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Citizens and urban policy makers are experimenting with collaborative ways to tackle wicked urban issues, such as today’s sustainability challenges. In this article, we consider one particular way of collaboration in an experimental setting: Urban Living Labs (ULLs). ULLs are understood as spatially embedded sites for the co-creation of knowledge and solutions by conducting local experiments. As such, ULLs are supposed to offer an arena for reflexive, adaptive, and multi-actor learning environments, where new practices of self-organisation and novel (infra-)structures can be tested within their real-world context. Yet, it remains understudied how the co-creation of knowledge and practices actually takes place within ULLs, and how co-creation unfolds their impacts. Hence, this paper focuses on co-creation dynamics in urban living labs, its associated learning and knowledge generation, and how these possibly contribute to urban sustainability transitions. We analysed empirical data from a series of in-depth interviews and were actively involved with ULLs in the Rotterdam-The Hague region in the Netherlands. Our findings show five distinct types of co-creation elements that relate to specific dynamics of participation, facilitation, and organization. We conclude with a discussion on the ambivalent role of contextualised knowledge and the implications for sustainability transitions.
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sustainability
Article
Co-Creation Dynamics in Urban Living Labs
Emma Puerari 1, 2, *ID , Jotte I. J. C. de Koning 1,2 ID , Timo von Wirth 2, Philip M. Karré3,4 ID ,
Ingrid J. Mulder 1ID and Derk A. Loorbach 2
1Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University of Technology, 2628 CE Delft, The Netherlands;
jotte.dekoning@tudelft.nl (J.I.J.C.d.K.); i.j.mulder@tudelft.nl (I.J.M.)
2Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT), Erasmus University Rotterdam,
3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands; vonwirth@drift.eur.nl (T.v.W.); loorbach@drift.eur.nl (D.A.L.)
3Research Group City Dynamics, Inholland University of Applied Sciences,
3072 AG Rotterdam, The Netherlands; karre@essb.eur.nl
4Department of Public Administration and Sociology (DPAS), Erasmus University Rotterdam,
3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands
*Correspondence: e.puerari@tudelft.nl; Tel.: +31-(0)15-278-7166
Received: 26 April 2018; Accepted: 4 June 2018; Published: 6 June 2018
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Abstract:
Citizens and urban policy makers are experimenting with collaborative ways to tackle
wicked urban issues, such as today’s sustainability challenges. In this article, we consider one
particular way of collaboration in an experimental setting: Urban Living Labs (ULLs). ULLs are
understood as spatially embedded sites for the co-creation of knowledge and solutions by
conducting local experiments. As such, ULLs are supposed to offer an arena for reflexive, adaptive,
and multi-actor
learning environments, where new practices of self-organization and novel (infra-)
structures can be tested within their real-world context. Yet, it remains understudied how the
co-creation of knowledge and practices actually takes place within ULLs, and how co-creation
unfolds their impacts. Hence, this paper focuses on co-creation dynamics in urban living labs,
its associated learning and knowledge generation, and how these possibly contribute to urban
sustainability transitions. We analyzed empirical data from a series of in-depth interviews and were
actively involved with ULLs in the Rotterdam-The Hague region in the Netherlands. Our findings
show five distinct types of co-creation elements that relate to specific dynamics of participation,
facilitation, and organization. We conclude with a discussion on the ambivalent role of contextualized
knowledge and the implications for sustainability transitions.
Keywords:
sustainability transitions; urban innovation; participatory design and planning practices;
co-creation; experimentation; Rotterdam
1. Introduction
Nowadays, citizens and urban policy makers are experimenting with new collaborative
approaches to tackle persistent urban issues, such as climate change adaptation, quality of life,
and urban inequalities [
1
,
2
]. Regular policy-centric approaches fail to address the root causes of
such complex persistent problems; practices in the existing urban regimes are not able to give answers
to the new demands and needs arising from these problems. Hence, new approaches are explored
that help to ensure that the city is and remains a healthy place to live, providing a high quality of
life, without depleting natural resources. In search for more effective action plans, citizens, public
institutions, private sector, and knowledge institutions are increasingly teaming up in formal and
informal networks. Such networks address various urban development topics, aimed at weaving
different types of knowledge together while differing in their socio-spatial contexts and respective
purposes. The emergence of these new urban networks is driven by two major trends. On the one hand,
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893; doi:10.3390/su10061893 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 2 of 18
for decades, public bodies have been opening up towards different participation practices, described
as governance through communities, ‘third way’ approaches [
3
], public-private-partnerships [
4
],
or public-private-people partnerships [
5
]. On the other hand, the various urban actors outside the
government have become more vocal and assertive. They do not only want to contribute to tackling
social problems, but also expect and demand to be heard and take action themselves if they are
dissatisfied with policy responses. In many cases, citizens, social entrepreneurs, and other societal
actors do not wait for help or consensus of public bodies, but they take matters into their own hands
and act. These emerging societal responses to urban challenges are characterized by the engagement of
various public, knowledge, and non-governmental organizations, and citizens and social movements
directly, and offer potentially effective and fruitful contexts for the development and implementation
of products, services, plans, or policies [
6
]. Several examples of urban activism are arising around the
world, as illustrated in the contexts of urban regeneration, do-it-yourself urbanism, public space and
housing [7,8], place-making [9], and civic ecology practices [10].
The strong need for collaboration across institutional boundaries is highlighted by the actors’
willingness to combine different types of knowledge to better deal with complex issues, exploring
visions, possibilities, and finding agreements between the different parties involved [
11
,
12
]. However,
urban actors from different societal domains and sectors still do not necessarily meet, understand
each other, or cooperate immediately. They often engage only with those actors from their own social
networks, professional backgrounds, institutional settings, or spatial contexts. These social and spatial
disconnections have been identified as a key barrier to new collaborative forms of developing urban
futures. Some scholars state that suitable spaces and transition arenas for collaborative forms of urban
governance are required, where the connections among actors can be established and the boundaries
between sectors, interests, and contexts are subject to further exploration [
13
,
14
]. An emerging form of
such arenas are the Living Labs in cities [15], also known as Urban Living Labs (ULLs).
ULLs currently proliferate across European cities, and they are claimed to be a particular form
of spatially embedded sites for learning, as well as for the co-creation of knowledge, products,
technologies, and service innovations in local experiments [
16
]. Experimenting in urban laboratories is
seen as an instrument for urban and territorial innovation, being able to offer space for adaptive and
multi-actor learning environments. Within this real-world context, new practices of self-organization
and (infra-) structures can be tested [
17
19
]. Moreover, ULLs are intended to promote the collaboration
between a variety of actors and, with their experimental sites, are also considered to have value for
long-term sustainability transitions [
20
]. Despite recent theoretical and empirical explorations of the
ULL concept, some aspects are still understudied, such as its theoretical underpinning, the mechanisms
and procedures of ULLs to facilitate effective interventions that create impact in cities and beyond,
as well as their potential to become co-creative transformative arenas. More precisely, the role and
characteristics of co-creation, as an inherent element of these three understudied issues, needs more
attention. Hence, this paper addresses the essential role of co-creation in ULLs as multi-actor processes
of developing and experimenting with new strategies, agendas, and actions towards sustainable cities.
First, the paper unravels five elements that characterize co-creation and illustrates them by examining
six different real-life cases of ULLs. The goal is to reflect upon co-creation and the related issues
within ULLs, and to better understand how they can potentially be effective instruments and become
mechanisms for systemic and institutional change.
We will continue this introduction with a literature review on ULLs and co-creation, combining
different domains and disciplines. Section 2presents our methodological approach and the empirical
data of six different ULLs that were studied in the Rotterdam-The Hague region, in The Netherlands.
Section 3presents the analysis of the data in relation to the co-creation dynamics presented in Section 2.
Section 4highlight crucial points of reflection and identify directions for future research.
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 3 of 18
1.1. The Concept of (Urban) Living Labs
Over the last years, several scholars have been active in identifying the potential and the
challenges of Urban Living Labs (ULLs) [
18
,
21
]. ULLs [
22
] have been understood as geographically
embedded, context-driven environments, in which user-centered research and development activities
are carried out in an open innovation ecosystem, with the aim of experimenting and learning based on
multi-stakeholder partnerships that are framed within a specific socio-spatial boundary
(e.g., a city
or a neighborhood context) [
14
,
20
]. ULLs can be both collaborations settled with the purpose of
experimentation, as well as collaborations arising from new forms of urban insurgent activism
(i.e., social entrepreneurs, civic volunteers, grass roots initiatives).
The concept of ULLs is derived from the broader Living Labs concept. Living Labs were designed
to open up the innovation process, mainly within the corporate sector, to involve other actors. The focus
of these early Living Labs was on how end users experience products and services in their daily life
context. Their aim was to make their design a user-centric process, as opposed to a product-centric
process. Living Labs emerged from a need for new methods, as well as new settings, that allowed
further integration of the work of some frontrunners; those that were exploring open innovation
theory [
23
], the ‘prosumer’ concept as a key actor of the markets in the Web 2.0 era [
24
], and the
‘lead users paradigm’ [
25
]. The idea of Living Labs was originally developed at the end of the
1990s at the MIT Media Lab by computer science scholars. The concept complemented user-driven,
human-centered, and participatory approaches to design challenges. For example, Living Labs were
employed for exploring human-computer interactions in the implementation of technologies based
on the involvement of users (firms, organizations, and consumers) in the design process. These early
applications of the concept stimulated a variety of reviews of the different design methodologies used
within Living Labs [2628].
Nowadays, several definitions of the concept of Living Labs exist, but commonly they are
understood as using several methodologies and tools aimed at the co-creation of innovative solutions
(i.e., products and services) in real world environments with users, who meet in real life contexts and
share experiences, while envisioning their own future [
27
,
29
]. Often the concept of Living Labs refers
to a “multi-stakeholder platform as a (voluntary or statutory) body, comprising different stakeholders,
who perceive the same problem, realize their own respective interdependencies, and come together
to agree on the best action strategies for solving it” [
30
] (p. 133). Living Labs consider people not
only as users or consumers in a narrow sense, but as direct contributors to or co-creators in an
innovation process. The aim is to move from Triple Helix [
31
] to the Quadruple Helix [
32
] co-creation,
where public and knowledge institutions collaborate not only with private bodies, but also with civil
society to innovate services and products. The actors within Living Labs test innovative solutions
on a daily basis, allowing for observation of innovation processes in self-organized [
33
] real-world
environments where people play different roles. Some authors focus on the role of different actors in
co-creation processes to identify different types of Labs, referring to the principal promoter or to the
most active participant [27].
Svensson et al. [
34
], in line with the European Network of Living Labs (ENOLL), consider a
Living Lab not only as a methodology, but also as an organization, an environment, a system in itself,
where innovation might take place. Recently, the concept of Living Labs is expanding, from research
contexts at knowledge institutions or in private sector research and development, towards complex
socio-spatial contexts [
24
]. The recent attention for Living Labs in urban environments comes from the
fact that within Living Labs, collaboration happens in a real-life setting and expected outcomes (e.g.,
products, processes, learning) are emerging within the participants’ daily life. In this sense, they are
considered potential triggers of innovation in urban environments. It has been demonstrated that
Urban Living Labs contribute significantly to the production of local knowledge in relation to the
development of relational capital [
35
], which is of importance for experimentation with new practices,
relationships, and governance arrangements. Hence, ULLs stimulate processes of reflection and
questioning, triggered by “experimentations [that] may induce changes in individual and collective
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 4 of 18
mental models, transforming the feedback and results of the trials into sources of behavioral change
and learning for systemic change” [
36
] (p. 761). In this way, ULLs may create changes that are valuable
for a group of people and pressure existing regimes, but it is not yet demonstrated how and if they
contribute to changing the overall system. Mulder and Stappers [
24
] pointed out that Living Labs
could make far better use of the promised ecological validity of a community-driven innovation
approach. This is especially relevant for the understanding of ULLs. However, research that describes
actual co-creation practices in ULLs is still hard to find, even though scholars do address this issue and
mention co-creation as a typical value of ULLs.
For Bergvall-Kareborn and Stahlbrost [
37
], co-creating sustainable values is the aim of a Living
Lab. They regard it as a user-centric innovation milieu built on every-day practices and research that
facilitates interaction, engaging all relevant partners in real-life contexts. Here, co-creation is not only
a methodology to achieve (product, service, or process) innovation, but a way to create values that
are shared between participants. Hence, (Urban) Living Labs are not only places where people come
together that share the same values, but also a means for the co-creation of shared values [
38
] that
might activate innovation and broader systemic change. Due to the complexity arising from the social
infrastructure within different multi-helix consortia, different co-creation dynamics emerge, which we
will describe in this article based on observations made in ULL in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
This introduction continues with an exploration of the term co-creation and its key elements.
1.2. The Concept of Co-Creation
A widely accepted generic and literal definition of co-creation is ‘making something together’.
However, when the term is specified in more detail, a common conceptual agreement is not
apparent [
39
]. The understandings range from a business and customer centric logic [
40
,
41
], focused
on mutual value creation through specific interactions, to a focus on creating partnerships in public
service delivery with citizens [
42
] as well as relations of joint responsibility [
43
]. Considering the
context in which this research is done, the latter direction seems more fitting. However, the body of
literature coming from the field of business and marketing has produced a variety of methods and
understanding of co-creation that are equally valuable. Hence, both bodies of literature are taken into
account in this section.
Nowadays, co-creation has become an almost ‘magical concept’ [
44
] that is assumed to be able
to achieve a variety of positive effects. It is said to be able to reform the public sector [
42
] to enable
creativity and stimulate innovative solutions [
45
48
], as well as to make change processes more effective
and meaningful [
49
,
50
]. Co-creation is currently used in several sectors, such as urban and regional
planning, public management, transition studies, design, and innovation. Given this diversity of
application contexts, there is a differentiated understanding of the constituting elements of co-creation
and a need to find appropriate ways of how to study their dynamics in practice. In this section,
we identify five common elements of co-creation based on a review of the comprehensive literature on
the subject. These are (1) the purpose of the co-creation; (2) formal and informal co-creation; (3) the
ownership of the co-creation process; (4) the motivation and incentives for co-creation; and (5) the
places/spaces of co-creation.
The first element of co-creation described in the literature is the purpose of the co-creation.
In the urban planning domain, already described in Friedman [
51
], participation (or co-creation)
and empowerment became goals to be attained, rather than methods to be used [
6
]. According
to communicative planning perspectives, participation is at the roots of planning [
52
55
]. To plan,
according to this view, is to communicate, argue, debate, and engage in discourse for the purpose
of aligning attention and defining the possibilities for action [
12
]. Co-creation can have two distinct
goals here. The primary purpose of the co-creation can be making together [
56
], a situation where
people work together towards a goal or output of a product, service, or process innovation. Or it can
be learning together, a situation where people collaborate towards building knowledge, learn from one
another, and create networks between people. Frequently, both goals are sought after simultaneously,
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 5 of 18
though often one of them prevails. In addition, the innovation subject of making or learning can vary.
The innovation spectrum is categorized by different levels in various fields. In systems engineering,
often four levels are identified: The system, subsystems, element, and component [
57
]. In the context of
the Transition management framework, it is distinguished between the landscape, system innovations,
process innovations, and product innovations [
58
]. In the design domain, the levels can be referred
to as the societal system, socio-technical system, product-service system, and product-technology
system [
57
]. When making is the primary purpose, often a specific innovation goal or output is
sought after. In the service marketing or product development literature, this is also referred to as the
envisioned value creation. In the case of learning as the primary purpose, co-creation is more focused
on creating knowledge and innovation and changes on the levels of the socio-technical or societal
system. This can be connected to the purpose of the co-creation being participation itself. However,
the link between knowledge production and learning, as well as the link between the purpose of ULLs
and their effects on the different systems, is not obvious and needs to be explored in practice.
Second, the literature describes forms of formal and informal co-creation. This is also related to
the intensity of engagement: Heavily engaged versus short-term engaged [
59
]. Formal co-creation
refers to processes that are deliberately set up by the initiator(s), which can be one stakeholder
or a group of stakeholders. Such co-creation processes are characterized by defined procedural
steps, timing, participants, and audiences. This also encompasses the often-discussed selected or
non-selected forms of participation. With formal co-creation, the participants are often selected, since
it considers specific people (e.g., lead-users, frontrunners) valuable for co-creation activities [
60
,
61
].
On the other hand, informal co-creation refers to processes of collaboration that emerge out of shared
goals or the necessity to work together. These can, but do not necessarily have to, turn into formal
co-creation processes. Selecting participants requires extra effort to identify and invite the right
people, and is challenged with questions of broader legitimacy [
62
]. Informal co-creation processes
are often characterized by less official planning, non-selected participation, short-term engagement,
as well as practices and rules that unfold over time. Non-selected participation considers everyone
as potential valuable participants [
63
,
64
]. It requires less efforts of identifying and selection, because
broad samples of stakeholders can be addressed. However, it can be challenged with change-averse
perspectives and legitimacy resistance [
65
]. Additionally, there is often a greater need to find stimuli
to motivate participants to contribute and to be involved, since they are not specifically selected for
certain motivations, ideas, or shared values [
66
,
67
]. In the urban context, this relates to the city as a
complex system that reaches a level of internal organization that is always (with different degrees)
beyond people’s direct control [
68
]. It has emergent and unintentional characteristics that are the
result of processes of self-organization [
69
,
70
]. Hence, those self-organization processes might give
rise to interactions and co-creation process that are not the result of planned procedures, but the
result of unplanned action. Therefore, co-creation in cities will always consist of a certain degree
of informality [71].
The third element of co-creation is the ownership of the co-creation process. Conducting processes
of co-creation requires specific skills, such as defining different roles, stepping in and stepping out of
these roles and processes, and providing the right tools at the right moment to the right people [
72
].
Depending on who is providing these roles, the co-creation process will differ in set-up and thus has
consequences for the practices. If there is a clear initiator group, this group will probably dominate the
practices and rules of the co-creation process. If the group of initiators wants to open up the procedure
to a broader group, to share ownership, more deliberation is needed along the way to create consensus
on how co-creation will be practiced [
73
,
74
]. This requires additional co-creative steps in which it is
discussed how each and every one envisions the co-creation, as well as more time for aligning the
views of the different participants.
Fourth, is the element of motivations and incentives for co-creation. Co-creation processes
involve several types of costs (i.e., time, monetary investments, management etc.). To be engaged in
such processes, individuals compare these costs to the benefits they get in return [
75
]. Participants’
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 6 of 18
motivation to engage relates to their goals, resources, and expectations of the value of the outcomes [
76
].
This includes motivations beyond the monetary ones [
77
]; social, cultural, technical, and psychological
factors also all play a role [
78
]. One common distinction in motivations is between intrinsic and extrinsic
motivation [
76
]. Intrinsic motivation refers to the motivation to engage in an activity primarily for
people’s own sake, without obvious external stimuli. In contrast, extrinsic motivation is activated by
the intention of obtaining a desired outcome or avoiding an undesired one. It is associated with external
incentives, such as monetary compensation, or recognition by others, separate from the activity itself.
In co-creation processes, incentives can be very concrete and clear for all parties, but there are also
situations where the benefits are less tangible, unclear, or not equal for all participants. In the policy
making arena, this is acknowledged as plurality of interests. When the interests or benefits (especially
the extrinsically motivated ones) are characterized by plurality, it might be difficult to motivate those
groups of people for whom the benefits are less clear. For example, when co-creation is practiced as a
form of feedback or test situation, when there is no shared ownership, or no direct apparent change for
all participants. In these cases, it is not uncommon that the initiator (often a firm or government actor)
provides a compensation, discount, or offering to lower the threshold for participation [79].
Fifth, is the element of spaces and places for co-creation. Co-creation does not take place in a
vacuum, but always occurs within socio-spatial contexts. Hence, this element closely connects to
the literature on place-based innovation. The concept of place-based innovation is related to the
development of industrial clusters and districts, as well as to the literature on regional development
and policy innovation [
80
,
81
]. The connection between innovation and its spaces became a case for
the analysis of the specific conditions for innovation to appear. In the studied cases, proximity is
the relevant condition that facilitate the interaction and access between actors that bring innovative
ideas and resources [
82
]. However, spaces and places are also catalysts of interactive learning and
innovation [
83
]. Place-based innovation is claimed to lead to “the wide adoption of ideas developed as
resources and behavioral guidelines by and from situated communities of innovation” [
84
] (p. 2194).
Creating the physical (and mental) spaces for learning and experimenting is a necessary condition
for fundamental change [
85
]. Spaces and places facilitate visionary collaborations for making and
learning together through co-creation practices [
86
]. They enable collaborating actors to systematically
and deliberately explore solutions across sectorial boundaries. Moreover, they constitute interventions
within socio-spatial contexts themselves. Spaces and places of co-creation are found to affect their
socio-spatial environment, e.g., by providing meeting places, creating visibility for local sustainability
issues [87], or by becoming “vehicles for innovation in urban planning processes” [88] (p. 89).
To conclude, taken together, these five elements influence the overall dynamics that are associated
with co-creation. The five individual elements do not completely stand alone, they interact, relate,
and influence each other. They should be regarded as a basis for understanding co-creation in practice,
as will be done in this paper for the specific case of ULLs. In the next section, our methodological
approach and empirical data are presented.
2. Research Context and Method
The context of this research is the city of Rotterdam, the second largest city in the Netherlands.
To promote experimentations within the city, the Rotterdam local government has taken various
actions, while following broader European policy directions and funding schemes [22].
For example, the last coalition agreement within the municipal cabinet [
89
] promotes
experimentation as a valuable strategy to enhance participation and to stimulate innovation in
policy-making towards (social) sustainability. The contextual conditions allow several Urban Living
Labs to emerge, being active in different domains and on various topics [
90
]. Within six of these
ULLs operating in the city, the elements of co-creation were studied. The six ULLS were selected for
representing a richness and complexity of the context (as they are dealing with a variety of urban issues),
while maintaining a manageable amount of cases allowing a significant analysis of the co-creation
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 7 of 18
elements. In addition, the selection of these ULLs is based on representing different dynamics of the
five elements of co-creation.
A series of in-depth, semi-structured interviews was conducted with key stakeholders of the
five selected ULLs. The sixth ULL was studied through active participation of one of the authors
(P.M. Karré); he is one of the coordinators of the urban knowledge lab ‘Kenniswerkplaats Leefbare
Wijken’. The interviewees were representatives of different societal domains: Civil society (n= 5),
social enterprises (n= 3), knowledge institutes (n= 2), and civil servants (n= 4). The interviews
were carried out in Rotterdam between December 2016 and May 2017, and were structured around
five main topics: (1) The objectives and motivations of the Lab; (2) the type of collaboration and
participation taking place; (3) the main challenges that they had/have; (4) problems and resistance
that they had/have; and (5) their relation with the physical and social environment. The interviews
lasted between 45 and 90 min each. All interviews were recorded with consent of the interviewees and
fully transcribed for further data analysis. Data was then analyzed with a mixed method approach
that included the primary data sources from the transcribed interviews and secondary data provided
for the Labs. The analysis of the data focused on the five elements for characterizing co-creation. First,
the authors collected quotes from the interviews in relation to the five elements of co-creation. Then,
they described each ULL in relation to the five selected elements. Afterwards, a comparative analysis
of these descriptions was developed in relation to each element of co-creation. The existing dynamics
of collaboration in the ULL were decoded, as well as the issues and challenges related to them.
2.1. The Case Studies
Following, we describe the six selected ULLs (See Figure 1) according to their set-up, process, and
timeline of their development, as well as the main theme they refer to and the problem they respond
to. After that, we will describe the results of the analysis of the co-creation elements within these six
selected ULLs.
Sustainability 2018, 10, x FOR PEER REVIEW 7 of 18
enterprises (n = 3), knowledge institutes (n = 2), and civil servants (n = 4). The interviews were carried
out in Rotterdam between December 2016 and May 2017, and were structured around five main
topics: (1) The objectives and motivations of the Lab; (2) the type of collaboration and participation
taking place; (3) the main challenges that they had/have; (4) problems and resistance that they
had/have; and (5) their relation with the physical and social environment. The interviews lasted
between 45 and 90 minutes each. All interviews were recorded with consent of the interviewees and
fully transcribed for further data analysis. Data was then analyzed with a mixed method approach
that included the primary data sources from the transcribed interviews and secondary data provided
for the Labs. The analysis of the data focused on the five elements for characterizing co-creation. First,
the authors collected quotes from the interviews in relation to the five elements of co-creation. Then,
they described each ULL in relation to the five selected elements. Afterwards, a comparative analysis
of these descriptions was developed in relation to each element of co-creation. The existing dynamics
of collaboration in the ULL were decoded, as well as the issues and challenges related to them.
2.1. The Case Studies
Following, we describe the six selected ULLs (See Figure 1) according to their set-up, process,
and timeline of their development, as well as the main theme they refer to and the problem they
respond to. After that, we will describe the results of the analysis of the co-creation elements within
these six selected ULLs.
Figure 1. Map of the city of Rotterdam with the six Urban Living Labs (ULLs) mapped.
2.1.1. Kenniswerkplaats Leefbare Wijken
The Urban Knowledge Lab (a literal translation of the Dutch word kenniswerkplaats) was
established in 2012 as part of a strategic partnership between Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)
and the municipality of Rotterdam. The lab acts as a knowledge broker between municipality and
university and works through the co-creation of knowledge with real-life problems as a starting
point. Its aim is to help the municipality to develop evidence-based policy concerning quality of life
issues in urban neighborhoods (i.e., social cohesion in ethnically diverse residential areas, new ways
to tackle crime). The Kenniswerkplaats is run by a steering committee, formed by representatives of
both municipality and university that sets the research agenda of the lab. They are supported by a
program committee, a broader group of civil servants from various municipal departments, and
researchers from various academic disciplines.
Figure 1. Map of the city of Rotterdam with the six Urban Living Labs (ULLs) mapped.
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 8 of 18
2.1.1. Kenniswerkplaats Leefbare Wijken
The Urban Knowledge Lab (a literal translation of the Dutch word kenniswerkplaats) was
established in 2012 as part of a strategic partnership between Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR)
and the municipality of Rotterdam. The lab acts as a knowledge broker between municipality and
university and works through the co-creation of knowledge with real-life problems as a starting point.
Its aim is to help the municipality to develop evidence-based policy concerning quality of life issues in
urban neighborhoods (i.e., social cohesion in ethnically diverse residential areas, new ways to tackle
crime). The Kenniswerkplaats is run by a steering committee, formed by representatives of both
municipality and university that sets the research agenda of the lab. They are supported by a program
committee, a broader group of civil servants from various municipal departments, and researchers
from various academic disciplines.
2.1.2. Marconia
Marconia is a cooperative that is located on a 30,000 m
2
old marshalling yard close to a harbor area
of Rotterdam. In 2013, a small group of pioneers and entrepreneurs developed a plan to set up a lab for
experimenting on this piece of land; experimenting for different social, as well as urban, development
structures for public use. The municipality apportioned the terrain to the cooperative for a period of
10 years. The cooperative then called out to individuals or groups of entrepreneurs, civil servants,
knowledge institutes, and citizens (the whole quadruple helix) to come and experiment on this rugged
piece of land: To use it as a test bed, to build structures, and to inspire for future developments in the
whole of the Netherlands.
2.1.3. Zorgvrijstaat
Zorgvrijstaat is an association that aims to give health assistance, mainly psychological and
psychiatric, based on neighborhood structures. The association was founded in 2013 in response to a
public reform of the health system that shifted the management of health services from national to local
provinces and city councils. The association was founded by a core team of four health professionals
that slowly grew. Now, the association collaborates with many professionals active in psychiatric
and psychological assistance, but most of them participate in informal ways. They collaborate with
knowledge institutes that study the innovation of psychiatric systems and practice. Additionally,
the core team tried to officially involve some private insurance companies, but failed. They also work
with a selection of people at the political level and some local civil servants, but this is mainly on a
voluntary or informal basis.
2.1.4. Concept House Village Lab
Concept House Village Lab operates as a test-bed for sustainable building technologies and
innovative approaches to building retrofitting in the area of Heijplaat in Rotterdam. This Lab is a
place where innovative houses, products, and systems are tested together with and by the (temporary)
occupants, while experimenting with new approaches of urban development. The occupant is seen
as key in co-designing the neighborhood development and using the technologies in the prototype
houses. The Lab tests and experiments with concept houses, which incorporates the full sustainable
building construction and demolition cycle, within mixed-use neighborhood settings. Two universities,
the building industry, branch organizations, the local community, and the municipality of Rotterdam
joined into the Lab in order to construct and experience newly built prototype houses, and to learn
about new ways of renovating some of the existing houses. The lab emphasizes the role of shared
(lab-based) education and research to become a platform for sharing and speeding up innovations in
the sustainable building sector.
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 9 of 18
2.1.5. Mooi Mooier Middelland
In the neighborhood of Middelland, a group of citizens actively criticized the policy (specifically
safety regulations) that the local government carried and developed for their neighborhood. This group
of activists challenged the municipality and a new approach was sought that would be a co-creative
development between all stakeholders in the neighborhood. This resulted in Mooi Mooier Middelland:
An experiment with co-creation between citizens and the municipality, financed with seven million
euros for a period of three years. The goal of the program is to improve the quality of living,
through physical improvements of public places and spaces, as well as building social structures
in the neighborhood. The program operates with specific working groups on different topics, including
both citizens and entrepreneurs in the area, as well as civil servants. Later in the process, a knowledge
institute was also involved to perform an intermediate evaluation.
2.1.6. Blue City Lab
Blue City Lab is a Lab located at an iconic site, an abandoned swimming pool in the city
of Rotterdam, since 2015. The building now functions as a platform for co-creation, events,
and experiments with blue and circular economy initiatives. The lab activities emerged from the
engagement of several start-up entrepreneurs that were testing new approaches to reuse food waste.
The iconic building acted as a beneficial platform to leverage and engage other start-ups that were
testing new approaches to reduce and reuse different types of waste. The building itself is now
a symbol that promotes the circular and blue economy within the city, aiming to create a broader
network of circular economy startups. The re-use of such an iconic building was possible thanks to a
philanthropist investor who purchased it in 2015 and made it available for startups active on circular
economy issues.
3. Results
In the following paragraphs, the results of the comparative analysis carried out by the authors are
described using the five elements of co-creation described by the literature as conceptual lenses.
3.1. Purpose of the Co-Creation
The six Labs show clear differences in their purpose of value creation or innovation. Figure 2
shows the six ULLs mapped according to their innovation purpose. The purpose of some of the Labs is
more focused on learning together (Kenniswerkplaats, Zorgvrijstaat, and to some extent Mooi Mooier
Middelland and Blue City Lab), here the value creation is more focused on innovation of the societal
systems. These learning and knowledge development processes generate different values across
the case examples. For example, learning can be a means to acquire credibility and to demonstrate
that an alternative model is sustainable and feasible (Zorgvrijstaat); a means to expand research and
education networks (Concept House Village); or the purpose for which the stakeholders come together
(Kenniswerkplaats). Finally, it can be the way to include new actors within the cooperative, and also to
reach the people and institution that could help to improve the experiments and to reduce bureaucratic
issues in the future (Marconia, Mooi Mooier Middelland, and Blue City Lab). In other Labs, the value
creation is more focused on creating product and technology systems, here the purpose of co-creation
is primarily making together (Blue City Lab, Concept House Village, Marconia, and to some extent
Mooi Mooier Middelland).
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 10 of 18
Sustainability 2018, 10, x FOR PEER REVIEW 9 of 18
experiments with blue and circular economy initiatives. The lab activities emerged from the
engagement of several start-up entrepreneurs that were testing new approaches to reuse food waste.
The iconic building acted as a beneficial platform to leverage and engage other start-ups that were
testing new approaches to reduce and reuse different types of waste. The building itself is now a
symbol that promotes the circular and blue economy within the city, aiming to create a broader
network of circular economy startups. The re-use of such an iconic building was possible thanks to a
philanthropist investor who purchased it in 2015 and made it available for startups active on circular
economy issues.
3. Results
In the following paragraphs, the results of the comparative analysis carried out by the authors
are described using the five elements of co-creation described by the literature as conceptual lenses.
3.1. Purpose of the Co-Creation
The six Labs show clear differences in their purpose of value creation or innovation. Figure 2
shows the six ULLs mapped according to their innovation purpose. The purpose of some of the Labs
is more focused on learning together (Kenniswerkplaats, Zorgvrijstaat, and to some extent Mooi
Mooier Middelland and Blue City Lab), here the value creation is more focused on innovation of the
societal systems. These learning and knowledge development processes generate different values
across the case examples. For example, learning can be a means to acquire credibility and to
demonstrate that an alternative model is sustainable and feasible (Zorgvrijstaat); a means to expand
research and education networks (Concept House Village); or the purpose for which the stakeholders
come together (Kenniswerkplaats). Finally, it can be the way to include new actors within the
cooperative, and also to reach the people and institution that could help to improve the experiments
and to reduce bureaucratic issues in the future (Marconia, Mooi Mooier Middelland, and Blue City
Lab). In other Labs, the value creation is more focused on creating product and technology systems,
here the purpose of co-creation is primarily making together (Blue City Lab, Concept House Village,
Marconia, and to some extent Mooi Mooier Middelland).
Figure 2. Primary purpose of co-creation and subject of the innovation or value creation.
Figure 2. Primary purpose of co-creation and subject of the innovation or value creation.
3.2. Formal and Informal Co-Creation
For all the ULLs taken into consideration, participation takes place in both formal and informal
ways, but to different extends. We identify different forms of formal and informal co-creation between
three types of groups involved: The core group, the inner circle, and the outer circle (from left to right in
Figure 3). Within the core-group, which are mostly the initiators, co-creation is usually formalized and
settled by legal responsibilities in relation to the particular Lab. Second is the ‘inner circle’, represented
by the devoted people around the core-group, where semi-formalized forms of co-creation take place.
For some of the Labs, the formal co-creation between the core group and the inner circle are at the
core of their co-creation practices (Concept House Village, Kenniswerkplaats, Blue City Lab). People
from the inner circle are selected and non-selected, but often formally invited by the core-group as
users, experts, or entrepreneurs in different kind of settings, such as tenant, part of an advice group,
or participants in a workshops (lead-users, as Von Hippel [
60
] would call them). The people who
operate in the inner circle take an active role within the organization, but do not always have specific
legal and formal responsibilities or direct influence on the Lab’s strategy. Third, there is the outer circle,
with whom mostly informal co-creation takes place. This outer circle consists of people that are not
strongly nor officially connected to the ULL. This informal co-creation often takes place when the core
group tries to involve people from the ‘outer circle’, and to increase the participation of the outside
community (Marconia, Blue City Lab) or between all three groups of people (Zorgvrijsaat, Mooi Mooier
Middeland). These informal ways of co-creation take place when people visit the Labs (not necessary
on a regular basis), when people participate in the open events organized by the Labs, or through
people of different institutions that played a role in the rise or survival of the experiment. Co-creation
in this form can be considered more passive. However, for many of the Labs, these events and the
people that attend are crucial in expanding their ‘inner circle’ and forms of more formal co-creation
(Marconia, Mooi Mooier Middelland, Zorgvrijstaat, Blue City Lab). However, the results also show
that for some of the labs, the target and effort of the co-creation with the outer circle and the actual
co-creation taking place with the outer circle was not matching (see Figure 3).
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 11 of 18
Sustainability 2018, 10, x FOR PEER REVIEW 10 of 18
3.2. Formal and Informal Co-Creation
For all the ULLs taken into consideration, participation takes place in both formal and informal
ways, but to different extends. We identify different forms of formal and informal co-creation
between three types of groups involved: The core group, the inner circle, and the outer circle (from
left to right in Figure 3). Within the core-group, which are mostly the initiators, co-creation is usually
formalized and settled by legal responsibilities in relation to the particular Lab. Second is the ‘inner
circle’, represented by the devoted people around the core-group, where semi-formalized forms of
co-creation take place. For some of the Labs, the formal co-creation between the core group and the
inner circle are at the core of their co-creation practices (Concept House Village, Kenniswerkplaats,
Blue City Lab). People from the inner circle are selected and non-selected, but often formally invited
by the core-group as users, experts, or entrepreneurs in different kind of settings, such as tenant, part
of an advice group, or participants in a workshops (lead-users, as Von Hippel [60] would call them).
The people who operate in the inner circle take an active role within the organization, but do not
always have specific legal and formal responsibilities or direct influence on the Lab’s strategy. Third,
there is the outer circle, with whom mostly informal co-creation takes place. This outer circle consists
of people that are not strongly nor officially connected to the ULL. This informal co-creation often
takes place when the core group tries to involve people from the ‘outer circle’, and to increase the
participation of the outside community (Marconia, Blue City Lab) or between all three groups of
people (Zorgvrijsaat, Mooi Mooier Middeland). These informal ways of co-creation take place when
people visit the Labs (not necessary on a regular basis), when people participate in the open events
organized by the Labs, or through people of different institutions that played a role in the rise or
survival of the experiment. Co-creation in this form can be considered more passive. However, for
many of the Labs, these events and the people that attend are crucial in expanding their ‘inner circle’
and forms of more formal co-creation (Marconia, Mooi Mooier Middelland, Zorgvrijstaat, Blue City
Lab). However, the results also show that for some of the labs, the target and effort of the co-creation
with the outer circle and the actual co-creation taking place with the outer circle was not matching
(see Figure 3).
Figure 3. Target of the co-creation focus and actual reach in relation to the cases.
3.3. The Ownership of Co-Creation Process
In the different Labs, the initial ownership of the core-group always has a strong influence on
the co-creation. However, it can be seen that for some Labs, the ownership of co-creation processes
beyond the core-group did not extend as much. In some Labs, it is seen that the ownership of the
Figure 3. Target of the co-creation focus and actual reach in relation to the cases.
3.3. The Ownership of Co-Creation Process
In the different Labs, the initial ownership of the core-group always has a strong influence on the
co-creation. However, it can be seen that for some Labs, the ownership of co-creation processes beyond
the core-group did not extend as much. In some Labs, it is seen that the ownership of the process
mostly lies with the core group of initiators (Kenniswerkplaats, Concept House Village), and the other
two groups are invited or only informed about the process. In other Labs, it is seen that there is a
small core group of visionary leaders (Blue City Lab, Zorgvrijstaat, Marconia) that aim to inspire and
work to get an inner circle of people around them with the same vision. Often the focus is on getting
more people to join the inner circle and work towards the shared vision, sharing and opening up
the ownership. Here, it is seen that the vision-forming of the initiators and having a strong shared
idea of the future is crucial for co-creation without too much struggle. For other Labs, the focus of
the initiators is also to get the group of outer circle people into the co-creation process (Mooi Mooier
Middelland, Marconia most prominently, but also Concept House Village and Zorgvrijstaat). Here,
the ownership is not transferred or shared beyond the core-group, sometimes despite the efforts of
the core-group.
3.4. Motivations and Incentives for Co-Creation
The motivations and incentives for co-creation are closely related to the purpose of the co-creation.
This study shows that for the ULLs that are more concerned with societal systems (Kenniswerkplaats,
Zorgvrijstaat, and to some extent Mooi Mooier Middelland), the incentive is often a collective one,
with less direct benefits for a single individual, or less valuable without the network of the co-creation
group around. One of the drawbacks is that the benefits and learnings of these Labs are harder to
transfer to other Labs, or extend to larger parts of society. Thus, despite the fact that the outcomes
are often aimed at changing societal systems, it is also hard to actually transfer the benefits of these
learnings to people beyond the co-creation. However, intrinsic motivation for this larger societal and
contextual goal is often a great incentive to join. For the Labs that are more focused on product-service
systems or product-technology systems, (Blue City Lab, Concept House Village, Marconia. and to
some extent Mooi Mooier Middelland), it is seen that there are more direct individual incentives
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 12 of 18
for the participants. Here, the participants often work on their own developments or innovation,
but under a shared motivation or innovation umbrella, such as sustainability, circularity, inclusivity, etc.
The different individual results are all beneficial for the individuals producing them. Also, the benefits
of these innovation outcomes are often less context-dependent. The Lab, by providing the umbrella,
makes the individual benefits together stronger. The results of these Labs are often easily transferred
through demonstration and tangible products, possibly extending the motivation to others outside the
co-creation. For most of the studied Labs, the benefits gained by individuals are also highly dependent
on their intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, as well as to the commitment to a specific societal or
business goal, and their feeling of fulfilment when contributing to this goal. If their commitment to
these goals is high, the intrinsic motivation might be greater than when their motivation for the goal
is somewhat lower. A sense of fulfillment was often heard as a motivation to start or join a certain
ULL. The incentive of fulfillment is a very subjective outcome, and can be different for each individual
involved in a ULL, despite similar efforts in the co-creation.
3.5. Spaces and Places in Co-Creation
The Labs that make use of existing urban buildings and constructions actively shape the place’s
meaning and the socio-spatial context with the activities that they are running, both at the prominent
site and beyond. For example, Blue City makes use of an urban artifact, which is an old swimming
pool, to establish a symbolic locality of innovation. Becoming a place where innovation manifests
within a specific neighborhood is triggering the rise of new narratives about the place itself, and also
about the neighborhood. Both this Lab, and the ones that develop new buildings (Concept House
Village, Marconia), actively promote the collective benefits from the Lab activities for their respective
neighborhoods. The Lab’s activities create visibility and intend to motivate more actors to learn
about co-creation within such contexts. Those Labs that do not have a fixed building or space (Mooi
Mooier Middelland, Zorgvrijstaat, Kenniswerkplaats) struggle more in creating such place narratives.
The narratives that they do create, at least, are not strictly related to a place, and they are not as
easily recognizable as for the others. This is also causing more difficulties in reaching the outer
circle of co-creation (see Figure 2), and therefore the necessity to invest more time and energy in
engaging activities.
4. Discussion and Conclusions
The current study has been conducted to reflect upon the dynamics of co-creation within ULLs
by studying their constituting elements. Five main contributions can be derived that on the one
hand, reflect upon a more fine-grained understanding of co-creation in ULLs as multi-actor processes
of developing and experimenting with new strategies, agendas, and actions towards sustainable
cities; on the other hand, reflect upon the understanding of how ULLs as vehicles for co-creation can
potentially be effective instruments and become mechanisms for systemic and institutional change.
First, employing co-creation within ULLs is not only useful to facilitate discussions with the
purpose of aligning and defining the possibility of action in a decision-making process, as is largely
discussed in urban planning literature [
6
]. Employing co-creation can also be a means to broaden
collaboration, engagement, and empowerment of citizens [
12
]. Some of the cases in this work
show that the co-creation processes can be instrumental in reaching strategic goals (see Figure 2),
as well as
that citizens’ engagement can become a strategic goal in itself (see Figure 3). In addition,
the above-mentioned purposes of co-creation are not mutually exclusive, and they can be strongly
interlinked, serving one another. They expand the possibilities of producing solutions and common
goods developed through knowledge-processes, while increasing the sense of ownership [59].
Second, there is no clear correlation between a formal or informal set-up of co-creation, and the
involvement of specific groups active across the co-creation layers (core group, inner circle, and outer
circle, see Figure 3). The fact that formal and informal practices of co-creation can be observed within
the studied ULLs confirms that ULLs are open environments [
91
]. Within ULLs, co-creation practices
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 13 of 18
take place in different forms, including fluid forms of engagement that are not necessarily settled ‘a
priori’. In this sense, the three co-creation layers mentioned in this study highlight how the core group
and the inner circle participants are usually engaged in a long-term process, whereas the outer circle
participants are instead aiming for more short-term goals. For an extensive illustration of the dialectic
between the long-term and short-term concepts, we refer to the work by Fisher and colleagues [
59
].
However, the more formally set-up ULLs did not necessarily lack informal participation and/or
short-term engagement. Some of the more emerging ULLs that focused on more informal and
short-term engagements were often struggling more to establish these practices.
Third, the three groups active in the co-creation layers are hard to engage to the same extent
(see Figure 3). Scholars, in the last years, have been discussing the creative potential in co-creation
dynamics of lead-users’ and frontrunners’ initiatives, as opposed to considering everyone as a potential
participant [
63
,
64
]. Referring to this debate, the current study shows that lead-users and frontrunners
are often found in the core group, and to some extent in the inner circle. Individuals in the outer circle
are usually the focus of co-creation that considers everyone to be creative and a potential participant.
However, in the cases studied, this form of co-creation proved difficult to achieve. Intense links,
connections, and co-creation practices are in place when a core group consists of the driving actors of
the co-creation process, who are able to involve either participants from the inner circle, or from the
outer circle. When a combination of the three layers is present in the co-creation, the links between the
three groups are often less strong.
Fourth, the motivations in contributing to co-creation processes are strictly related to the sense
of ownership of the process.How and why individuals participate in the activities taking place
within the three different layers of co-creation (see Figure 3) is indeed connected to the benefits
they can obtain through doing so [
75
]. In this perspective, our findings highlight a mismatch in the
motivation of the core group participants, compared to the inner circle and the outer circle. It is hard
to transfer and extend the sense of ownership of ULLs beyond the core-groups, because the broader
co-creation practices in ULLs are often non-binding and largely dependent on voluntary efforts. Also,
the motivation or incentive to start a ULL is often linked to a sense of personal fulfillment, which is
not easy to transfer.
Fifth, the spaces and places of co-creation play an important role in stimulating the rise of
co-creation processes. Transforming iconic buildings into symbols of (sustainable) innovation produces
an attractive platform to facilitate co-creation. When a place is directly recognizable as a location where
innovative processes are happening, it attracts a broader audience, which again can trigger further
activities, even beyond the purpose of the ULL and its vision. This creates visibility for the lab and
motivates further actors to learn about co-creation within the lab’s context. The physical artifacts of
the ULL then become a source for inspiration and a site for demonstration, possibly activating others
to also initiate further making. Places of co-creation confirm to be potential drivers for the wider
adoption of ideas developed by situated communities [
84
]. Yet, particular places of experimenting
do not exclude niches from becoming accelerated or diffused to broader practices in different ways,
since context dependency is not necessarily a barrier to the diffusion of innovation. Innovation can
spread in multiple ways, e.g., by being adopted, translated, and adapted to other contexts. Nowadays,
for example, social media networks play a major role in spreading ideas across networks [
92
,
93
].
In fact, diverse factors, besides the territorial context, matter in enabling the emergence of certain niche
innovations [94] in a particular context and across locations.
These five contributions clearly highlight that ULLs themselves proofed to be potentially effective
instruments to bring different actors together in experimenting with new solutions around specific
issues or challenges. ULLs can both provide the platform for municipalities and public bodies to
develop new capacities and skills by working with local actors in a more exploratory, co-creative
manner with citizens, as well as for active citizens to become empowered and to play a larger role
within urban innovation and decision making processes. However, despite the fact that innovations
within ULLs are setup with a particular purpose, they might not necessarily be able to transform the
Sustainability 2018,10, 1893 14 of 18
existing structures at large. Only under certain conditions can ULLs be considered instruments for
a broader systemic and institutional change. The produced products, services, social connections,
and/or knowledge within a ULL, of course, need to be adopted and shared by communities and
citizens beyond the limited number of people directly involved in the ULL experimentations [
95
].
Co-creation dynamics may not only occur within a single lab, but also between ULLs. However, in the
cases we studied, this is not apparent, or at least not a common and embedded practice within the city
landscape boundaries.
In conclusion, as potential policy instruments, ULLs should serve as platforms to formulate policy
advice that builds on the knowledge produced and the related learning processes developed during
experimentations. As a consequence, the corresponding strategies and tools that ensure that such
adoption will happen need to be in place. For example, the existence of physical spaces for innovation
increases the visibility of the ULLs [
85
]. Indeed, the interactions between a ULL and its socio-spatial
context could be further supported by the existence of dedicated spaces and places for co-creation.
Moreover, the exploration of the existing motivation of an individual or a group to take part in a
co-creation process is a crucial point [
96
] to be explored further by policy makers in order to develop
corresponding incentive schemes aimed at sustaining such practices. Creating a city portfolio of ULLs,
or an urban labs ecosystem, would not only broaden the impact and visibility of each individual lab,
but would also enhance knowledge development and learning across different laboratories. This
could help small experiments develop to a more advanced stage, offering alternatives to existing
structures. Urban policy makers should consider ULLs more strategically as mechanisms for systemic
and institutional change, in order to escape persistent and path-dependent unsustainable urban
development processes. So far, ULLs are mostly seen as locally isolated initiatives, while embedding
ULLs in a more systemic transition strategy would enable the scaling and institutionalization of the
lesson learned. In a next step, they should be considered an effective policy instrument for developing
public support, and practical evidences for desired sustainability transitions. In this perspective, ULLs
could complement a broader range of instruments and approaches that nurture a more open and
inclusive culture of experimentation in future urban development.
Author Contributions:
E.P., J.I.J.C.d.K. and T.v.W. conducted and transcribed the interviews, for which they also
co-designed the questionnaire. E.P. and J.I.J.C.d.K conducted the literature review and evaluated the interview
data for the analysis. P.M.K. provided secondary data for the cases of Kenniswerkplaats and supported the analysis
and integration of this data. E.P., J.I.J.C.d.K., T.v.W., P.M.K., I.J.M., and D.A.L. wrote and revised the manuscript.
Acknowledgments:
The work done by Ingrid Mulder, Emma Puerari, Jotte de Koning, and Derk Loorbach has
been conducted in the context of the Participatory City Making project, which is granted in the research program
Research through Design with project number 14604, and (partly) financed by the Netherlands Organization for
Scientific Research (NWO) and Taskforce for Applied Research SIA. The consortium partners are Delft University
of Technology (TU Delft), Dutch Research Institute for Transition (DRIFT), Hogeschool Rotterdam, Gemeente
Rotterdam. Timo von Wirth was co-funded in the context of the European research project Governance of Urban
Sustainability Transitions (GUST), financed by the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) Urban Europe 2015–2017.
We would like to thank the members of the local initiatives, lab representatives, and civil servants from the local
government for their time during the interviews and active participation in the workshops. We would like to
especially thank Karlijn Schipper and Frank van Steenbergen (DRIFT) for their help in conducting some of the
interviews in relation to the Mooi Mooier Middeland case.
Conflicts of Interest:
The authors declare no conflict of interest. The founding sponsors had no role in the design
of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, and in the
decision to publish the results.
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... Crucially, academic literature on such spaces is burgeoning, largely focusing on the types of knowledge they produce, classifying them by process or output and being generally positive about their promissory potential. Scholars who engage with this new context reveal different typologies (Dekker et al., 2017;Steen and van Bueren, 2017;Bulkeley et al., 2018;Puerari et al., 2018), the participatory potential of labs, their relationship with the democratic ordering of society (Nyström et al., 2014;Evans, 2016;Engels et al., 2018), their transformative political power (Karvonen and van Heur, 2014;Evans, 2016) and their potential for governance, innovation and participatory engagement (Bulkeley and Castán Broto, 2013;Dekker et al., 2017;Steen and van Bueren, 2017;Bulkeley et al., 2018;Puerari et al., 2018). ...
... Crucially, academic literature on such spaces is burgeoning, largely focusing on the types of knowledge they produce, classifying them by process or output and being generally positive about their promissory potential. Scholars who engage with this new context reveal different typologies (Dekker et al., 2017;Steen and van Bueren, 2017;Bulkeley et al., 2018;Puerari et al., 2018), the participatory potential of labs, their relationship with the democratic ordering of society (Nyström et al., 2014;Evans, 2016;Engels et al., 2018), their transformative political power (Karvonen and van Heur, 2014;Evans, 2016) and their potential for governance, innovation and participatory engagement (Bulkeley and Castán Broto, 2013;Dekker et al., 2017;Steen and van Bueren, 2017;Bulkeley et al., 2018;Puerari et al., 2018). ...
... This political component becomes tangible in our analysis. The article, therefore, connects literature on urban imaginaries to debates on participation (Steen and van Bueren, 2017;Puerari et al., 2018) and experimental urban governance (Bulkeley and Castán Broto, 2013;Evans, 2016;Voytenko et al., 2016;Bulkeley et al., 2018), which have analysed urban labs as spaces that allow for, and actively encourage, citizen participation in their practices. We argue that a more nuanced understanding of lab practices will enrich these debates and provide a more critical and less romantic perspective on the urban lab as a participatory space by default. ...
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... Taken together, these features mean that LLs could conceivably serve as not only co-creative environments that foster collaborations that advance social change but also power-exercising arenas where dominant actors potentially impose their logics (Arnkil et al., 2010;Puerari et al., 2018). Understanding how LLs facilitate citizen inclusion in ways that challenge and change power relations between participants is therefore critical but underexplored (Hossain et al., 2019;Kronsell and Mukhtar-Landgren, 2018). ...
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... Additionally, other design approaches, such as living labs (e.g. Puerari et al., 2018), architectural exhibitions (Von Petz, 2010;Enright, 2013), charrettes (Lennertz & Lutzenhiser, 2017) or atelier sessions (Kempenaar et al., 2020b) also employ design-based mechanisms for creating soft spaces in the planning domain, often with the participation of stakeholders (see also AlWaer & Cooper, 2020). Further research on how the design process unfolds in different design-based soft spaces, on their 'successes' and limitations, and on their contribution to developing an enabling institutional environment, local capacity building, overcoming structural barriers, and/or inducing transformative change could help planning practice in the fruitful application of design, in its broadest sense, in planning for today's major challenges. ...
... To really build a bridge with the citizen, nature conservation stakeholders therefore need to be open to other views of nature. But citizens also need to adapt to the policy context for successful cooperation, which requires learning from both sides (Puerari et al. 2018). Dealing with active citizens can take a lot of time, effort, and flexibility (Rosol 2010), and even then, it will not always be successful. ...
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... Existing research, however, mainly focusses on the aims and workings of ULLs instead of critically reviewing their implications (Bulkeley et al., 2016), their essence (Hossain et al., 2019), or to what extent they shape new governance modes (Marvin et al., 2018). Some challenges in ULLs, therefore, link with temporality and unpredictable outcomes (Hossain et al., 2019), such as financial sustainability (Gualandi & Romme, 2019), scalability, diffusion, and impact (Puerari et al., 2018;von Wirth et al., 2018), and the redistribution of agency and risks (Loorbach & Rotmans, 2010;Smith & Raven, 2012;Burch et al., 2018). ...
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He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted. Lao Tzu Ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Urban Living Labs (ULLs) have become a popular instrument for finding solutions to urban challenges faced by cities. While ULLs have achieved a certain level of normalisation in cities, a general lack of understanding remains regarding the character and purpose of the ULL phenomenon, which leaves many challenges open to be overcome. One challenge involves the potential impact of ULLs in contributing to meaningful transformative changes. By combining a literature review with a comparative case study of three ULLs in the city of Groningen, the Netherlands, this study confirms and adds to current theoretical positions taken about how to overcome the challenge in terms of holding a shared ideology and reviewing the concepts of agency and power. It also shows that opportunity comes along with trust-building among stakeholders in ULLs, as a way to enhance their potential in practise. Consequently, this study calls for further research regarding underexplored theories and models of ULLs, power dynamics in ULLs, and into their self-sustaining character, both in terms of social adoption and ownership, as well as financial sustainability.
... ULLs consist of a wide range of place based initiatives which seek to deal with global issues on a very fine-grained local scale (Marsh 2008). These experiments tackle wicked problems, such as circularity challenges in spatially embedded sites, by seeking to scale up solutions or produce systemic policy impacts (Puerari et al. 2018). ...
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In recent decades; the balance of power between institutional and economic actors has radically changed; with a significant impact on the modes and dynamics of governance. In the broad array of experimental practices of co-production; Living Labs (LLs) represent a promising mode of collaboration among public bodies; research centres; private companies and citizens. By means of LLs; public actors aim to co-produce experimental policies; breaking out of traditional policy schemes to find new solutions to collective problems. On an urban scale; such tools have come to be known as Urban Living Labs (ULLs), and they are increasingly used by local governments to tackle complex problems such us stimulating the circular economy to tackle climate change. This paper provides a systematic review of case studies to understand whether and how the ULLs can represent an effective policy tool to foster the circular economy on an urban scale.
... Desde lo social, destaca la cooperación internacional (Ortega et al., 2017) y la transferencia de conocimientos entre países (Lepik et al., 2010). Estos estudios abogan por la participación, la inclusión social (Ahmed et al., 2017;Alaoui y Lewkowicz, 2015;Angelini et al., 2016), el aprendizaje social, el empoderamiento (Sharp y Salter, 2017;Puerari et al., 2018) y la recuperación de los entornos sociales (Pinto yViola, 2016). Además, las propuestas se enfocan en el fomento de la ciudadanía que se centra en la comunidad (Cardullo et al., 2018) y la gobernanza (Vilariño et al., 2018).). ...
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El sector turístico se enfrenta a una creciente demanda de productos innovadores, y para dar respuesta surge, entre otras, la propuesta de los living labs como una estrategia para la generación y el desarrollo de innovaciones orientadas en los usuarios y sus necesidades. Su aplicación es susceptible si se concibe al espacio turístico como un punto de encuentro entre los turistas y otros actores para desplegar prácticas de innovación. En este capítulo se realizó una revisión de literatura para analizar el cuerpo de conocimientos en torno a los laboratorios vivientes como plataformas de innovación. Se concluye que al vislumbrar al espacio turístico como un living lab, las oportunidades y los beneficios de la innovación se vuelven mayores. Por ende, es necesario contar con proyectos centrados en las experiencias y colaboración de los actores que permitan transformaciones significativas y la especialización de los destinos para brindar productos turísticos únicos.
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Urban living labs (ULLs) are progressive forms of interventions that aim to fulfil the sustainability ambitions of cities and communities. They provide opportunities to translate new ideas into practice. The increasing interest among researchers, practitioners, and policy makers in understanding sustainability transitions (ST) has brought new forms of experimentation through which cities and communities can be governed. Recently, there has been increasing attention towards the concept of circular economy (CE). This term promises the creation of distinct city systems in which material flows can be managed efficiently. In this article, we explore how ULLs can become pathways of sustainability transition towards innovative city systems from a circular economy perspective. By adopting a series of systematic analyses, i.e., multiple correspondence analysis and content analysis, we demonstrate the main pathways of circular economy-oriented innovative city systems that have been used in the literature. As a result of this work, we identify the main pathways, namely knowledge production, policy making, co-creation, geographical embeddedness, urban transitions, networks of cooperation among institutions, culture change, and collaborative engagement.
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Urban Living Labs (ULL) are considered spaces to facilitate experimentation about sustainability solutions. ULL represent sites that allow different urban actors to design, test and learn from socio-technical innovations. However, despite their recent proliferation in the European policy sphere, the underlying processes through which ULL might be able to generate and diffuse new socio-technical configurations beyond their immediate boundaries have been largely disregarded and it remains to be examined how they contribute to urban sustainability transitions. With this study, we contribute to a better understanding of the diffusion mechanisms and strategies through which ULL (seek to) create a wider impact using the conceptual lens of transition studies. The mechanisms of diffusion are investigated in four distinct ULL in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and Malmö, Sweden. The empirical results indicate six specific strategies that aim to support the diffusion of innovations and know-how developed within ULL to a broader context: transformative place-making, activating network partners, replication of lab structure, education and training, stimulating entrepreneurial growth and narratives of impact.
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The living lab concept seems appropriate to study the design and evaluation of innovative services that enrich everyday life. This article elaborates on “living methodologies”, methods and tools necessary in "living labbing". Living methodologies address the social dynamics of everyday life that are essential for understanding living labs, not only conceptually, but also as mature methodologies for fostering innovation in real-life contexts. We report on three cases from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where "living labbing" was used to enable citizens to co-develop their city. These cases utilized visual ethnography as a research method and prototyping and co-creating as design tools. The cases not only inspire citizen participation, but also inform social innovation and city’s policymaking. The user-driven approach, do-it-yourself mindset, and the participatory character perfectly fit with the down-to-earth attitude of Rotterdam residents.
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http://timreview.ca/article/740 Previous research on living labs has emphasized the importance of users and a real-life environment. However, the existing scholarly discourse lacks understanding of innovation mechanisms in diverse living lab networks, especially from the perspectives of coordination and participation. This study addresses the research gaps by constructing a framework for analyzing coordination (i.e., top-down versus bottom-up) and participation (i.e., inhalation-dominated versus exhalation-dominated) approaches in living lab networks. The classification is based on a literature review and an analysis of 26 living labs in four countries. Given that inhalation and exhalation dominance have not been discussed previously in the innovation literature, the study provides novel ways for both scholars and managers wishing to exploit or explore innovations in living labs. The framework reveals the opportunities for practitioners of innovation with respect to coordination and participation in living lab networks
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This editorial introduces the special feature on the role of game-changers, broadly conceptualized as macro-trends that change the “rules of the game,” in processes of transformative social innovation. First, the key concepts are introduced together with the academic workshop that brought together 25 scholars, from across a wide range of disciplines, to discuss the role of game-changers in transformative social innovation, resulting in the 9 contributions in this special feature. Second, the differing conceptualizations of the role of game-changers in transformative social innovation across the set of articles are discussed. Third, an overview is provided of the different empirical examples of game-changers and transformative social innovations addressed; examples were drawn from different geographical contexts across Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. Fourth, the differing epistemological approaches used to explain social change are noted, and lessons for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research on social change discussed. Finally, a synthesis is provided of the main insights and contributions to the literature.
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The article describes the field of sustainability transitions research, which emerged in the past two decades in the context of a growing scientific and public interest in large-scale societal transformation toward sustainability. We describe how different scientific approaches and methodological positions explore diverse types of transitions and provide the basis for multiple theories and models for governance of sustainability transitions. We distinguish three perspectives in studying transitions: socio-technical, socioinstitutional, and socio-ecological. Although the field as a whole is very heterogeneous, commonalities can be characterized in notions such as path dependencies, regimes, niches, experiments, and governance. These more generic concepts have been adopted within the analytical perspective of transitions, which has led three different types of approaches to dealing with agency in transitions: analytical, evaluative, and experimental. The field has by now produced a broad theoretical and empirical basis along with a variety of social transformation strategies and instruments, impacting disciplinary scientific fields as well as (policy) practice. In this article, we try to characterize the field by identifying its main perspectives, approaches and shared concepts, and its relevance to real-world sustainability problems and solutions. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Environment and Resources Volume 42 is October 17, 2017. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
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Within the most recent discussion on smart cities and the way this vision is affecting urban changes and dynamics, this book explores the interplay between planning and design both at the level of the design and planning domains’ theories and practices. Urban transformation is widely recognized as a complex phenomenon, rich in uncertainty. It is the unpredictable consequence of complex interplay between urban forces (both top-down or bottom-up), urban resources (spatial, social, economic and infrastructural as well as political or cognitive) and transformation opportunities (endogenous or exogenous). The recent attention to Urban Living Lab and Smart City initiatives is disclosing a promising bridge between the micro-scale environments, with the dynamics of such forces and resources, and the urban governance mechanisms. This bridge is represented by those urban collaborative environments, where processes of smart service co-design take place through dialogic interaction with and among citizens within a situated and cultural-specific frame.
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Urban Living Labs (ULL) are advanced as an explicit form of intervention delivering sustainability goals for cities. Established at the boundaries between research, innovation and policy, ULL are intended to design, demonstrate and learn about the effects of urban interventions in real time. While rapidly growing as an empirical phenomenon, our understanding of the nature and purpose of ULL is still evolving. While much of the existing literature draws attention to the aims and workings of ULL, there have to date been fewer critical accounts that seek to understand their purpose and implications. In this paper, we suggest that transition studies and the literature on urban governance offer important insights that can enable us to address this gap.