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Olga Stepanova


School of Global
Visiting address
Konstepidemins väg 2
41314 Göteborg
Room number
Postal address
Box 700
40530 Göteborg

About Olga Stepanova

Olga has received her PhD degree in Human Ecology from University of Gothenburg, School of Global studies, 2015.

Olga's general research interest is in sustainable natural resource management. In particular, she is interested in natural resource management in the urbanized coastal zones. Her research focuses on natural resource use/environmental conflicts, their analysis and resolution. Themes of power imbalances and practices of knowledge use (integration) for conflict resolution and sustainable resource management are also in focus. 

Areas of interest Natural resource management; sustainability; conflict analysis and resolution; role of power in resource management; practices of knowledge use; knowledge integration; joint learning; interdisciplinary methodologies for conflict analysis; municipal planning; coastal zones; urban areas; climate change effects on coastal zones; Sweden; Europe

Current research

Research project: CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN URBAN PLANNING: The role of multilevel knolwedge integration (funded by Formas, 2017-2021) together with prof. Merritt Polk

The purpose of the project is to investigate the relationships between conflict resolution and multilevel knowledge integration in urban planning and to identify possible ways for improved local conflict resolution and more sustainable urban planning. This research task involves a study of what types of knowledge are used in conflict resolution practices in municipal urban planning and what consequences that has for conflict development; and what the relationships are between horizontal and vertical knowledge integration and conflict resolution in urban planning. Horizontal integration happens among stakeholders in formal (e.g. routine public consultation within planning) and informal (e.g. open stakeholder forums) processes of conflict resolution. Vertical integration concerns integration of different knowledge types into actual decision making and public policy on local and regional level. This study is based on three case studies of current and highly contested land use conflicts in Gothenburg (Sweden): densification in a centrally located area, immigrant housing location, and transport infrastructure planning. The analysis is based on participant observation, document analysis, in-depth interviews and transdisciplinary collaboration with stakeholders in conflicts, such as civil servants and other practitioners.

The substantive conflicts addressed in the three case studies are highly typical for urban planning and will be relevant for planning contexts within and beyond Sweden. The findings of this project will be of relevance to the broad academic community and practitioners/planners interested in knowledge use in urban and environmental planning and management, conflict resolution, and interdisciplinary sustainability studies.  


The PhD dissertation (2010-2015) focused on non-violent local conflicts over the use of natural resources in coastal urban areas. The main question is how to approach environmental/resource use conflicts through conflict analysis so that it would allow addressing coastal conflicts in their systemic complexity, take into account their multi-dimensional and multi-faceted nature, and how to include conflict analysis and mitigation as a tool for better and more sustainable management of natural resources. Interdisciplinary approach is applied to construct an analytical framework for conflcit analysis. The framework combines theoretical concepts from different fields of conflict research and is rooted in the empirical data from case studies of conflicts in coastal urban areas of Göteborg and Malmö, Sweden. Separate attention is paid to the role of power imbalances, knowledge use practices, knowledge integration and joint learning for conflict resolution within municipal planning. The role of different values, attitudes and worldviews are also discussed. The dissertation was carried out within the EU FP7 financed international project “Solutions for Environmental Contrasts in Coastal Areas” (SECOA) 2009-2013.

Teaching and tutoring Course coordinator and lecturer in "Sustainable cities" HU1221, 15 hp; Bachelor level

Lecturing in "From local resources to global consumption" HU1121, 15 hp; Bachelor level

Lecturing in "Sustainable development: conflicts, communication and collaboration", HE2234, 15 hp, Master level

Profile responsible for Human Ecology and lecturing within an interdisciplinary SMIL program (samhällsvetenskapliga miljövetarprogrammet), based at the School of Business, Economics and Law, Gothenburg university.

Field work Case studies of resource use conflicts in Gothenburg and Malmö metropolitan areas, Sweden.