Achieving global sustainability requires addressing urban systems since more than two-thirds of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2050. Fundamental changes are needed in local decision-making, urban sustainability planning, implementation, and assessment, and citizen mobilization to move from current piecemeal approaches toward long-lasting and successful implementation of local and global sustainability goals. This research explores the potential of holistic community/urban productivity: "How can the concept, principles, and practices of community productivity help address local sustainability planning, implementation, and assessment, and contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals?" In response, I engaged in critical review of the literature on sustainable community development, urban sustainability, and holistic productivity, developed a conceptual framework for holistic urban productivity, and conducted in-depth case studies with two Canadian cities. While cities are often considered as a component of Anthropocene problems, they also offer unique opportunities and solutions: they have enormous potential not only in terms of economic and labor productivity (diverse and inclusive economy, fostering innovation), but also of social productivity (hubs of research, learning, and sharing) and ecological productivity (ecological function regeneration and efficient use of resources). Holistic urban productivity posits that transforming cities into well-functioning and sustainable systems is possible through inclusive co-production of the commons, resource circularity and regeneration, natural systems restoration, and systemic decision-making. This dissertation contributes to sustainable community development conceptually and empirically by substantiating existing literature and by proposing a new framework with principles, goals, and metrics grounded in long-term whole-systems thinking and regeneration of urban assets and resources. The research findings helped enhance the holistic Urban Productivity Framework and the development of recommendations for municipalities in Canada and beyond and for further research. Cities need to welcome visioning, networking, learning, and connectedness tools for balanced and synergistic optimization of all community elements.
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Thesis advisor: Roseland, Mark
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