Practices

SubUrbanLab project: Assessment of the suitability of different Urban Living Labs methods for modernisation and social upgrading actions

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Urban Living Labs are development environments that integrate residents and other stakeholders to develop and test new solutions in their daily life. The users of the new services or solutions are active partners in the whole development process, which happens in the real urban context. Urban Living Labs utilize various co-design methods for understanding the needs, generating solution ideas, presenting ideas and evaluating the solutions in practice. In addition, citizen participation methods are used for participation in decision making and taking action.

 

This report presents the Urban Living Lab methods used in the project. The aims, set-up and outcome of the methods are presented and suitability of the methods for the modernisation and social upgrading actions in the project is discussed. This report focuses, however, on the participatory methods separately. A more detailed evaluation and analysis of the living lab approach, its suitability and impacts, including also the utilisation and suitability of the used participatory methods as a part of it, is presented in project report 4.1/4.2 Evaluation of the Urban Living Labs in Alby and Peltosaari.

 

The methods that were most frequently used for involving stakeholders in the Urban Living Lab activities of this project were interviews, questionnaires and workshops (face-to-face). This was due to the characteristics of the planned activities and the target groups to be engaged. For example in Peltosaari, the initial interviews indicated that the residents will probably not be able to be reached via online methods. This preconception was further strengthened by the resident questionnaire results. The social media tools and the events arranged for school children were introduced during the project and they seemed promising in reaching new groups of residents but it is too early to assess their influence on engaging people into participatory activities.

 

The expectations of the outcome of the methods were, in most cases, met. Even when the number of participants was smaller than aimed at, it usually turned out that the result was nevertheless good. A great concern is representativeness of the involved group in cases where it is essential. The emphasis on the participatory activities in the ULLs of this study was on "Understanding people and issues" and "Generating ideas" which is reflected by the selected methods. A drawback of the traditional methods (e.g. workshops, interviews) is that they are quite laborious to set up. New methods and approaches should be further developed, explored and trialled with but that is impeded by the practical constraints: There are less risks in utilising methods that a facilitator has experience earlier on and therefore is easier to estimate the needed resources. Also, participants are often more comfortable in participating in methods that are already familiar to them. If a new method fails when participants have been recruited, the chance for involving them may then be completely lost.

 

Based on the experiences from the study, the following topics for further research and development related to ULL methods were highlighted:

 

- Enabling effortless interaction in development activities through embedded technology solutions

- Approaches for engaging people who are not used to participation and those who are in risk of segregation

- Potential differences resulting from using online- and face-to-face -methods