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Over recent decades Urban Living Labs (ULLs) have become a common space for co-creation processes' experimentation, whereby new approaches for sustainable urban development are highly connected to support evidence-based policy generation. Europe seems a particular 'hotspot' for this approach whenever it comes to public policy and specifically planning for urban transition. Systemic changes related to urban governance and different public participatory mechanisms, as in the case of ULLs, demand a growing interest from the stakeholders and deliberation in decision-making mechanisms. In this research paper, we analyze co-creation pathways and different shared governance mechanisms in three ongoing European projects: CLEVER Cities, Sharing Cities, and SUNEX projects from a practice perspective. This comparative study investigates stakeholder engagement (1) scales, (2) mechanisms, (3) methodologies of engagement, and finally the co-creation pathway challenges and pitfalls. From the analyzed ULLs' experiences, we identified key principles that suggest relevant clues to enable the consolidation of a forthcoming ULL 2.0 model and related innovation pathways for co-creating urban planning policies. We lastly reflect on the enablers and catalysts of co-creation processes to inform shared urban governance as major takeaways from our research.
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ORIGINAL RESEARCH
published: 06 August 2021
doi: 10.3389/frsc.2021.690458
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | www.frontiersin.org 1August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
Edited by:
Dorota Dominika Kamrowska-Zaluska,
Gdansk University of
Technology, Poland
Reviewed by:
Rider Foley,
University of Virginia, United States
Maria Panagiotopoulou,
National Technical University of
Athens, Greece
*Correspondence:
Israa Mahmoud
israa.mahmoud@polimi.it
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Governance and Cities,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities
Received: 02 April 2021
Accepted: 13 July 2021
Published: 06 August 2021
Citation:
Mahmoud IH, Morello E, Ludlow D
and Salvia G (2021) Co-creation
Pathways to Inform Shared
Governance of Urban Living Labs in
Practice: Lessons From Three
European Projects.
Front. Sustain. Cities 3:690458.
doi: 10.3389/frsc.2021.690458
Co-creation Pathways to Inform
Shared Governance of Urban Living
Labs in Practice: Lessons From
Three European Projects
Israa Hanafi Mahmoud 1
*, Eugenio Morello 1, David Ludlow 2and Giuseppe Salvia 1,3
1Laboratorio di Simulazione Urbana Fausto Curti (Labsimurb), Department of Architecture and Urban Studies (DAStU),
Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy, 2Faculty of Environment and Technology, University of the West of England, Bristol,
United Kingdom, 3The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering,
University College London, London, United Kingdom
Over recent decades Urban Living Labs (ULLs) have become a common space for
co-creation processes’ experimentation, whereby new approaches for sustainable urban
development are highly connected to support evidence-based policy generation. Europe
seems a particular ’hotspot’ for this approach whenever it comes to public policy and
specifically planning for urban transition. Systemic changes related to urban governance
and different public participatory mechanisms, as in the case of ULLs, demand a growing
interest from the stakeholders and deliberation in decision-making mechanisms. In this
research paper, we analyze co-creation pathways and different shared governance
mechanisms in three ongoing European projects: CLEVER Cities, Sharing Cities, and
SUNEX projects from a practice perspective. This comparative study investigates
stakeholder engagement (1) scales, (2) mechanisms, (3) methodologies of engagement,
and finally the co-creation pathway challenges and pitfalls. From the analyzed ULLs’
experiences, we identified key principles that suggest relevant clues to enable the
consolidation of a forthcoming ULL 2.0 model and related innovation pathways for
co-creating urban planning policies. We lastly reflect on the enablers and catalysts of
co-creation processes to inform shared urban governance as major takeaways from
our research.
Keywords: shared governance, co-creation, inclusive urban planning, urban transition, urban living labs
INTRODUCTION
Shared urban governance is an emergent trend, for its attention to urban sustainability, societal
transformations, and innovative pathways toward urban transitions (Evans and Karvonen, 2011;
Davidson et al., 2019; Davies and Lafortezza, 2019). In this research, we tackle the urban transition
from a policy-making process in which decisions (mainly related to climate change actions) are
made with particular attention to social justice and community participation widely aiming to
leverage synergies of social inclusion across cities (Urban Transitions Alliance, 2018; ICLEI, 2019;
Hughes and Hoffmann, 2020). The shared governance approach toward urban transition is not
new, and the disciplines and areas of interest that contribute to make the shared governance
approaches work locally are certainly numerous. The management and governance of cities in
Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
transition toward carbon neutrality, are undergoing a phase
of policy and practice experimentations within the context of
sustainable cities and communities (for instance, responding to
the SDG 11 or the 2030 Agenda). Moreover, shared governance is
often characterized by broad concepts for policy makers such as:
collaboration between stakeholders, engagement in Urban Living
Labs (ULLs) and collaborative pathways for the implementation
of solutions. In real world laboratories (RWL), see Schäpke et al.
(2018), very few experiences are reported as successful involving
ULLs that actually led to a policy change or transition; this is
mainly due to lack of an outline on what is the notion of ULL,
and how they relate to urban transition in specific and societal
challenges learning in general.
Some EU Horizon 2020 funded projects focusing on urban
transition dedicated their attention toward establishing and
adopting co-creation approaches and pathways in delivering
policies and services to the research and innovation world,
mainly in the urban and public domains [see (INSIGHT, 2013;
Correia et al., 2016; Klimatek Project, 2017; TeRRIFICA, 2019)].
Meanwhile many nature-based solutions and carbon neutral
policy projects are in the race to address climate change risks and
hazards; the practicality of their co-creation processes still needs
to be domesticated. Within this framework, new governance
arrangements, business models, financing mechanisms, and
forms of citizen engagement are under investigation to make the
premise of effective urban transition to carbon neutrality and
green cities a reality.
The European Environmental Agency (EEA) emphasizes the
role of transnational network governance to promote urban
transitions within cities and regions (European Environment
Agency, 2017, 105). Examples are many; however, it appears
within urban transition studies that diverse approaches are
taken such as: city-led initiatives, international councils for local
environmental agencies, climate leaders’ groups, and academic-
led initiatives. This diversity draws attention to a more generic
importance of urban governance capabilities at city-level to
influence transition. This is the case of “systemic intermediaries”
that mainstream research outcomes into co-creation pathways
in order to enable cities to facilitate their ULL innovation
processes and finally embedding these into their daily planning
and governance routines.
In this research, we discuss three main concepts related
to urban transition, namely urban governance strategies, co-
creation pathways, and the most recent approaches to ULLs (and
conceptually ULL V2.0); for this we draw on the experience
and lesson learnt from three EU funded projects, i.e., CLEVER
Cities, Sharing Cities, and SUNEX. These three projects are
different in terms of urban scales, specific aims of environmental
transition, applications, policy guidelines and scopes within
the urban context in order to work for more sustainable
urban development approach. However, all of them embed co-
creation concepts in their methodological framework toward
environmental adaptation. Moreover, they all developed different
Abbreviations: CALs, CLEVER Action Labs (also contextualized as ULL); FEW,
Food-Energy Water Nexus; UIP, Urban Innovation Partnership; ULL, Urban
Living Lab; TOC, Theory of change.
co-creation pathways in order to respond to the emerging need
for transposing research from shared governance into practice.
Different tools are adopted in each project based on the area
of interest, the specificity of place-based context ULLs, and the
targeted policy in action. Furthermore, the pathways of co-
creation processes were not all equal, and they varied between
backcasting and forecasting of urban visions and strategies. This
led to different stakeholder engagement processes and, as a
consequence, a relational pathway of implementation. In sum,
there seems to be no single common formula to establish a certain
shared governance process that embeds all stakeholders within
the DNA of the decision-making mechanism, that is related
to ULLs.
The first concept we investigated is governance strategies.
Municipal governments are important for addressing urban
sustainability. Yet our work suggests that they cannot act alone.
The capacity to address urban sustainability challenges relies on
multilevel governance structures, as well as the development of
different modes of governance (García, 2006; Davidson et al.,
2019). This means that municipal governments need to work
together with stakeholders and local communities to create the
partnerships, attract resources, devise plans and demonstration
projects to accelerate the uptake of long-term sustainable
measures (Evans, 2019; McCormick, 2020, 11; UN-HABITAT,
2020).
That taps into our second concept, i.e., co-creation processes.
In literature, a co-creation process stands out for the engagement
of stakeholders and end-users throughout the whole process
of decision-making and implementation. Co-creation is also
considered an innovative process for stakeholders by taking
over to achieve a complete shared governance model, and sense
of identification and belonging with the proposed solutions
(Agrawal et al., 2015; Burkett, 2016; Ramaswamy and Ozcan,
2018). In urban governance, this concept translates into a
challenging approach of embedding citizens and stakeholders in
an iterative closed loop process, whereas citizens are amongst
the main decision makers of the process itself and not just
service beneficiaries. Within this understanding, the co-creation
pathway extends beyond stakeholder and citizen engagement; it
refers to the complete co-production of knowledge and sharing
of solutions, from ideation to implementation and management
(IDEO, 2015). Embedding innovation of the pathway in this
sense concerns the local administration that succeeds in breaking
the silos within its organization and engaging the city users
with all their varied spectrum of categorization. Nevertheless, co-
creation attempts seem to be rather weak in recent applications.
In fact, we can speak about failures in co-creation processes
where these are not truly and effectively impacting on decision-
making toward a complete and mature shared governance.
The last concept we tackle is ULL. Over the last decade,
ULLs have become a common type of co-creative container
of experimentation, offering the opportunity to research and
innovation on a wider variety of challenges in everyday settings
and test hypotheses and elements concerning pathways for
transitions toward urban sustainable living. Particularly, Europe
has become the role “hotspot” for this approach, powered by
a strong promotion of dedicated research funding (JPI Urban
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
Europe, 2019b). In fact, ULLs are emerging as a format for
collective urban governance and experimentation to address
sustainability challenges as well as opportunities created by
urbanization (Bulkeley et al., 2016). ULLs have different goals,
they are initiated by various actors, and they form different
types of partnerships. In most cases ULLs work as an advanced
and explicit form of intervention in delivering sustainability
goals for cities by running (social, ecological, and technological)
experiments. However, in this paper, we investigate the concept
of ULL as the container or medium of intervention in the
urban arena, whereas the shared governance process happens to
address a particular sustainability challenge into a new concept
of ULL as a “constitution of enabling environment” generated
by the governance of innovation itself, see also Mahmoud and
Morello (2021). Our perspective, that creates a new conceptual
version of the ULL v2.0.; henceforth, remodeling the face of
policy making and participatory governance tools for sustainable
urban development.
Hence, we pose the questions on the viability of the
co-creation process and the extent to which ULLs support
transformation and act as urban transition catalysts. Accordingly,
we question what are the features and approaches that best
describe the effectiveness and success stories of co-creation
processes. What are the defined pre-sets to establish such a
process in a more comprehensive or inclusive way? And what
are the successes and pitfalls of co-creation processes? And
more, which co-creation mechanisms do work best in practice
in achieving inclusion and better shared governance?
This paper puts in perspective the shared governance
processes within these three projects’ experience of co-creation
pathways based on comparative analysis of the ongoing ULLs.
From the following analysis and discussion, the authors aim to
delineate which key criteria and procedures permit achievement
of sound shared governance dynamics through co-creation
pathways and established ULLs. Moreover, the aim is to present
a set of principles that establish co-creation guidelines for cities,
municipalities, and local authorities in general, to be used for
an enhanced implementation of long-term urban regeneration
processes. We particularly focus on co-creation pathways that
rely on citizens’ engagement and participation, whereby ULLs
start transitioning toward a ULLs V2.0, see Figure 1.
DEFINITION OF KEY THEMES AND
THEORIES: SHARED GOVERNANCE,
CO-CREATION PROCESSES, AND URBAN
LIVING LABS
Urban governance refers to how government at multiple scales
(i.e., local, regional, and national) and stakeholders decide
how to plan, finance, and manage urban areas. It involves a
continuous process of negotiation and contestation over the
allocation of social and material resources and political power
(Avis, 2016). The expectation for government (including local,
regional, and national) is to play the leading role in policy
allocation. Collaboration is critical to overcoming barriers to
implementation across sectoral boundaries and establishing
financing (Kronsell and Mukhtar-Landgren, 2018; Mccormick
and Kiss, 2019). We understand that urban governance plays a
critical role in shaping the physical and socio-economic character
of cities and influences local governments in engaging citizens in
decision-making as well as responsiveness to citizen demands.
Shared Governance definition:
Governance is a negotiation mechanism for formulating and
implementing policy that actively seeks the involvement of
stakeholders and civil society organizations besides government
bodies and experts. It is a model of decision-making that
emphasizes consensus and output and that claims to be
participatory (García, 2006).
The notion of shared urban governance in cities arises nowadays
as an emergent trend, given a growing attention to urban
sustainability, societal transformations, and innovative pathways
for urban transitions (Brink and Wamsler, 2018). Shared
Governance mechanisms usually differ by context, topics, and
evidently the citizen engagement level, from being informed
to being empowered according to the ladder of engagement
(Arnstein, 1969; Dall’O’ and Bruni, 2020), especially for
particularly challenging climate related actions (Voytenko et al.,
2016; van der Jagt et al., 2019; Puskás et al., 2021). A recent
shift toward empowering the community, rather than just
consulting or documenting it, is reflected in an increasing use
of public participation from community in residence where local
knowledge is not extracted by outsiders, but instead shared by
its community that is involved in the problem-solving processes
from the start (Rock et al., 2018). The co-management and
governance of cities in transition to carbon neutrality, including
sharing cities or green transitions, are still undergoing a phase
of policy and practice experimentation within the context of
sustainable cities and communities (Loorbach et al., 2016; Davies
and Lafortezza, 2019).
The role of shared governance has been recently investigated
in few EU funded projects including many aspects of
empowering citizens and building sustainable engagement
and behaviors within local communities, such as EKLIPSE
and BiodivERsA. However, the need for inclusive shared
governance mechanisms entails a stronger co-creation approach
and pathways. Such co-creation methodologies embed a more
flexible and resilient approach in their phases and stages (Davies
and Lafortezza, 2019). The novelty of embedding the co-creation
process in urban planning practice lies in catalyzing resources
toward the transposition of research into practice through policy
and planning tools for local authorities and decision-makers.
In this research paper, the urban challenges faced by each
project are considered invariable factors for the pragmatism of
the analysis, and the final aim is rather to investigate shared
governance experiences through co-creation pathways carried
out in ULLs. In addition, ULLs in this research context are
expected to have a place-based impact either through policy or
replication of their learning outcomes in regeneration processes.
Managing cities and urban regeneration dynamics in highly
consolidated and layered environments collaboratively are
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
FIGURE 1 | The Co-creation transition model of inclusive shared governance toward ULLs V2.0. Source: the authors inspired by Jansen and Pieters (2017) and
Mahmoud and Morello (2021).
among the main crucial challenges in the contemporary debate
on urban transition. That ongoing debate halts wherever the
discussion deepens on the role of scientists, policy-makers, urban
planners and citizens to converge in a melting pot, whereas all of
them have to work with each other, and collaborate to co-produce
knowledge that responds to the socio-ecological challenges that
cities face nowadays (Ahern et al., 2014; Raymond et al., 2017).
By opening up this process to multiple actors, scientific discovery
and transferring knowledge, a social process of co-creation is
generated that democratizes science and bridges gaps between
citizens and their city leaders. Hence, co-creation brings together
a multitude of actors with different scales and different agendas
to reflect, learn, and examine different social processes with new
norms of transdisciplinary research (Kabisch, 2019).
Durose et al. (2018, 32) reflect on the role of advocacy
between stakeholders and professional researchers in many real-
life projects, to incentivize the co-production of knowledge in
research that is relevant to assess its impact on society and
support long-term partnerships. These new forms of showcasing
outcomes and lessons learnt from mainstreaming urban policies
and co-creation through experimentation in the format of urban
transition have become popular as a dialectic form of real-life
ULLs (Agrawal et al., 2015; Nesti, 2018).
Co-creation definition:
“Co-creation changes the game of innovation from designing for
people to designing with people”(Correia et al., 2016).
Puerari et al. (2018, 4), define co-creation as “making something
together”; other literature on wider urban planning policies refers
to co-creation as “systematic process of creating new solutions
with people -not for them; involving citizens and communities in
policy and service development,” see Bason (2013) and Mahmoud
and Morello (2021). Co-creation refers to any act of collective
creativity which means that creativity is shared by two or more
people. Indeed, it is an approach that enables a wide range
of people to have a creative contribution in the formulation
and solution of a problem (Gudowsky and Peissl, 2016). In
further systematic theoretical works, citizens engaged are often
considered as co-implementers in throughout co-creation and
co-production of services (Voorberg et al., 2015; Lember et al.,
2019). Ultimately, co-creation helps to enhance organizational
knowledge processes by involving the customer in the generation
of meaning and value by co-designing and co-implementing
solutions. Nonetheless, if used in public policies combined with
effective active participation, the co-creative approach yields
better sharing of urban regeneration processes and improves the
know-how for decision-making mechanisms.
Gaps Between Theoretical Frameworks of
Co-creation and Urban Shared Governance
Toward Urban Transition in ULLs
Followingly, the known gaps between theoretical frameworks
of co-creation and practical experience pave the way to the
development of more innovative pathways toward transitions
in ULLs. Nowadays, shared governance overlapping frameworks
with co-creation innovative pathways propose a new form of
urban governance that is “open, supporting evidence-based
policy making and collaboratively shaped” by new technologies
(Brink and Wamsler, 2018, 83; Davidson et al., 2019; Meijer et al.,
2019).
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
Hence, we discuss the importance of embedding co-creation
principles -as easy as it may sound but rather difficult on the
practical side- toward creating more participative and realistic
pathways in successful ULLs (Nevens et al., 2013; Puerari et al.,
2018). According to Jansen and Pieters (2017, 4) co-creation
calls on some principles for better results such as togetherness,
ongoing, productive, transparent, supported and value driven.
In this research, due to the focus on urban planning and ULLs
implementation, we identify four mains gaps on implementing
co-creation in practice as follows:
Complete Co-creation Is Based on Collaboration
Between All Relevant Stakeholders
The success of shared governance experiences in urban
regeneration processes relies substantially on the inclusion of
stakeholders throughout the whole process of the planned
projects. The success of tools of co-creation planning and
co-implementation depends on the model’s specification of
stakeholders’ level of participation (inform, involve, consult,
collaborate, empower, see Table 2) as well as on their appropriate
involvement in the process timeline, for example the RASCI
Model,1see also Hightower (2009). ULLs aim at empowering
multiple stakeholders in the experimental approach at the same
time bringing science, policy, business and civil society together
(Bulkeley et al., 2016).
Open Communication With Different Stakeholders
Consistent implementation in public projects, policies or services
requires establishing clear communication channels between the
cities’ local administration, stakeholders, and citizens in general.
Transparency and responsive feedback in communicating
regeneration processes and projects make these more attractive
for people to participate, as well as enabling achieving maximum
relevance in the delivery of outcomes for end-users. Moreover,
overcoming the silo boundaries of communication for the
co-production of knowledge between policy-practice-society
nexus is relevant for the success of co-creation pathways, see
Scholl and Kemp (2016). Cultivating a common language for
communicating objectives and concepts, possibly with a shared
glossary of terms, is also quintessential for assuring the baseline
of alignment among stakeholders and avoid misinterpretations.
Ownership of the Process and Long-Term
Commitment
In urban planning, more transparency from the public
administration encourages citizens to engage in the process
and take ownership of the co-creation activities in general.
Nevertheless, shared governance processes are frequently
abandoned by stakeholders. This depends on different factors,
see also Fors et al. (2021). Firstly, abandonment emerges as a
result of the long-term temporal frame of urban regeneration
1Responsible, Accountable, Supporting, Consulted, and Informed. RASCI is an
acronym derived from the five key criteria most typically used: Responsible,
Accountable, Supporting, Consulted, and Informed. A RASCI matrix can be
used to clarify responsibilities during the preparation and the implementation
of a project, in the context of stakeholder. See https://clevercitiesguidance.files.
wordpress.com/2019/09/tool-11.1-cal-co-implementation-scheme.pdf
and implementation processes, which requires a strong and
continuous coordination of co-creation pathways to keep interest
of stakeholders alive. In fact, conducting processes of co-creation
requires specific skills such as facilitation, organization and
planning of activities, follow-up and monitoring of outcomes.
Secondly, commitment and sense of ownership by stakeholders
is linked to the specific time along the process in which they get
involved. ULLs sometimes get initiated in already established
processes, which can eventually spark the interest of facilitators
and encourages stakeholders to get engaged but can also risk be
weakening the involvement if the process is already advanced.
Hence, involving stakeholders from the very beginning to
the far end is crucial to generate sense of belonging. In fact,
ownership of the co-creation process is highly debatable if not
related to post-co-creation engagement as well, in a sense that
co-development and upscaling of the solutions is also part of
the pathway ownership. Often, the upscaling of solutions is
driven by stakeholders and is a sound indicator for the up taking
of solutions.
Supporting Evidence-Based Policy From Practice on
Co-created Solutions
Co-creation is a cumulative process that enhances scaling-up of
urban transition projects through ULLs, according to a hands-
on-experience process that leads to shared results. As co-creation
is often experimental and entails flexible design approaches to
test and promote long-term strategies, which are often radical
and contain innovation potential. This makes difficult to attain
in the short term an evidence-base necessary to confirm that a
new co-created solution (e.g., a planning policy, a new design
or service) will be successful in the long term and should be
promoted or even embedded in everyday practice (Fanzini et al.,
2020). Henceforth, the success of co-created solutions can be
deduced from the shared and inclusive process that generated
them, as a true expression of democracy.
Urban Living Labs’ Dynamics as Form of
Co-creation Dynamics Context
In the authors’ understanding of ULLs, by drawing both on
theory and practice, co-creation fosters transition in ULLs,
through which cities (intended as logical loci for action) aim
to develop gamechanger solutions in urban sustainability and
sustainable development in general, see Mulder (2012) and
Nesti (2018). However, recent debate concerning studying,
exploring, testing and applying a highly tested living lab
methodologies allowing urban transition of cities is still emerging
in academic studies after practice experiences (Bulkeley, 2019;
Nesti, 2020; Hölscher and Frantzeskaki, 2021; Rizzo et al.,
2021; Scholl and De Kraker, 2021; Veeckman and Temmerman,
2021). Nonetheless, the broader literature definition on urban
and environmental governance identifies three key dimensions
of ULLs: (1) geographical embeddedness (the context), (2)
experimentation and learning approach, and (3) participation
and end-user involvement as partnerships, see also (Nevens
et al., 2013; Bulkeley et al., 2016). ULLs can also be viewed
as spaces designed for interactions between a context and a
research process to test, develop and/or apply social practices
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
and/or technology to a building or infrastructure due to their
focus on co-creation through experimentation through explicit
geographical embeddedness (Franz, 2015; Voytenko et al., 2016,
46–47; Van Montfort and Michels, 2020).
The Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) Urban Europe, which
is the main funding agency for living lab related projects in
European cities, introduced the term “urban living lab” and
defines it as a forum for innovation, applied to the development
of new products, systems, services, and processes, employing
working methods to integrate people into the entire development
process as users and co-creators, to explore, examine, experiment,
test and evaluate new ideas, scenarios, processes, systems,
concepts and creative solutions in complex and real contextssee
JPI Urban Europe (2019a).
The European Network of Living Labs (ENOLL European
Network of Living Labs) defines them as “user-centered open
innovation ecosystems based on systematic user co-creation
approach, integrating research and innovation processes in real
life communities and settings.” In this research we look at ULLs
as the “medium” or the spatial context container through which
the co-creation pathways are encouraged to take place whether
physically, virtually or by any mean of engagement, see Figure 1.
In other similar European projects, ULLs are also considered
both as an arena (geographically and institutionally) as well as
an approach for exploratory collaboration between academia,
citizens, and local authorities (McCormick, 2020).
Another challenge in co-creation pathways of innovation
in practice is time, and in particular temporal dynamics and
changes of ULLs. In EU-funded projects, and typically in urban
regeneration pathways, a ULL will run for as long as the project
(usually from 3 or 5 years), and after this period data is collected,
results are drawn together, a summary is written and, eventually,
impact is achieved and changes in the wider urban context
occur. However, mounting concern is evident from practice,
innovators, and research that this last monitoring step is too
rare, and, after the project funding stops, there is little systematic
integration of any of the practical outputs. Hence, the intended
and potential contribution by ULLs toward urban transformation
in the long run remains largely unfulfilled (Wolfram, 2016; Haase
et al., 2017). Urban spatial planning is therefore considered the
key driver of transition, including the definition of appropriate
pathways for critical intervention in city-regional development,
to realize that ambition for societal transformations related to
urban transition (Rivolin and Faludi, 2005; Edwards-Schachter
et al., 2012).
To conclude, the conceptual understanding of ULLs role
within the urban context, see Table 1. Requires a set of criteria to
be established at the project launch. In some cases, the continuity
between different projects is also a required aspect, in order
to ensure cohesion of practices and maintenance of long-term
results, especially in some contexts where social cohesion is
rather compromised.
APPLICATIONS AND CASE STUDIES
In the following, we describe the three selected projects to analyze
their ULLs as a comparative version of the set-up, co-creation
processes and timeline for their development. To note that in
TABLE 1 | Running ULL dynamics within co-creation processes.
ULL running within co-creation processes
Setting of the “ULL space” Activities to be held in the project launch and
planning phase
For whom Mapping stakeholders; profiling target audience;
identifying the right personas
With whom Setting the ground to work in ULL with the right
people to benefit from the delivered service.
How Co-creation tools and activities: workshops, focus
groups, face-to-face meetings, site walks, plenary
meetings, and so on.
Physical space Physical structure; community hub; mobile structure
(also thought as milieu for conducting activities)
Virtual space E-participation reach out, tools and digital facilitation
Temporal continuity Recurrence of events, continuity of engagement
with local actors and stakeholders
Multiplicity of stakeholders’
partnerships
from different sectors science, policy, society and
market in a so called “quadruple helix model”
Medium of engagement and
tools
Availability of medium (space and place), whereby
different tools (techniques) could be used for
co-creating and co-designing solutions
Source: the authors.
this phase, the authors do not look at the specificity of the
sustainable measure put in place by the projects, whether carbon
neutrality, digital transition, sustainable land-use and urban
greening, inclusive planning for urban livability, and any other
policy toward sustainable development in cities. For instance,
CLEVER Cities2investigates social inclusivity of urban greening
and Nature-based Solutions (NBS) integration into planning
policies, whereas Sharing Cities3focuses on ICT enabled and
participatory processes mainly addressing reduction of energy
use in buildings retrofitting processes; lastly, SUNEX4looks at
the sustainable Urban Food-Water-Energy (FEW) Nexus.
CLEVER Cities: Co-creation and Open
Innovation Governance Model
CLEVER Cities aims at spreading the use of NBS to address
urban challenges and promote social inclusion in cities across
Europe, South America and China. Three cities are on the
forefront of the experimental processes: Hamburg, London, and
Milan and other six cities are fellow to NBS implementation. The
project mainly developed two main concepts: Urban Innovation
Partnership (UIP) and Clever Action Labs (CALs) as main
representation of the powerful mechanisms to implement NBS
in urban fabrics. Running on different spatial scales, CALs
operate as ULLs of co-created NBS. The co-creation pathway as
a reflection to the operational structure of NBS implementation
2A European Commission funded project from the Horizon 2020 Innovation
Action Programme under Grant Agreement No. 776604. See https://clevercities.
eu/
3A European Commission funded project from the Horizon 2020 Innovation
Action Programme under Grant Agreement No. 691895. See https://www.
sharingcities.eu/
4A European Commission funded project from the Horizon 2020 Innovation
Action Programme JPI under Grant Agreement No. 730254. See https://jpi-
urbaneurope.eu/project/sunex/
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
is established as an operational framework encompassing
six stages as follows: UIP establishment, co-creation
planning, co-design, co-implementation, co-monitoring,
and co-development.
In CLEVER Cities a Co-Creation Guidance (Morello et al.,
2018) has been developed. Its aim is to better understand
and coordinate the co-creation processes that shape the
implementation of NBS in socially inclusive urban regeneration
processes. The pathway consists of 16 steps, not necessarily
consecutive nor contemporaneous. The structure is intended
to be flexibly applied in different urban contexts based
on necessity. The steps are furnished with a variety of
recommended, optional and fundamental tools that help
cities establish a complete co-creation process taking in
consideration the spatial place-based context, type of NBS
interventions and the governance model selected by the
responsible authority. Several toolkits for the co-design, co-
implementation, and co-maintenance of NBS are developed
with cities to use as reference in their progressive co-
creation process (Morello et al., 2018). The efficiency of the
guidance is currently being monitored in the practice of nine
CALs through corresponding deliverables as established by the
Grant Agreement.
The co-creation pathway and guidance5in the CLEVER Cities
project are seen as a form of open innovation,” in which ideas are
shared, closely connected to user-generated content, and actively
communicated to a wider public in order to promote originality
and effective governance. Likewise, the co-creation pathway
in practice is about motivating people, inspiring participation,
sharing results, continuing development, and delivering results
at different levels.
Sharing Cities: Human-Centered Design of
Digital and Physical Measures
Sharing Cities leveraged digital technology to address the
main urban contemporary challenges. From 2016 till 2021,
three European lighthouse cities – London, Lisbon, and Milan
– trialed a holistic strategy for improving urban mobility,
increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, and reducing
carbon emissions.
Operatively, the project was developed with the integration
of virtual and physical environment through multiple measures.
On one hand, the implementation was based on data deriving
from smart technologies and sensors specified for the above
applications in an online platform; at the same time, participatory
approaches were informed by both citizens and relevant
organizations, including municipalities and business. Local
actors play the role of subject and object of investigation. The
user-centered design approach enabled the partnership to design
products, services and systems according to the needs of the end
users. It ensured that each stage of the design process is informed
by user needs, rather than according to assumptions made by
designers or other stakeholders. In the Sharing Cities project,
user-centered design focused on citizens, city officials, businesses,
and related service providers at various stages of the project.
5See https://clevercitiesguidance.wordpress.com/
Furthermore, these actors were engaged in collaborative
design processes for an effective development and
implementation of the technological measures. Co-design
tools and methods were adopted and developed for eliciting,
capturing and elaborating knowledge at multiple levels of
visibility, from explicit to latent (Salvia and Morello, 2020).
SUNEX: Sustainable Urban
Food-Energy-Water Nexus
SUNEX aims to define transition pathways, specifying Food-
Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus policy guidelines in the context of
climate change, to be delivered by strategic spatial planning the
city-region over the next 20–30 years. Central to the development
and specification of SUNEX policy guidelines is optimization
of FEW relations in the context of city-region political and
policy objectives for sustainable development including climate
change. A core SUNEX objective is to provide definition and
impetus to the process of urban transformation management
via the specification of policy guidelines for FEW, considered
as one component of the wider socio-economic environmental
reality of the city-region. The project aims to support
urban sustainable development and the delivery of carbon
neutral cities.
These various policy requirements are operating within the
city-regional context, where there is a critical requirement
to develop operational solutions for urban planning that can
deliver the desired “win-win” policy co-benefits over time.
Integrated assessment of the interconnected socio-economic
and environmental dynamics of the city region to support
decision-making and the development and delivery of policies
for sustainable urban development are the cornerstone of city
planning policy throughout Europe. These policy objectives
are accordingly the central focus for SUNEX. The essential
policy requirement is to provide integrated understanding and
assessment of the highly interconnected dimensions of food,
energy and water –where “Nexus effects” and optimization must
be sought in a wider integration context– this is principally
the context of city-region spatial plan commitments to climate
change mitigation.
METHODOLOGICAL ANALYSIS
In order to answer the research questions, we propose the
following investigation criteria for a pragmatic and practical
comparative analysis. In the beginning, we look at different
scales and types of stakeholder engagement mechanisms in the
three projects as a general scope. Secondly, we analyze the main
key factors of shared governance through defining engagement
(methodologies of engagement, types of stakeholders, and
activities of engagement carried out through co-creation
process). Lastly, we compare the different co-creation pathways
that the three projects have taken in order to achieve an inclusive
shared governance. In these two later parts we analyze the results
of these co-creation experiences by focusing on two main cities
involved, i.e., Milan and Bristol.
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
TABLE 2 | Different “Levels” of and “scales” of stakeholder engagement
(elaborated by authors from IAP2, 2014).
Level of engagement Nature of
engagement
Description
Inform Non-participatory A uni-directional flow of
information from programme to
stakeholder
Consult A process by which stakeholders
are asked for information or their
opinions.
Involve Participatory Stakeholders are involved in
discussions about the
programme and can influence
decisions, but are not directly
involved in decision making
Collaborate Stakeholders are fully involved,
often included in decision making
Empower: full involvement,
often lead on decision
-making
Stakeholders are fully involved,
often facilitated to lead on
decision-making
The Criteria of Assessment for Shared
Governance Within Co-creation Processes
in Practice
In the following section we build our methodological analysis
on three aspects: stakeholder engagement, co-creation scenarios,
and resulting changes in ULLs.
Stakeholder Engagement: Scale and Level
Stakeholder engagement is a fundamental part of any co-creation
process that includes co-design and co-implementation phases.
Stakeholders can be defined as people, groups or organizations
that have a vested interest in initiatives or activities being
undertaken and can be affected by the issues concerned (Aligica,
2006). There can be different types of stakeholders who operate
at different levels and at different scales or issues (IDS, 2013).
Well-planned and inclusive engagement leads to better outcomes
at all levels. Building on the work of Arnstein (1969), the
International Association for Public Participation developed
a five-point spectrum of public participation (IAP2, 2014).
These approaches to engagement can also be categorized as
participatory and non-participatory, see Table 2. While non-
participatory methods are very one-sided, where you either
impart or extract knowledge, participatory methods are more
two-sided, meaning you collaborate with others to generate
change. This classification has been collectively approved to be
used in CLEVER Cities project and Sharing Cities.
Usually, a variety of different stakeholder types and interests
are involved in any urban sustainability problems, and these
stakeholders are often highly reliant upon each other for solving
the problem and finding a solution. This raises several issues,
such as lack of knowledge, awareness, priorities and the value
orientations of stakeholders leading to less sustainable choices,
or private vs. public agendas. Reconciliation of all these different
interests requires new ways of working: co-design and co-
creation in general, leading to a common vision of the problem
and viable solutions, instead of traditional participation, but also
recognizing different power balances. As a possible solution to
this complexity of the stakeholder engagement dilemma, a variety
of approaches and nature of engagement methods are adopted.
For instance, engaging stakeholders in different stages is often
controlled by the level of engagement related to the role they
can play in each stage. In other words, the level of engagement
depends on the need for their participation or non-participation
in the decision-making process itself.
Analysis of Scenarios’ Building Modalities
Using Co-creation Through Forecasting
and Backcasting Methodologies
Concerning the modalities of project scenarios’ building within
co-creation activities, these differed between the three projects
substantially, on one hand due to the project type with focus on
urban planning policy, and, on the other hand due to the timeline
and financing resources available to each case application.
Broadly, within the three projects at least three co-design
workshops and several participatory activities took place. The
noticeable differences lie in two specific methodologies carried
out by CLEVER Cities and SUNEX projects respectively, namely
the Theory of change (TOC) by forecasting and backcasting
activities. The TOC is a common practical tool used to define
long-term goals (outputs and outcomes), see also (Reisman and
Gienapp, 2004) based on backwards mapping for activities and
impacts (hereafter backcasting) or by forward mapping (hereafter
forecasting). The substantial difference between the two methods
is that the forecasting using TOC develops multiple future
scenarios from one common present, while the backcasting
method develops multiple pathways to a single defined target
scenario. These envisioned transition pathways are specified in
policy strategies supported by expert judgement, according to,
and on the basis of available technologies, current trends in time
(Ashina et al., 2012, 585; Kanter et al., 2016, 72).
Analyzing the ULLs of the Three Ongoing
Projects: Lessons Learned From the
Co-creation Processes
CLEVER Cities: Co-creation Pathway in Milan ULLs
The Co-creation process in CLEVER Cities of Milan built
up cumulatively from the start with the establishment of the
Urban Innovation Partnership (UIP) in collaboration with
the resilience department of the municipality administration
launched in November 2018, see Mahmoud and Morello (2020).
Subsequently, periodic meetings and workshops with high level
governmental authorities and private partners continued to
progress with the local team and provided insights into the
variety of implementation opportunities for NBS within the
urban context of Milan. The local team started co-planning
activities with small target groups of stakeholders by using TOC
workshops and several site visits to guide the possible uptake
of the shared governance with local stakeholders. Several press
conferences and public hearing meetings were held collectively
in the three ULLs, and since the COVID-19 pandemic started,
co-design activities moved to online formats using digital tools
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
TABLE 3 | Co-creation pathway phases, challenges, enablers, and outcomes.
Co-creation pathway
Complete co-creation process (criteria and phases)
Co-design Citizens are the main decision makers of the
process.
Co-implementation Putting citizens in the center of implementation
together with local municipalities and authorities.
Co-management Shared maintenance and monitoring of solutions.
Co-development Potential for up-scaling; replications of solutions
elsewhere; business model development.
Shared governance
Flexibility and adaptability The process is opened to receive new input and
adapt to changing conditions (resilience).
Openness and inclusivity Representativeness of populations; diversity of
actors.
Co-creation pathways
Catalysts/drivers Municipality interest, local partnership, community
interest, private investment.
Challenges/pitfalls Temporal, spatial, social, financial, Systemic
changes, management, and governance
challenges.
Expected outcome of
co-creation/Co-creation
enablers
A new culture of shared urban governance
permitting public administration routines through
novel policy guidelines, change in governance
structure and procedures in decision making,
overcoming public administration silos.
and online platforms for stakeholder collaboration. Currently,
the project is at the mid-phase of co-design6, whereby the
local facilitator entity is responsible for leading the co-design
workshops offline and online, as well as bringing citizens and
local partners to the heart of the decision-making process.
As illustrated in Table 3, co-creation pathways are often
challenging during the place-based implementation throughout
the lifetime of the ULLs. That is mostly due to the nature of the
measures put in place. However, in our comparative analysis of
the nine CALs, we deduced that not all projects advance equally
even with the same approach or equal phases of co-creation
(Mahmoud and Morello, 2021, 270).
Sharing Cities: the Co-design of Urban Services in
Milan ULL
Sharing Cities applied co-design methods for the development of
multiple measures across the lighthouse cities. For this paper we
focus on the development of urban services in Milan.
The aim was to foster a sustainable impact through the nexus
between three Ps, i.e., People (local community), Places (urban
areas), and Platform (digital means for data collection).
For this, stakeholders participated with different
contributions. Residents and the local community were first
informed about the aim and impact of the project; eventually they
were involved in the definition of critical areas and influences
of daily urban practices mainly through co-design workshops.
6See more on CLEVER Cities co-design timeline here https://clevercitiesguidance.
wordpress.com/toolkit/
Representatives of the local administration, associations and
third sectors were informed as well and eventually consulted
about their views on the influences of urban sharing, and on the
concept of a measure developed by the researchers by drawing
on the results of the previous participatory activities. The
proposed platform drew on shared, open and inclusive forms
of governance, as it fosters the pro-active collaboration across
multiple actors in a network based (rather than centralized) form.
Despite positive feedback provided by the stakeholders
consulted, resources were not allocated to the development of the
concept delivered by the project by other relevant stakeholders,
including local administration and business association. This
suggests that co-design processes require the prior allocation of
financial and human resources for the development and creation
of the concept delivered.
SUNEX Policy Guidelines–Co-Creation Pathway in
Bristol ULL
The co-creation pathway is operationalized during the second
participatory phase of the project (M12 onwards) addressing
challenges in the realization of sustainable city vision, and
the deployment of the process of transition management
defining transition pathways to sustainable and carbon neutral
cities. Backcasting forms the central methodology, which
as a participatory foresight process provides a step-by-step
framework to identify future adaptive FEW management
strategies, integrated with broader policy strategies for
sustainable cities. This qualitative assessment supporting policy
guideline development proceeds via stakeholder engagement
workshops in each case study city (Vienna, Berlin, Bristol,
and Doha) to consider the essential facets of scenario defined
visioning of FEW related interactions, and according to
alternative potential drivers of change (food localization,
renewable energy options etc.), as conditioned by policy
objectives for strategic spatial planning of the city-region over
20–30-year timescale.
FINDINGS FROM THE THREE PROJECTS
Stakeholder Engagement Mechanisms:
Multi-Level and Multi-Scalar
In Table 4, we discuss the different stakeholder engagement
mechanisms based on multi- scale and multi-level engagement
model, see Figure 1. For instance, CLEVER Cities operates on
four scales:
Consortium scale (all the partners get involved in decision
making and procedural processes through steering group
meetings) that is the empowerment level of involvement.
City scale (each city involved is required to manage a local
team composed of a variety of partners and responsibilities
that manage the project at the territorial level), that is the
collaboration scale.
The Urban Innovation Partnership (UIP), a local alliance of
stakeholders, is the most common framework to implement
NBS in ULLs, which is the involvement scale.
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
TABLE 4 | Stakeholder engagement mechanisms (multi-level/multi-
scalar/multi-modal).
Stakeholder ladder
involvement (multi-level)
Importance of stakeholder collaboration
and multi-actors in the process
short/long-term
Information General audience of the living lab
Consultation Private or public entities, associations, NGOs,
NPOs
Involvement Local citizens and public administration
Collaboration Participants to ULL co-creation activities,
coordinated by facilitators
Empowerment Leading stakeholders
Scale of engagement
(multi-scalar)
Urban and/or local partnerships change
during the engagement process and at
different stages.
Urban partnership Creation of a local stakeholder alliances and
partnerships through different modalities of
engagement
Local partnership Participants to a local, project specific ULLs is
also considered as a local partnership
Duration of engagement
(multi-temporal)
Temporal duration and continuity of
engagement in the local alliance and ULL
lifetime.
Modalities of Scenario building
and engagement
(multi-modal)
A variety of scenario building models have
been adopted such as forecasting or
backcasting methodologies
Source: the authors.
CLEVER Action Lab (CAL) scale, the single project
specific ULL, where all the co-design workshops and co-
implementation of NBS takes place. Nine CALs are established
in CLEVER Cities project and operated collectively as three in
each city.
Sharing Cities is structured with three key field stakeholders
fairly corresponding to three scales:
Individual and societal scale (People), with the engagement of
citizens in co-design activities.
Urban scale (Place) through tangible implementations.
Virtual or global scale (Platform), through the development
of a common digital platform where data regarding urban
performance and citizen life are collected.
Each of the three frontrunner cities has promoted the creation of
their local eco-system.
SUNEX stakeholder engagement is structured according
to the required skills for development and delivery of the
transition plan:
Plan specification and implementation is multi-scalar and
integrated, linking local and city-regional visions and targets
in a framework of policy coherence.
As a result, stakeholder engagement is specified to address
multi-scale plan requirement engaging FEW nexus
stakeholders with governance at city and regional levels,
within a frame of sustainable city-region development.
Stakeholder engagement focused on involvement and
collaboration with local FEW stakeholders’ expertise and
city planning agencies to secure bottom-up empowerment in
defining transition pathways for Bristol One City Plan at a
scale of local partnership.
Engagement modality is delivered by backcasting
methodology with specific duration of engagement according
to the requirements of the “One City Plan” refresh stage.
Co-creation Process Dynamics Analysis
From Case Studies: Multi-Modal and
Multi-Phases
Co-creation by Forecasting TOC in CLEVER Cities
CLEVER Cities adopted a Public-Private-Partnership model
since the project inception in June 2018. The established
UIP brings together the governance process in the heart of
the co-creation pathway adopted by different groups. These
different stakeholders’ groups work together to co-plan, co-
design, and co-implement NBS for the city crossing both vertical
and horizontal decision-making mechanisms. For each ULL,
different “leading actors” were identified within the first launch
activities in order to ignite the engagement with larger groups
of stakeholders at different levels of the project afterwards.
Each of the three ULLs established in the city of Milan for
instance have different acting leaders, consequently, they all
report to the local project manager hired by the municipality.
In other words, transversal coordination of co-creation in all
aspects is followed, see also (Mahmoud and Morello, 2018). Two
TOC workshops were conducted to build the pathway to the
implementation of NBS in each of the three ULLs, see (Reisman
and Gienapp, 2004). Depending on the ULL itself, architects,
experts on greening solutions, and citizens were involved in
the co-creation process for implementing green roofs and green
walls in private buildings7Social experts and designers from the
local municipality of Milan, as well as citizens from Giambellino
129 neighborhood8were also involved in co-designing a new
community park. The main idea behind TOC was to build on the
narratives from the people that possessed contextual information
about the areas of the ULLs, in order to forecast the change,
they want to see through NBS solutions. For instance, the TOC
workshops in all three ULLs included forecasting outputs, and
outcomes, in order to reach a common definition for activities to
be carried out by ULL leaders and local teams.
Co-creation Backcasting Methodology in SUNEX
Deployment of the normative backcasting methodology in Bristol
to engage with stakeholders was considered the most effective
means of engagement targeting specification of policy guidelines
with focus on climate neutral cities, and with recommendations
for deployment of the same method of stakeholder engagement
in Vienna, Berlin, and Doha.
This normative backcasting scenarios building activity (Joint
Research Centre, 2008; Robinson et al., 2011; Wangel, 2011), aims
to define the critical transition pathways, and associated policy
7See https://milanoclever.net/cal-1/
8See https://milanoclever.net/cal-2
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
pathways, to deliver carbon neutral policy objectives 2050 via the
following process:
Specify normative scenarios focused on policy targets e.g.,
carbon neutral, in terms of multiple policy objectives, as
relevant to the socio-economic and environmental diversity
of sustainable development. A set of future goals is agreed
upon while the model is used in combination with storylines
to explore what needs to change to achieve these goals.
Deploy backcasting that starts from the endpoint of policy
targets, in a process that “navigates” the”policy environment,
in which policy targets interact with socio-economic and
environmental variables.
Define transition pathways focused on the required action,
costs and benefits of achieving policy targets as a basis for the
definition of policy guidelines.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
In order to respond to the research question and hypothesis, the
following section will discuss the results of the three projects
collectively. The discussion of comparative analysis is mainly
looking at results from the main three research concepts: (1) co-
creation processes, (2) shared urban governance models through
stakeholder’s engagement mechanisms, and (3) ULLs challenges
and evolution. The results of this analysis show a need for an
evidence-based policy tendency toward addressing sustainable
urban transition themes especially in related societal sectors, see
also (Ernst et al., 2016); in addition to new models of shared
governance in ULLs.
Lessons Learned From Co-creation
Processes
The creation of multi-level urban governance systems for
adaptation and mitigation using NBS, smart solutions or any
other sustainable urban development measures that include
citizens aiming to drive improved integration into related
science-policy is not an easy task. It is important because local
climate resilience depends on the level of inclusiveness and
flexibility of the combined set of mitigation measures employed,
rather than the effectiveness of a single measure or activity
in itself, see also (Faivre et al., 2017; Menny et al., 2018;
DeLosRíos-White et al., 2020; Ferreira et al., 2020; Hölscher and
Frantzeskaki, 2021; Mahmoud and Morello, 2021). In Table 5, the
co-creation processes are cross-compared throughout the three
projects, below a collective summary from the general lessons
learned from co-creative pathways in practice.
Co-creation Pathways Are Never Linear but
Multi-Phased and Iterative Processes
The overall vision of the three projects confirmed the need for
co-creation processes to be iterative and open for changes on
all scales from beginning to end. Hence, Co-creation approaches
should not just be experimental, and collaborative only, but
also aim to facilitate inspiring solutions, supporting local
communities to boost urban transition in cities. The principal
risk from the multidimensional nature of urban transition
processes such as co-creation pathways is that they are influenced
by policies from diverse domains risking incoherence between
the expected outcomes and real results attained.
Co-creation Processes Should Be Inclusive and
Embed Open Communication and Dissemination
Channels
No one is left behind. Everyone plays an important role
as information and engagement empowers across all
scales. Complete co-creation in this sense is based on fair
inclusion, collaboration and enhancement of ULLs to integrate
local knowledge as well as to strengthen the place-based
ownership and empowerment of all stakeholders for long-term
commitment. Communication as well plays a very important
role in this process, ensuring transparency and success. In some
cases, a separate or independent agency should be hired to ensure
neutrality of communication messages; as well as consistency
to keep stakeholder engagement active through medium and
long-term projects’ lifetime such as EU funded projects.
Co-creation Should Be Flexible and Adaptable to
Risks and Hazards
The co-creation processes of the three projects in general faced
various challenges that drove the process to be more resilient
and adaptable.
Co-creation Processes Require Leadership and
Governance Flexibility
1- Continuity of leadership is a challenge in long-term urban
regeneration projects. Change of team leader or management
within the municipality happened in CLEVER Cities during
the first year of the project. The local team had to readapt
to different leadership management in the project. That
is somehow expected during long-term projects lifetime as
political and organizational positions change faster than the
expected lifetime of the project.
2- Change of project timelines and expected deliverables
timings. Because of the COVID-19 epidemic emergency, the
previously planned activities and expected deliverance dates
changed due to total lockdown in the city of Milan and the
whole of Italy. The co-implementation and co-development
plans are all re-adapted and expected to be delivered with a
delay of about 6–12 months. That was common experience
for all the three projects.
Co-creation Processes Should Foresee Procedural and
Legal Flexibility
1- Public procurement dynamics are rather complex and
bureaucratic. For instance, in CLEVER Cities, the inclusion
of the co-design activity within the public work construction
of the Tibaldi train station of CAL3 had a big impact on the
public bidding and procurement procedures and calendar. In
fact, splitting the bid for construction works in two phases
was the proposed solution that enabled the co-design phase
to be conducted with a more relaxed time span and provide
useful input for those specific interventions that involved
citizen engagement.
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
TABLE 5 | Resulting cross-comparative analysis from the three main research concepts.
Criteria of analysis CLEVER cities Sharing cities SUNEX
Co-creation processes
development
Multi-actor: academia, private sector, public
authority, citizens and civil society
Multi-level: The actors are engaged by using
different techniques on different roles.
Multi-phases: the project is divided on 5
phases in which each stakeholder have a
specific role.
Multi-actor: academia, private sector, public
authority, residents and civil society
Multi-level: ranging from the definition of
smaller products, trough building features
and up to urban arrangements.
• Systematic changes in multi-
temporal changes related to
long-term vision for sustainability
and resilience
Substantive focus optimization of
food energy and water nexus
relations conditional on climate
mitigation priority
Shared governance
model
CLEVER project in Milan mainly looked to
empower the citizens throughout
decision-making processes. The major input is
during the co-design whereas citizens
participated in the actual green roofs or the
Giambellino park as well as the Tibaldi station
selection of NBS and eventually participate in
co-management after implementation.
The design of urban service systems in Milan
was shared and codesigned as per original
project proposal, with the involvement and
consultation of both residents and
organizations.
SUNEX Bristol stakeholder
engagement is structured according
to the required skills for development
and delivery of the Bristol “One City”
transition plan. Plan specification and
implementation is multi-scalar and
integrated, linking local and
city-regional visions and targets in a
framework of policy coherence.
Stakeholder
engagement
mechanism
Co-design workshops, events and
empowerment through questionnaires for
social monitoring of NBS co-benefits in ULLs
Co-design and participatory design process
based on workshops, interviews, questionnaire,
big data sharing, collection and analysis
Co-design and participatory design
process articulated via workshop
engagement operationalizing
backcasting methodology
ULLs challenges and
evolution
Temporal: implementation of NBS is often
long-term beneficial to the local community
and wider-city scale
Spatial: not all available land lots could be
transformed into green spaces.
Social: social acceptance values around
NBS in contested contexts.
Financial: business models and financing
mechanisms of NBS are still being
developed by the city municipality and
private partners. The current mechanism is
mainly financed by the CLEVER Cities
project itself and the municipality public
works budgets such as in CAL1.
Social: engagement of citizens is not
necessarily achieved or constant, as they
may not find this as a priority, or it may
conflict with other duties.
Temporal: the timing of the implementation
may require short term responses to meet
deadlines which cannot be modified.
Managerial or Competence: codesign
processes require competence spread
across partners and stakeholders when
decisions and activities are fragmented,
dispersed through multiple actors at different
stages of the decision process.
• Systems co-evolve with the
systems’technologies over long
periods of time, creating lock-ins
resistant to fundamental change
Systemic challenges are complex
and multi-dimensional, viewed
differently by diverse groups
Systemic nature of environmental
problems creates a significant
governance challenge –
interlinkages in complex societal
systems mean that government
interventions altering one part may
cause failure elsewhere.
Source: the authors (for complete cross comparison, see Supplementary Materials).
2- Financial resources: In some specific ULLs, the most
rewarding way to get citizens involved was through increasing
by 10% the reward given by the municipality for green roofing
to permit a more flexible financing mechanism.
3- Legal adaptability: In Sharing Cities, implementation
processes have been slowed down by restrictions imposed
by the law and ability to adapt to them, but although this
has proved beneficial occasionally, generally resident’s
engagement was slowed down.
Future Perspectives: Consolidating Shared
Urban Governance and Looking Beyond
Urban Living Labs
From Government to Shared Urban
Governance–Building Together!
While government refers to formal structures, systems or
institutions by which a state, a region or a municipality is
organized and governed, governance is a broader term (Breen
et al., 2020). Governance refers to the act of governing rather
than government in its narrow sense. It involves multiple public
and private sectors that engage in debate, and compete for
gaining, and maintaining power over an issue that is being
governed. At the same time, it offers opportunities to strategically
integrate policy instruments and connect different sectors as well
as engage multiple stakeholders in a dialogue that can enhance
collaboration for sustainability (da Cruz et al., 2019). In cities,
governance processes are important when steering the planning,
use and maintenance of common goods like public green and
blue spaces as these processes offer opportunities to find the
smartest ways to benefit citizens and urban nature.
In more general reflection on the three project processes
(see also Table 5), the notion of shared governance was adopted
approximately in the same way with particular respect to the
ladder of engagement. The degree of freedom in which the
decision-making process was adopted certainly differs. However,
co-creation methods and modalities of stakeholder engagement
adopted pinpoints the need for change in governance structural
mechanisms in cities administration and local authorities. The
multi-actor, multi-scalar, multi-levels of engagement permit a
more balanced contribution and allow a breakthrough through
governmental silos. Evidently, public authorities need to develop
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Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
new skills and policymaking practice, supporting stakeholder
interaction and organization in a multiplicity of ways allowing
a leeway of organized participation in order not to dominate
the process by one (or more) specific actors. On a more
practical note, policy coordination and policy integration are
two key strategies for achieving coherence, aligning both sectoral
and cross-cutting themes to make the stakeholder engagement
mechanisms work. Critically, stakeholder’s identification and
management along the co-creation pathways is a very critical
issue and needs to be reverified once in a while. In fact, in
CLEVER Cities project an iteration on the initially engaged
stakeholders in the UIP since 2018 is needed after 3 years in order
to make sure no one is left behind during the co-development and
up-scaling of NBS.
To delve into methodological analysis, stressing different
outcomes between forecasting and backcasting modalities of
building transformation scenarios, yet resulting in no major
differences during implementation. The focus on future scenarios
by learning from the past as in backcasting, or multiple
scenarios for building future outcomes as in forecasting do
not necessarily reveal different results between both projects
and transition pathways. The use of technological devices
or online instruments as well does not reveal a substantial
difference in the overall procedure and efficacy to obtain
valuable input and results, notwithstanding the obvious exclusion
of specific stakeholder categories, typically the weakest ones,
due to the exacerbation of the digital divide, and the
loss of human contact and personal connections between
partners, stakeholders, and facilitators during engagement
workshops themselves.
ULLs Evolvement Mechanisms: Results From the
Three Case Studies Toward ULLs V2.0
Throughout the analysis of the three-research projects, the
evidence determined the temporal factor evidence in the
ULLs mechanisms. What was clearly understood as ULL
conceptualization and baseline, needed to evolve in order to
make urban transition more attainable and, in other words, to
be more holistic and not a sectorial process. This transition for
change is only feasible by framing alliances and enhancing citizen
engagement mechanisms in order to create a better urban shared
governance dynamic in ULLs.
A new conceptualization of the main terms involved in the
framing of the ULL V2.0, resulting from the here presented
comparative analysis, is illustrated in Figure 2. In rethinking
the traditional ULL models that reflect on (1) physical context,
(2) learning and experimentation, and (3) participation of
stakeholders, we add the fourth dimension related to multi-
temporal changes as emergent from the comparative study
analysis. The relationship between ULLs and the urban
contexts plays a dynamic role in urban shared governance
dynamics. Within an ULL lifetime, local authorities could
change directions and leadership, thus making the temporal
duration and continuity of engagement from both sides (leading
and general audience of stakeholders) challenging and hard
to fulfill. In addition to the risks and hazards that might be
encountered such as a global pandemic or change in policies,
the temporal changes in ULL mechanisms are then proposed
as a new dimension, based on the comparative analysis of the
three projects.
On the one hand, the co-creation process (the right-hand side
of Figure 2) has shown development via the multi-modalities
tool, and the need for using different methodologies, such as
TOC or any other related to the urban planning policy to be
put in practice. In addition, the multiple phases dimension is
evident from three cases studies based on changes in stakeholder’s
engagement over time. The co-creation pathways in essence
are based on ideation, design, implementation and evaluation
regardless of their policy related implementation. On the other
hand, the stakeholder engagement mechanisms (the left-hand
side of Figure 2) emphasize the multi-level and multi-scalar
analysis emerging from the analysis of the three projects.
To sum up, a new understanding of ULLs V2.0 is emerging
beyond their conception, design, operations, multiplicity, and
interrelations. The concept is still in development for integrated
approach in planning practice, more support for this research
study on the relationship with social justice and social equity
aspects might be needed to triangulate the benefits of social urban
transition and more complex ULLs. Nevertheless, the proposed
model on ULL V2.0 has a prospective effectiveness that supports
wider use in practice, specifically in similar projects to the ones
analyzed in this research.
Key Takeaways: the Enablers and
Catalysts of Co-creation Processes to
Inform Shared Urban Governance of ULLs
To sum up the Results and Discussions section, we reflect on
five main challenges encountered on the development of the
comparative analysis of the three projects via the proposed
research criteria, as below:
1) Co-creation is never a theoretical linear process covering
co-design, co-implementation, co-monitoring, and co-
management as often planned but rather a multi-phased
process. In reality, it reveals to be rather an iterative process,
sometimes needing to review previous phase outcomes,
interlinking the different phases, adapting the different stages
to each other.
2) Co-creation should be open to all actors of different types
and encouraged to engage in the dialogue. Moreover, to be
flexible and place-based, reflecting on local needs based on
a bottom-up uptake rather than imposed designed plans.
This is especially relevant for sustainable urban development
measures that substantially rely on localization criteria, which
makes the overall spatial challenge hard to deal with.
3) A long-term commitment to the ULL is only achieved
through the sense of belonging and ownership constructed
via the co-creation process as part of other long-term
participation processes, and not standalone movements
or activities.
4) Co-creation needs a change in governance structure
procedures that permit multi-scalar and multi-actor
approaches to involve stakeholders in all phases fairly.
Easily said, but this is challenging given a quite restrictive
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | www.frontiersin.org 13 August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
FIGURE 2 | Conceptual Urban Living Labs v 2.0 mechanism of development toward urban shared governance dynamics (Source: the authors).
administrative environment, where sectors have to work
together in a reliable and transparent way.
5) Co-creation expertise needs to be internalized in public
administrations to become the common rule of decision-
making concerning urban regeneration interventions.
Interestingly, our research themes on the dynamics of ULLs
development and evolution is lately emerging in the ongoing
scientific argumentation related to urban planning practice and
similar H2020 projects. While in the introduction we were
reflecting on the gaps of knowledge on co-creation processes,
the development in ULLs in reality and practice are way forward
in time. Furthermore, it is observed that in this research article
the key component in the ULLs physical settings viewed as
the medium for innovation did not yield much difference
on the results and differences between the three projects.
Co-creation validity remains a reflection on the overall process as
multi-phased, iterative, time-bounded, open to communication,
flexible and adaptable in order to be inclusive. The point of
transition as we see in Figure 1, is supported by evidence-based
policy from practice in our three case studies that increased
sense of belonging and ownership toward enhancing the long-
term commitment of stakeholders along the pathway can be
leading for urban transition (connection between stakeholder’s
engagement and co-creation processes horizontally in Figure 2).
CONCLUSIONS
This research paper is based on a comparative analysis of
the practice experience of three European projects, namely
CLEVER Cities, Sharing Cities and SUNEX. The main concepts
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | www.frontiersin.org 14 August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
investigated the shared governance strategies, co-creation
processes and stakeholder engagement in the different ULLs
conducted respectively in Bristol, United Kingdom, and
Milan, Italy. The research highlighted the co-creation expected
outcomes such as the urban transition in urban governance,
in terms of updating decision-making routines, policy design
and overcoming administrative silos. Moreover, the research
highlighted the attainment of ULLs results within a multi-
actor, multi-scalar, and multi-level of engagement in order
to guarantee a continuity in duration of engagement in real
world labs. Partnerships and urban alliances with large groups
of stakeholders are mostly needed at city scales to foster the
implementation of a specific policy if strategically needed;
nonetheless, on the smaller urban scale, the main empowerment
dimension goes to citizens and on the modality and tools by
which they are actively embedded in the engagement cycle.
Co-creation processes in urban regeneration produce multiple
benefits as well, if correctly embedded in into public decision-
making routines. In particular, the attainment of longer-term
visions by the use of different engagement modalities and
methodologies for better guidance to enhance collaboration and
commitment of stakeholders. Moreover, co-creation processes
should be tailored based on the evidence from policy as well
as context, because “no one size fits all” in urban regeneration
processes. In fact, ULLs evolve as dynamically as the co-creation
mechanisms themselves. In this article, we also shed light on the
temporal dimension in ULLs V2.0, as a possible solution to gaps
related to co-production of knowledge around shared governance
mechanisms in ULLs.
The latest COVID-19 global pandemic also fundamentally
compromised the traditional engagement methods and allowed
more innovative and online solutions to emerge in the world
of public participation, especially due to lockdowns in Italy and
UK. Even though they proved to be effective in time and data
collection techniques, online participation is still having to be
used in combination with formal and informal techniques to
achieve better outcomes and guarantee wider inclusion.
Lastly, this article also emphasizes the possibility of
mainstreaming co-creation legacy into local urban planning
evidence-based policy and decision-making mechanisms.
Co-creation guidelines produced are increasingly used in day-
to-day planning activities and have been upscaled in similar pilot
projects. In other words, co-creation spillovers in urban planning
and governance are also generated through enhancing public
engagement and bringing new stakeholders to the ongoing
discussion and decision-making mechanisms in relation to
urban transition.
The last future prospective advances on the co-creation
processes research themes, is probably cross-sectorial and
cross-thematic between projects and cross collaborations. In
other words, using the same space and context and ULL
for stakeholders’ engagement on different themes of climate
action, or ICT for instance, at the same time in order to
prioritize citizens’ needs within urban agendas and timelines.
This approach is mainly related to long-term sustainable
urban development policies and integrated understanding of
cities as complex vehicles to catalyze urban transition in
many respects.
DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT
The original contributions presented in the study are included
in the article/Supplementary Material, further inquiries can be
directed to the corresponding author.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
IM and EM performed conceptualization and involved and work
on the analysis of the CLEVER Cities project. GS and EM
involved and work on the analysis of the Sharing Cities project.
DL involved and works on the analysis of the SUNEX project.
IM wrote the first draft of the manuscript. GS and DL helped
with the writing and English revision collaboratively. IM and EM
conducted the final drafting and revisions. All authors listed have
made a substantial, direct and intellectual contribution to the
work, revision, and approved the final version.
FUNDING
CLEVER Cities project has received funding from the European
Union’s Horizon 2020 Innovation action programme under
grant agreement no. 776604. Sharing Cities project has received
funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research
and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 691895.
SUNEX project has received funding from the JPI Urban
Europe/Belmont Sustainable Urban Global Initiative under grant
agreement no. 730254.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors would like to thank the two reviewers that
contributed hugely to improve the quality of this manuscript.
SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL
The Supplementary Material for this article can be found
online at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frsc.2021.
690458/full#supplementary-material
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Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the
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Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | www.frontiersin.org 17 August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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The aim of this article is to critically situate co-production methods such as that of the urban living lab within contemporary planning theory and in particular to the ideas of 'agonistic planning' and the 'trading zone'. By critically review relevant literature and discussing the results of an ongoing interdisciplinary project, we will show a number of potentials and issues when translating the urban living lab idea to planning contexts. Potentially our urban living labs have opened up opportunities for local planners to discuss controversial issues by using the idea of nature based solution as a boundary-object/trading-zone. On the other hand, planners' positivistic and incremental understanding of city making hinders a transformative understanding of the urban living lab and nature based solution in favour of more fashionable technological fixes. ARTICLE HISTORY
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‘Urban planning by experiment’ can be seen as an approach that uses experimentation to innovate and improve urban planning instruments, approaches, and outcomes. Nowadays, urban experiments—interventions in the city with the aim to innovate, learn, or gain experience—are increasingly taking place in the context of Urban Living Labs. In the Netherlands, a certain type of Urban Living Lab, called city labs, is flourishing, and it has been suggested that these labs could make an important contribution to ‘urban planning by experiment.’ However, previous studies have indicated that this will depend on how experimentation is conducted in these labs. To obtain a more comprehensive picture of the practice of experimentation, we conducted a survey among Dutch city labs, supplemented by individual and group interviews with practitioners from a small subset of the 17 responding labs. We conclude that there is a poor match between the practice of experimentation in Dutch city labs and the characteristics that are considered to support effective ‘urban planning by experiment’ (i.e., a structured approach to experimentation, co-creation of experiments, active and targeted dissemination of lessons learned, and experiments as linking pins between municipal policy goals and the needs of urban society). This suggests that the current contribution of Dutch city labs to ‘urban planning by experiment’ is probably quite limited. Further research is needed to determine whether the typical practice of experimentation encountered in the Dutch city labs, i.e., action-oriented, resource-limited, and largely driven by opportunities, is also found in Urban Living Labs elsewhere.
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Nature-based solutions (NBS) implementation in urban contexts has proven outcoming multiple benefits to reverse the current trend of natural resources' degradation adversely affecting biodiversity, human health, and wellbeing. Yet, the current urban-planning policy frameworks present a rigid structure to integrate NBS definitions, and their co-benefits to get mainstreamed and up scaled on a wider urban spatial dimension. In this research, we test a complete co-creation pathway that encourages decision-makers to embed citizen engagement methodologies as an approach to co-design and co-implement NBS in shared-governance processes aiming to increment the greening of urban spaces, towards more inclusive and climate resilient cities. On one hand, we assess a tendency to involve a multiplicity of stake-holders that collaborate to the establishment of an Urban Innovation Partnership (UIP) aiming at increasing the social awareness around NBS themes, and at the same time tackling both financial and governance aspects. On the other hand, the innovation embedded in NBS paves the way to combine a multi-scalar flexibility in implementation tools and place-based urban actions, hence resulting in widespread economic, environmental, and social impacts in place. The novelty in embedding the co-creation process in urban-planning practice lies in catalyzing resources towards the transposition of research into practice through policy and planning tools for local authorities and decision-makers. Three front-runner cities (Hamburg, London, and Milan) are under investigation as part of Clever Cities-a Horizon 2020 project-aiming at implementing NBS in diverse urban-regeneration processes, through nine up-running Urban Living Labs (ULLs). Grounded on a comparative analysis of these three cities, key characterization for NBS implementation framework could be categorized into: (1) current urban-planning greening strategies in each context, (2) specific environmental and societal challenges addressed, (3) different typologies and scales of NBS integration within urban morphologies, (4) specific governance 259 260 I. Mahmoud and E. Morello process as response to co-design and co-implementation processes, and (5) availability of financial investment and main stakeholders. As research results, we emphasize using co-creation approach in urban planning to embed and upscale NBS in an inclusive shared-governance process, hence contributing to social awareness and acceptance. Meanwhile, spatial, and financial challenges could be majorly resolved using a multi-scalar approach to manage newly embedded urban-greening policies at the urban level. Lastly, the implementation scale of NBS with local communities requires a radical paradigmatic shift in societal, individual and administrative urban-planning practices.
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This article provides insights on the urban regeneration project conduced in the densely populated centre of the “Costanzo Ciano” neighbourhood of Piacenza. Financed by MIBAC - Ministry of Heritage and Culture through the Creative Living Lab programme, the project is configured as a participatory urban regeneration action (Placemaking) aimed at testing various possible solutions for a more structured future renewal intervention. The organisational formula adopted distinguishes through the active involvement of the inhabitants at both the design and realisation stages. The output consists in the product to which the inhabitants have contributed but also, and most importantly, in the social relationships which have been formed, through which, the functional plan for the future renewal intervention has been laid out. The experience coherently follows the URBACT method principles while its cultural and practical implications refer to both the “dilemmas” theme1 posed by the current European debate regarding the strategic development of public spaces and the Placemaking tool in the Living Labs 2.0 formula, for an innovative governance straddling theory and practice.
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It is evident that climate change and unanticipated natural events pose new challenges for humanity and the environment. Already over half of the global population resides in cities, making the urban landscape a crucial focus area. Nature-based solutions (NbS) are an opportunity to address both environmental and societal challenges in both the immediate and long term, bearing particular importance in urban landscapes, as these pose more challenges and more opportunities for greater impact simultaneously. For the successful, widespread and sustainable implementation of NbS, wider inclusion of people and employment of deeper levels of participation are crucial. This review paper aimed to examine the relationship between participation and its various applications to NbS from global literature, and more specifically, assessing the levels of participation. We used Arnstein’s (Arnstein, 1969) ladder of participation to base our analysis against five essential criteria for participatory implementation. Our results demonstrate that ‘consultation’ and ‘partnership’ are the dominant levels of participation, while there is evidence supporting the adoption of deeper levels such as delegated power and citizen control. Our study argues that the role of landscape architects and urban planners should go beyond the role of experts towards facilitators and motivators, to enable wider and deeper participation of communities in defining their futures. The study contributes to the field by highlighting the potential and importance of participatory approaches, providing insights into a range of tools used to facilitate participation at various depths and offering practical and employable knowledge of application. We conclude by suggesting future pathways for empirical research.
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Cities are experiencing complex problem such as rapid urbanization, ageing, increased social inequalities, pollution and climate change. Local policymakers are called to handle those challenges with limited resources, increased economic constraints and without the appropriate policy tools. Urban Living Labs can be a useful strategy to deal with multidimensional problems because they engage local actors in experimenting innovative solutions. Urban Living Labs are, in fact, local spaces where municipalities, citizens, and stakeholders define, develop and test innovative products or services, using an open and collaborative approach to innovation, aimed at eliciting knowledge from participants. This chapter investigates how partnerships for ULL are created and managed at the local level, and for the benefit of whom. It analyses the case of the Turin Living Lab created by the Municipality of Turin in 2016 and transformed into Turin City Lab in 2019.