case study:
Copenhagen Municipality

When does a tree become more than wood?


The Technical and Environmental Administration in Copenhagen has experienced a rise in the citizens’ interest in trees, and wanted to know why, and more importantly; how to react to it.


We talked a lot about trees! We interviewed personnel from the municipality working with trees and urban planning and asked different citizens to show us their favourite tree in the city. We considered differences of vocabulary and logic to identify tensions.


We unfolded the deep-rooted relationship between citizens and urban trees, and developed a communication tool to ease the process when planting, relocating or cutting down trees.

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Exploring the relationship between trees and citizens

"Just think of all the things this tree has experienced, and all the stories it could tell us, if it could talk.”  
Local citizen
the challenge

“What is a tree?” The question is not as easy to answer as you might think. But what did we ask it to begin with? The Technical and Environmental Administration has experienced a rise in the citizens’ interest in trees, and wanted to know why, and more importantly; how to react to it.

It’s no coincidence the administration is experiencing a rise of interest in trees. Our common interest and values towards trees and urban nature is nurtured by several mega trends such as urbanisation and climate change.

Trees are symbols of our common past, our future, and of something wild and uncontrollable in the middle of the planned city landscape. But not all trees hold so much meaning. A tree is not something that just is. It’s something that becomes over time. We build relationships to trees through seeing them every day on our way to work, or through our children playing in and around them. Through this relationship, the trees gain a personality of their own. They almost become social beings, that hold value in themselves.

When a tree is cut down, we need to regain the value we have lost. Not by replacing it with several trees, but by replacing the value that was lost. If it is a tree children have been playing in, it won’t be enough to plant a new tree, as it does not embody the same qualities. But if the old tree is transformed into playground facilities, the actual value of the tree is retained.

the approach

Discovering discourses and tree qualities through ethnographic methods.

We talked with Copenhageners about what a tree is to them and got all the stories of the important trees. We used walk-and-talk as a method of talking about different trees in the city, their qualities and values. We also interviewed the personnel of the administration of Technical and Environmental Affairs of Copenhagen to understand how they prioritize and talk about trees when planning the infrastructure and green elements of the city.

The Result

We developed deep insights about how the citizens perceive trees in the city as well as communicated certain tensions between the logic of the municipality and the citizens, resulting in a communication tool to minimize conflicts.

This provided the administration of Technical and Environmental Affairs of Copenhagen with an understanding of, why the citizens show interest in certain trees and why some even protest about timber felling. Finally, we created a communication tool for the personnel to use when making decisions about timber felling. The tool guided them in, how they should approach and communicate to the citizens to avoid conflicts.


A new view on welfare technology

We helped The Copenhagen Municipality gain strong competences in understanding the welfare tech market and the citizens using it, enabling them to make qualified decisions.


Building strong innovation capacity

We helped the Technical and Environmental Administration build skills and competences in innovation processes across the organization.


Apps to support marginalized groups

By understanding the needs and challenges marginalized groups have, we helped SOF in testing selected supportive apps, and developed schematics for a future app development.


What makes the daily commute worth biking for?

A qualitative study on communting behaviour to inform future policy and infrastructure planning.


A new perceptive on growth and employment

We helped in developing an entire new perspective on how to create growth and employment in marginalized neighborhoods.


A common language for public trees

We helped the Technical and Environmental Administration create a communication tool to avoid conflicts with citizens, when felling trees urban districts.


A bio-organic nudge

We helped the Technical and Environmental Administration with insights, and created tangible recommendation on how to nudge citizens to start sorting organic waste by a communicative approach.

Interested to find out more? Contact the

Copenhagen Municipality

case owner

Emilie Baage Stuhr
Director & Partner 71 74 14 40