Lab, undertook a knowledge exchange trip to Bangkok to learn how communities can collaborate to co-create and innovative solutions to rural decline and so support resilient rural/urban systems.