Why experimental methods drive urban transitions: lessons learned from 10 years of programming Urban Living Labs

Why does JPI Urban Europe not only fund but also develop the urban living labs approach? If the added value of co-creative and experimental methods has been underlined and proven, how can we integrate it better into mainstream urban development processes? In other words, how can we make experimental approaches the ‘new normal’? Read this article in full on the Urban Voices Blog by the European Urban Knowledge Network. 

During the recent decade, about half of the over 100 projects funded by the JPI Urban Europe applied experimental co-creative methods, mainly in the form of urban living labs. We discussed the approaches and potential to do things differently with experimental methods with urban actors around the world: from Europe to BeijingRio de Janeiro and Florianopolis in Brazil, and Durban in South Africa. On a conceptual level, we learned a lot about how urban living labs and experimental models can lead to more sustainable cities, more economic opportunities and a better quality of life for city-dwellers.

Through stakeholder dialogues, conference session, projects’ results and outputs, etc., JPI Urban Europe has derived seven specific consideration points which should be addressed to take the next steps towards mainstreaming urban experimentation:

  1. Experimental approaches and urban living labs can be understood as clearing houses between funding streams.
  2. Results generated in urban living lab projects/experimental approaches should demonstrate how the learnings were taken up in governance.
  3. While experimental projects often have a limited running time, their continuation (through extension, follow up activities, etc) is key for governance integration.
  4. Allow for flexibility in the initial phase of the project to map and identify the needs and requirements of all the urban actors involved and the specificities of the urban context (neighbourhoods, etc) in which the project will operate.
  5. Plan early for follow up funding to support the impact and develop the outcomes further.
  6. Keep in mind that the experimental project/urban living lab is not the goal in itself, but an approach to address a specific challenge/issue.
  7. Keep the scale manageable: specific urban challenges might be too complex to address them entirely in one project. However, these chunks might well add up to a portfolio of experimental projects.

>> Read this article in full




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