This chapter discusses the implementation of the co-creation methodology in the case studies in order to evaluate the engagement of citizens and stakeholders in the activation of the Living Labs and in the construction of the CoP. To evaluate the methodology, the paper focuses on one case study per category, although some references will be made to the other Living Labs: Porto as a Frontrunner; Hoje-Taastrup as a Follower city; Khorramabad as an Observer; the ENoLL event as expansion of the CoP.
5.4.1 Study Cases: Examples from Frontrunner and Follower Cities
In URBiNAT Frontrunner and Follower cities, the first action to be implemented was the creation of local task force teams, responsible for scientific and operational mediation and management. All these cities developed similar activities during co-diagnostics to engage citizens and stakeholders in the activation of the Living Labs. Although the methodology and goals are planned according to the co-creation stages, steps, objectives, phases and tools (Fig. 5.5), each city implements activities based on their local participatory culture and experience, integrating the participatory approaches defined in Chap. 5.2 (cultural mapping, motivational interviewing and participatory design). The aim is not to compare but to learn and share with each other, developing the Communities of Practice.
22.214.171.124 Co-creation of the Porto Healthy Corridor
Porto, Nantes and Sofia, as Frontrunners, are concluding the co-design stage by presenting and discussing the urban plan of the Healthy Corridor, which integrates the NBS co-selected with citizens and stakeholders. Although the three cities were already experienced in implementing NBS, there was a lack of citizen engagement in that process. Nevertheless, Nantes has a good strategy of dialogue with citizens and URBiNAT integrated an umbrella municipal project, named Project Global for Nantes Nord district.
This paper is therefore focused on the Campanhã district of Porto, because the participatory process started there from the beginning and also because three of the authors were closely involved. The municipality identified Campanhã as a target area and is developing relevant urban regeneration plans with new facilities and with renovated public spaces. These actions will have a high impact on this territory, which has a concentration of social housing neighbourhoods and was disconnected from the city due to the construction of two highways and a train line.
The preliminary analysis of the local participatory culture in Porto resulted in the following assessment: in general, participatory practices promoted by the municipality in the intervention area of the project adopt consultative formats, which is a common practice for municipalities that are still looking to create new forms of interaction with citizens, a step ahead of traditional models; the intervention area has an active community that enjoys and cares about the place, involved in the promotion of local traditions and assets, as well as active when discussing territorial interventions; local organisations are diverse, covering social, cultural, sports and supporting activities for a diversity of citizens segments, ranging from children to older adults, and including people with functional diversity (URBiNAT, 2019b: 27).
Taking this into consideration, to get local diagnostics started it was important to map the local participatory culture in order to identify local actors and local projects so as to engage them all in the urban regeneration process and create the conditions for establishing synergies. To this end, activities began with meetings to present the project and to engage the main actors – municipal representatives, municipal technicians, local associations and institutions – and the target groups – children, women, adults of advanced age and citizens with specificities. To accomplish this challenge, involvement of the six primary schools in the intervention area was investigated, in order to connect children and their families to URBiNAT goals and to record their perceptions, needs and future desires for the territory. This was to be accomplished through mapping, walkthrough and photovoice, within the framework of the participatory design principles and techniques. One-day activities were instigated in three schools where needs and future desires were based around territorial issues, such as the lack of good walking connections and the preservation of native plant and tree varieties, as well as social issues such as the need for social, cultural and sporting activities, namely social markets, music concerts and traditional games.
The same approach was used for the kick-off event that took place in the main square of the district of Campanhã – Praça da Corujeira – in October 2019. Several associations joined this event and they also presented themselves through three types of activities – cultural (theatre), sports (karate) and social economy (craft market). Elected officials participated in the event to share their perceptions on the territory with the community, and citizens were invited to continue participating in the project. Local diagnostics (URBiNAT, 2019c) created a baseline and a motivation for the co-design stage that started immediately in December 2019, with several activities being held with two groups – primary school children and adults (individuals and stakeholders). These workshops combine the identification of assets/opportunities, needs and challenges (via documented walkthroughs) and the proposal of ideas to solve them (via focus-groups and adding ideas in maps and 3D models). The ideas were inspired by the NBS catalogue with additions proposed directly by the participating citizens. The development of the ideas and their systematization was supported by a critical proximity approach with face-to-face meetings between citizens and local facilitators during the first semester of 2020. The ideas were organised into four groups, close to the URBiNAT NBS typologies – public space and nature (territorial), social economy, culture and sports (participatory), education and environment (Fig. 5.9).
The co-creation process was interrupted in March 2020 due to COVID-19 and reactivated in June 2020, mostly via online meetings. The proximity strategy was also important to keep the citizens committed during the first lockdown. This restart allowed the rescheduling of activities in order to engage new participants and to motivate the ones that were already on board. In 1 month, the Porto task force organised 6 online meetings: to present the results of local diagnostics, to co-design new ideas (3 sessions), to match the new ideas with the previous ones and to discuss the ideas with the elected officials. Finally, ateliers were organised to facilitate the further development of ideas involving the participants collaborating with municipal technicians, bringing technical and legal knowledge to the process while promoting synergies with existing municipal projects. This was an important step, bringing the municipality closer to the citizens, as they had requested.
In September 2020, the city task force put forward ideas to be co-developed with the community by means of the Healthy Corridor urban project, and the participants discussed it at an online meeting, using the TRIZ tool (positive aspects, constraints, decision, comments from citizens). The urban plan is being developed in two parallel, but connected paths: (1) the urban project, with the design of material solutions; (2) the new NBS project, with the co-design of immaterial solutions. Both projects were supposed to be presented and discussed at the Physical Experiments in Place event (October 2020), to test the solutions with prototypes, using tactical urbanism tools,Footnote 3 but it was postponed due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19. In November 2020, the urban plan for the Porto Healthy Corridor was presented by municipal representatives and the URBiNAT team and discussed with the citizens who had also participated in the co-design of four NBS – sensorial garden, space for physical exercise, open air amphitheater and solidarity market.
The three Frontrunner cities are sharing their achievements in regular meetings and learning from each other, specifically on how to face the challenges of COVID-19. They are also discussing successes and barriers to the implementation of URBiNAT methodologies, such as the ones already referred to as well as the mapping of participatory culture, participatory activities, the NBS catalogue, activation of the Living Labs, and co-design activities with digital enablers. This evaluation is being integrated by the Follower cities into its co-creation process.
126.96.36.199 The Høje Taastrup Co-diagnostic Stage
The Follower cities of Høje Taastrup, Brussels, Siena and Nova Gorica embarked on citizen engagement in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. Restrictions on social interactions and the increasing inequalities in the neighbourhoods where URBiNAT is working created more barriers and challenges for the activation of the Living Labs. Nevertheless, this important step was achieved in November 2020.
An example from a Follower city is the Living Lab in Høje Taastrup, an Eastern suburb of Copenhagen. Although Høje Taastrup is a Follower, it is probably the city with a more advanced participatory culture which will contribute to the testing and fine-tuning of the co-creation model. Here, the local task force includes the citizens board of the housing association, the municipality, the Danish Technological Institute, NGOs and local projects, who worked together to organize a kick-off event. Within the framework of the cultural mapping approach, invitations were distributed in multiple ways including via Facebook, SMS texts, posters and newspaper articles as well as local community networks. The event took place outside on a Sunday between 13:00 and 17:00 (June 2020), in large tents that had been erected on a lawn in the middle of the green area in the relevant neighbourhood of Gadehven. Good coffee was offered to participants from a mobile coffee bar, as well as ice cream, fruit and sandwiches.
The event was facilitated collaboratively by the municipality of Høje Taastrup, DOMEA (a local housing association) and DTI (Danish Technological Institute) plus relevant local project participants. As well as the facilitators, the event included craftsmen; a group of young children taking part in a parallel project that helps them earn pocket money by means of small jobs; an artist to draw the event; a photographer and journalists to report on activities and perspectives; social housing staff to follow up on ideas and activities; experts in biodiversity and gardening teaching participants on planting methods; and citizens from a similar neighbourhood in another city with several years of experience in the development of community gardens.
The main focus of the kick-off event was the planting-box workshop where participants actually co-created a garden from scratch. In addition, there were biodiversity presentations; URBiNAT poster discussions; concrete NBS models and posters; and models and posters developed by architectural students about the neighbourhood. Photos and comments were later posted on a specific Facebook group.
In this sense, Høje Taastrup developed a participatory design approach where a Physical Experiment was put in place to promote integration of citizens from the beginning. The event made use of a photovoice activity with participants and a walkthrough discussion, during the co-creation of the community garden prototype, to examine and assess the best models for sustainable continuation and further development of the garden in the neighbourhood. Since then, further co-diagnostic activities have been planned for this and two other sites relating to the Healthy Corridor in Høje Taastrup which will be activated from spring 2021, both digitally, and when COVID-19 restrictions allow, through some type of gathering of people.
In the Follower cities, local task forces are working more closely with local associations to set up actions that create short term results as a strategy to develop a sense of belonging to URBiNAT and to establish the CoP. Although the process is long, the solutions to their needs, namely the NBS, become real and visible, helping to empower the role of citizens in urban regeneration.
5.4.2 Expansion of the CoP and Observers
The expansion of the URBiNAT CoP is also based on the development of its collaboration with Observers and other institutions and groups interested in its approach, such as other similar projects, cities and universities. URBiNAT shares its methodology and seeks to learn from the experiences and methodologies of others (URBiNAT, 2019b): (a) meetings in China in June 2018 and 2019 together with URBiNAT Chinese partner Smart City Joint Lab to participate in the Shanghai Smart City Conference and to discuss the Observers contribution with the cities of Shenyang, Hefei and Macau; (b) Participatory workshops with the “Caximba” urban settlement, in Curitiba (Brazil), and with the “Areia Preta” and “Praia do Meio” communities, in Natal, both in 2019; (c) interactive workshop with schoolchildren, in Muscat, Oman, as Observer, in November 2019; (d) participatory design workshop with stakeholders in the Observer city of Khorramabad (Iran), in October 2019; organisation of international seminar with Observer Commission for Ecology, Environment and Animal Protection, of the Paraná Assembly of Deputies, Brazil, to share knowledge on democratic practices for urban regeneration.
The case of Khorramabad can be highlighted from among these activities due to the impact of the workshop in the development of a Healthy Corridor urban plan. The 4-day workshop was organised with URBiNAT local partner the Lorestan Chamber of Commerce in order to activate the Living Lab and create interaction between citizens and the local task force with other URBiNAT experts. The co-creation methodology was explored using co-diagnostics, co-selection and co-design activities in the Old Bazar neighbourhood. More than 60 stakeholders from the municipality, universities, local experts, NGOs and schoolchildren participated in training sessions of participatory design, cultural mapping, motivational interviewing and proximity, using walkthrough, photovoice, mapping, gaming and design. In 4 days the two teams developed a short local diagnostic and co-designed NBS integrated in thematic Healthy Corridors (Fig. 5.10). The workshop was the kick-off activity that initiated local diagnostics that are in progress and also became a model for the activation of Living Labs in Observer cities by engaging local stakeholders in URBiNAT concepts and methodology.
These activities with Observers have been opportunities to discuss URBiNAT concepts and methodologies in different cultural, social and economic contexts, and to integrate their approaches to inclusive urban regeneration. The insights gained from these new CoP participants continue to adapt and strengthen the universal applicability of URBiNAT participatory methodologies.
188.8.131.52 The Expansion of CoP with Other Living Labs
Together with colleagues from cities both inside and outside URBiNAT, we have a goal of establishing CoP around citizen engagement in the co-development of Healthy Corridors and individual implementations of NBS. We are progressing towards establishing a forum for ongoing discussions around the challenges and opportunities of shared capacity building to create sustainable NBS via Living Labs. This process began at the 2019 Open Living Lab Days (OLLD) and has continued by means of four external and two internal webinars and a workshop with five cities that are not part of URBiNAT. As a result of the above interactions with Observer cities and exchanges with Living Lab participants, the CoP is growing and developing, bringing benefits and improvements to the co-creation and co-governance structures and processes for cities.
URBiNAT partners (IKED, GUDA, DTI and CESFootnote 4) were invited to conduct a workshop during the Open Living Lab days organised by ENoLL, the European Network of Living Labs, on 3rd September 2019. The URBiNAT workshop “From Living Labs to Communities of Practice” brought together approximately 35 colleagues from around the world, and the URBiNAT team took this opportunity to establish the foundations for a sustainable CoP on citizen participation in sustainable development (URBiNAT, 2019b).
Prior to the workshop, a word analysis was carried out on all European Living Labs to identify and cluster common keywords of interest to Living Labs. It resulted in four clusters of key words that we took as a “work in progress” to the workshop: (a) Creativity and Innovation; (b) Together; (c) Local Sustainability and (d) Life. We also brought the list of factors that URBiNAT has identified as important for successful citizen participation.
Participants in the ENoLL workshop, together with other relevant URBiNAT external and internal stakeholders, took part in three subsequent webinars via Zoom meetings on the 29th of October 2019. The webinars covered the three topics that were discussed during the September workshop in Thessaloniki: (a) Plunge (have guts) – risk as a means to the cutting edge; (b) How can we inspire a new meaning of life? and (c) We need to go local to be able to scale up. But how can we do it sustainably?
The aim of these three webinars was to continue the journey with our colleagues, ranging from Living Labs to Communities of Practice. The goal is to establish a forum for ongoing discussion around the challenges and opportunities involved in Living Labs and citizen engagement.
In 2020, URBiNAT invited participants of Digital Living Lab Days (DLLD), that is the first digital edition of the OLLD, to enter and contribute to the co-creation process of NBS in the Living Labs of their cities, by sharing how ‘urban community gardens’ are being created. Taking advantage of existing discussions and plans in the URBiNAT Living Labs, the representatives of some of these local task forces shared a diversity of contexts around the issues of inclusiveness, sustainability and digital enablers in the development of the NBS.
URBiNAT shared the development of co-created tools in order to devise a framework in which different key issues are taken into account for the development of urban community gardens (Fig. 5.11). These issues include culture, leadership, ownership, governance, and creation of the design of this NBS in accordance with a strength-based approach, identifying existing assets and possible resources. The interaction with DLLD participants contributed to the further development and validation of these canvases, which took the form of mind maps.
The exchanges with DLLD participants also contributed to the enrichment of creativity, with concrete insights being made on the specific challenges faced by URBiNAT cities and other inspiring examples such as possible typologies and the connection with health, social aspects and Communities of Interest and Practice.
CoP exchanges continued during the Nantes Innovation Forum, 8–9th October 2020 as well as through European task forces, creating a CoP among several H2020 projects on NBS.Footnote 5 These exchanges have led to a review of URBiNAT guidelines relative to citizen-driven capacity building. The community has indicated through their inputs that URBiNAT should emphasize a number of key factors in the mobilization of communities: communication and interaction, achieving and supporting actual behavioural change towards shared governance; building trust between actors; supporting co-production in terms of implementation and maintenance; inclusion in the governance process; and underpinning visions and priorities.
By means of the discussions, selection and voting processes that were held, the community has also challenged URBiNAT to: (a) take greater risks as a means of achieving a cutting edge; (b) inspire to a new meaning of life, creating togetherness while being authentic, transparent, inclusive, and working on shared governance and common vision; (c) focus on creating strong co-governance and capacity locally, to enable these good practices to be then scaled up.
The CoP has further examined the importance of the concept of ‘ownership’ in terms of the possibilities of generating a sense of ownership among local community stakeholders to enable projects to be co-designed, co-implemented, co-monitored and – importantly – co-governed. Another concept that the CoP has addressed is the exclusivity/importance of the “usual suspects” (i.e., individuals who always participate and who can be part of the problem, but are often also essential to maintaining sustainable NBS capacity).
These ideas have been discussed further with colleagues relative to city projects in Hamburg, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Riga focusing on co-governance between relevant stakeholders in the redevelopment of city districts. This has helped URBiNAT further expand the community and sharpen its capacity building model and processes.
5.4.3 Results of Case Studies
The implementation of the co-creation methodology in the Frontrunner, Follower and Observer cities demonstrates its flexibility and adaptability to local participatory culture. All the cities are following the co-creation stages and the key steps are being implemented and reported. The information and the procedures are being shared in reports and weekly meetings, but the local task force is feeling free to work according to their specific goals, their knowledge of the participatory tools, the interests of local stakeholders and contextual conditions. Because of this it is not interesting to compare the results in order to identify similarities, but it is good to understand how the cities are reinventing the processes and bringing innovation to co-creation at a local level.
As has been reported, cities are consolidating methodologies, concepts and strategies as part of the common identity: the four stages of co-creation (co-diagnostics, co-design, co-implementation and co-monitoring), the concepts of Living Labs and CoP, the URBiNAT proposals of NBS (territorial, technology, participatory, social and solidarity economy), the strategy of the Healthy Corridor, the participatory approaches (cultural mapping, motivational interviewing, critical proximity and participatory design).
Meanwhile, cities are also putting these concepts, methodologies and strategies into practice in different ways, which creates a good platform for sharing knowledge and for innovation. As an example: interaction with other municipal participatory projects for discussion of the four stages of co-creation; in some cities the municipality is responsible for the participatory process and in others it is the responsibility of the scientific partner; some cities are implementing prototypes in co-diagnostics to activate engagement and others are developing prototypes to test co-design proposals; some cities are implementing all the co-diagnostic methods and others are selecting according to budget and local culture; some cities are engaging women’s groups and other are focused on children or older adults, also taking into account an intersectional approach, based on the notion that specific modalities of subordination and discrimination act in an integrated manner (URBiNAT, 2019d); due to COVID one city developed a virtual walkthrough; some cities are increasing the critical proximity approach to improve the intensity and the quality of participation; One Observer city study area is in the city centre not in the suburbs, to test the ideas within another urban context.
In conclusion, the Healthy Corridor in each city will be the result of a co-creation process that is set within a framework of common methodology and concepts and by a specific approach relative to the local culture and context. Although with different levels of interaction, the co-creation process will also be the result of a dialogue between the four levels of the CoP, with a higher contribution from the local community, but also with inputs from the other cities and partners. In each Living Lab, citizens and stakeholders also have different levels of engagement, with large groups that are involved in specific moments such as public events and small groups that achieve a high level of interaction and empowerment by their permanent participation and leadership in activities, as defined in Sect. 5.3.2. In this sense, the Healthy Corridor will act as a physical structure as well as a social one, acting beyond the intervention area in dialogue with the CoP.
5.4.4 Refinement of the Co-creation Process Based on Sharing and Learning in the CoP
The results achieved so far in the Living Labs of each city make clear the need to refine the co-creation process. The permanent activities of sharing and learning between the four levels of the CoP consolidate the methodology but introduce new issues in the implementation procedures and practicalities. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a strong impact on the URBiNAT co-creation process, and it has been necessary to re-adapt the co-design process in order to continue with citizen participation, by means of new channels and platforms for dialogue, interaction and co-creation. The current state of the co-design phase involves synergies between the physical and the digital.
The URBiNAT internal procedure for co-development of the co-creation process focuses on a strategy of continuous improvement (URBiNAT, 2019b). This is set to evolve further over the course of the project and involves building on the continued engagement of citizens and stakeholders in the Living Labs and the URBiNAT CoP (Fig. 5.12).
The initial overview of the URBiNAT program (Pi) defines a clear process, designed according to expert experience and project goals, objectives and milestones. The initial participatory design programme is structured according to the four main stages of the co-creation process. The initial actions and activities (Pi a (1…n)) were identified, which mainly focused on the first stage of co-diagnostics. The selected actions and activities were run and designed in each of the URBiNAT Frontrunner cities, Porto being considered the pilot case study.
As URBiNAT is using an internal co-creation approach, we focus on continuously sharing and co-evaluating the results achieved from the initial program (Pi a(r)) between all partners and cities. The main goal of this co-evaluation is to give feedback for improvement and to ensure broad applicability as well as the adaptability of the program. Both research in the field and citizens themselves are continuously providing us with new challenges, ideas and research questions, causing us to look for more information and bring new insights to the co-creation sessions.
These co-evolution sessions help us improve the programme, and to take on board the feedback and challenges provided from the field and by citizens. As a result of this process, we define a new working program (Pw1) and also re-define the following actions and activities for the Frontrunner cities and change the initial program (Pi) for the Follower cities. The protocol is repeated as many times as we have questions from citizens and new challenges are raised, in order for our co-evaluation to find points for improvement. COVID-19 restrictions are increasing this circular process, due to the outbreaks that have already impacted URBiNAT cities. In this sense, the adaptability and flexibility of the project was tested several times over the last year.