In addition to the project leader, the project employs two postdocs each year.

Students from all three universities (University of Helsinki, University of Stockholm and Norwegian University of Life Sciences) also participate in the project. The task of the Reference Group is to contribute to the orientation of the project data gathering, to comment on the interim results, and to provide a benchmark for approaches and outcomes in an international spatial planning perspective.

Pia Bäcklund

Dr Pia Bäcklund, Associate Professor (Adjunct professor in Spatial Planning), is the leader of the JustDe research project. She is a human geographer whose research interest covers especially strategic spatial planning and politic. She sees planning not only as a question of how to better develop cities, but as an example of governmental practices. Political agencies and citizens’ roles in urban development projects, in the context of democracy theories, have been her specific interests. Pia has also been involved in developing domestic and international multidisciplinary research projects within these themes (BEMINE research project).  Since spring 2018 she has been working at the University of Helsinki, after working at the University of Tampere in the research group SPARG, part of the RELATE, Finnish Academy of Centre of Excellence.

Researcher profile and publications in the University of Helsinki research database

Giacomo Bottà

Giacomo Bottà is a postdoctoral researcher in the JustDe project. He received his PhD in comparative studies from the Libera Università di Lingue e Comunicazione IULM Milan. He is a docent in urban studies at the University of Helsinki and in music research at the Tampere University.

In his career he has aimed at determining how cultural expressions, and music in particular, can be used to better understand space and spatiality on the one hand, and communities and societies on the other. He developed projects in relation to urban cultures and scenes, urban branding, interculturalism, creative cities, cultural planning and the urban night and worked with various qualitative methods. 

Beside Helsinki, he held research and teaching positions at the University of Freiburg, University of Strasbourg, Karlsruhe Music University and Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences. In 2011- 2012 he was Von Humboldt Foundation experienced researcher in Freiburg.

Giacomo in the Research Portal and in Wordpress.

Tomas Hanell

Dr Tomas Hanell (Affiliate scholar, Helsinki Inequality Initiative INEQ) is a postdoctoral researcher partaking in the JustDe project. He is a leading European authority on regional and local level indicators stemming from over two decades of experience of urban and regional development in the EU, the Baltic Sea Region and the Nordic countries. He has conducted applied quantitative research for supranational development organizations (e.g. the European Commission, DG Regio, DG Internal Policies, the OECD, the Nordic Council of Ministers), numerous national ministries throughout Europe, several cross-border cooperation bodies, and a vast number of regional and local level development organizations. He is a frequently used speaker at international seminars and conferences. He has had responsibility for statistics education in several international Ph.D. programmes (incl. FP7 ITN) and he is a member of the advisory board for the Postgraduate program Eastern Europe Center of Excellence in Planning.

Recently he has been involved in developing a set of well-being indicators for the European Commission (Eurostat), constructing indicators for measuring Territorial Cohesion in the Baltic Sea macroregion (ESPON), and developed the List of Common Output Indicators for external EU CBC programmes (EEAS). In his Doctoral Dissertation, he constructed an instrument for measuring quality of life and well-being in EU regions.

Tomas in Google Scholar 

Jo­hanna Tuom­isaari

Johanna Tuomisaari is a researcher in the JustDe project that examines agreement-based planning practices and their democratic justification. Johanna’s research interests include strategic urban planning, planning conflicts and urban nature. Her research focuses on the politics of planning and the ways planning practices are shaped. She holds a master’s degree in Environmental Policy and she is finishing her PhD thesis on strategic master planning and the role of urban nature in strategic planning processes. 

Johanna in Tuhat database and Google Scholar.

Email: johanna.tuomisaari[at]

Mil­iza Ryöti

MSc. Miliza Ryöti is a Ph.D. student in Helsinki University’s Doctoral Programme of Political, Societal and Regional Change. Her research focuses on the practices of producing and visualizing information on social sustainability and the use and interpretations of such information in a complex regional agreement-based planning process. Her Ph.D. research partakes in the JustDe research project.

Along her career she has gained experience in the fields of municipal planning, administration and decision-making process, as well as regional development in a context of an agreement-based development policy. Currently she works as a specialist at the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) producing regional information on housing and social sustainability.


Eetu Niemi

B.Soc.Sci. Eetu Niemi is a student in the Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning within the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. His main interests are new and future procedures of land-use planning and governance, especially from the perspective of changing political rationalities and evolving understandings of democracy. His current thesis work focuses on strategic city-regional agreements on land-use, housing and traffic (LHT-agreements) as current examples of contemporary mode of governance. His theoretical inquiry utilises key concepts of participation, democracy and good governance. Firstly, his study answers the question: what does it depend on, whether there is a problem of legitimacy in agreement-based planning or not? Secondly, his study aims to generate knowledge about the principles concerning legitimacy, to which new modes of governance must commit to when engaging in agreement-based planning.

Key collaboration partners

Lukas Smas 

Senior Lecturer

Department of Geography

University of Stockholm

Read more on the University of Stockholm website

Daniel Galland

Associate Professor

Faculty of Landscape and Society

Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Read more on the Norwegian University of Life Sciences website

Reference group

Raine Mäntysalo, Aalto University

Sami Moisio, University of Helsinki

Kristina Grange, Chalmers University

Simin Davoudi, Newcastle University

Dominic Stead, TU Delft