ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

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.
Content may be subject to copyright.
published: 06 August 2021
doi: 10.3389/frsc.2021.690458
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 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
Israa Mahmoud
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
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
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,
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
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 2August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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.
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
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 3August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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.,
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 4August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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
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.
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
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 5August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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.
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’
from different sectors science, policy, society and
market in a so called “quadruple helix model”
Medium of engagement and
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.
3A European Commission funded project from the Horizon 2020 Innovation
Action Programme under Grant Agreement No. 691895. See https://www.
4A European Commission funded project from the Horizon 2020 Innovation
Action Programme JPI under Grant Agreement No. 730254. See https://jpi-
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 6August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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.
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.
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.
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 7August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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
Inform Non-participatory A uni-directional flow of
information from programme to
Consult A process by which stakeholders
are asked for information or their
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
Stakeholders are fully involved,
often facilitated to lead on
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
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 8August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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
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
Co-creation pathways
Catalysts/drivers Municipality interest, local partnership, community
interest, private investment.
Challenges/pitfalls Temporal, spatial, social, financial, Systemic
changes, management, and governance
Expected outcome of
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.
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.
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.
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 9August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
TABLE 4 | Stakeholder engagement mechanisms (multi-level/multi-
Stakeholder ladder
involvement (multi-level)
Importance of stakeholder collaboration
and multi-actors in the process
Information General audience of the living lab
Consultation Private or public entities, associations, NGOs,
Involvement Local citizens and public administration
Collaboration Participants to ULL co-creation activities,
coordinated by facilitators
Empowerment Leading stakeholders
Scale of engagement
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
Local partnership Participants to a local, project specific ULLs is
also considered as a local partnership
Duration of engagement
Temporal duration and continuity of
engagement in the local alliance and ULL
Modalities of Scenario building
and engagement
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
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
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 10 August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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.
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
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
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.
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 11 August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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
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
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
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.
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
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
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 12 August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
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 | 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).
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 | 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.
The original contributions presented in the study are included
in the article/Supplementary Material, further inquiries can be
directed to the corresponding author.
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.
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.
The authors would like to thank the two reviewers that
contributed hugely to improve the quality of this manuscript.
The Supplementary Material for this article can be found
online at:
Agrawal, A. K., Kaushik, A. K., and Rahman, Z. (2015). Co-creation of Social
Value through Integration of Stakeholders. Proc. Soc. Behav. Sci. 189, 442–448.
doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.03.198
Ahern, J., Cilliers, S., and Niemelä, J. (2014). The concept of ecosystem services in
adaptive urban planning and design: a framework for supporting innovation.
Landsc. Urban Plan. 125, 254–259. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.01.020
Aligica, P. D. (2006). Institutional and stakeholder mapping:
frameworks for policy analysis and institutional change.
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 15 August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
Public Organ. Rev. 6, 79–90. doi: 10.1007/s11115-006-
Arnstein, S. R. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. JAIP 35, 216–224.
doi: 10.1080/01944366908977225
Ashina, S., Fujino, J., Masui, T., Ehara, T., and Hibino, G. (2012). A roadmap
towards a low-carbon society in Japan using backcasting methodology : feasible
pathways for achieving an 80 % reduction in CO 2 emissions by 2050. Energy
Policy 41, 584–598. doi: 10.1016/j.enpol.2011.11.020
Avis, W. R. (2016). Urban Governance. Defining the Urban Governance (Topic
Guide). Birmingham.
Bason, C. (2013). Powering European Public Sector Innovation: Towards A New
Architecture. Luxembourg: European Commission
Breen, A., Giannotti, E., Flores Molina, M., and Vásquez, A. (2020). From
“Government to Governance”? A systematic literature review of research for
urban green infrastructure management in Latin America. Front. Sustain. Cities
2:572360. doi: 10.3389/frsc.2020.572360
Brink, E., and Wamsler, C. (2018). Collaborative governance for climate change
adaptation: mapping citizen–municipality interactions. Environ. Policy Gov. 28,
82–97. doi: 10.1002/eet.1795
Bulkeley, H. (2019). Taking Action for Urban Nature: Effective Governance
Solutions. Durham, NC: Naturvation Guide.
Bulkeley, H., Coenen, L., Frantzeskaki, N., Hartmann, C., Kronsell, A., Mai, L.,
et al. (2016). Urban living labs: governing urban sustainability transitions. Curr.
Opin. Environ. Sustain. 22, 13–17. doi: 10.1016/j.cosust.2017.02.003
Burkett, I. (2016). An Introduction to Co-design/Co-designing for Social Good:
The Role of Citizens in Designing and Delivering Social Services, Part One.
Available online at:
An-Introduction-to-Co-Design-by-Ingrid-Burkett.pdf (accessed September
12, 2019)
Correia, C., Quina, A., Tuffs, R., and Zib, J. (2016). Market Place of the European
Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities. Available online
at: our-initiatives (accessed May
04, 2020).
da Cruz, N. F., Rode, P., and McQuarrie, M. (2019). New urban governance:
a review of current themes and future priorities. J. Urban Aff. 41, 1–19.
doi: 10.1080/07352166.2018.1499416
Dall’O’, G., and Bruni, E. (2020). Green Planning for Cities and Communities:
Novel Incisive Approaches to Sustainability. Milan; Cham: Springer.
doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-41072-8_14
Davidson, K., Coenen, L., Acuto, M., and Gleeson, B. (2019). Reconfiguring urban
governance in an age of rising city networks: a research agenda. Urban Stud. 56,
3540–3555. doi: 10.1177/0042098018816010
Davies, C., and Lafortezza, R. (2019). Transitional path to the
adoption of nature-based solutions. Land use policy 80, 406–409.
doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.09.020
DeLosRíos-White, M. I., Roebeling, P., Valente, S., and Vaittinen, I. (2020).
Mapping the life cycle co-creation process of nature-based solutions for urban
climate change adaptation. Resources 9:40039. doi: 10.3390/resources9040039
Durose, C., Richardson, L., and Perry, B. (2018). Craft metrics to measure co-
production. Nat. Comment. 562, 32–33. doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06860-w
Edwards-Schachter, M. E., Matti, C. E., and Alcántara, E. (2012). Fostering quality
of life through social innovation: a living lab methodology study case. Rev.
Policy Res. 29, 672–692. doi: 10.1111/j.1541-1338.2012.00588.x
ENOLL European Network of Living Labs. What are Living Labs. Available online
at: (accessed March 30, 2021).
Ernst, L., De Graaf-Van Dinthera, R. E., Peek, G. J., and Loorbach, D.
A. (2016). Sustainable urban transformation and sustainability transitions;
conceptual framework and case study. J. Clean. Prod. 112, 2988–2999.
doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.10.136
European Environment Agency (2017). Perspectives on Transitions
to Sustainability. Copenhagen: European Environment Agency.
doi: 10.21820/23987073.2017.1.61
Evans, J. (2019). Governing cities for sustainability: a research agenda and
invitation. Front. Sustain. Cities 1:2. doi: 10.3389/frsc.2019.00002
Evans, J., and Karvonen, A. (2011). “Living laboratories for sustainability:
Exploring the politics and epistemology of urban transition,” in Cities and Low
Carbon Transitions, eds S. M. Harriet Bulkeley, V. C. Broto, and M. Hodson
(London: Routledge), 126–141.
Faivre, N., Fritz, M., Freitas, T., de Boissezon, B., and Vandewoestijne, S.
(2017). Nature-Based Solutions in the EU: innovating with nature to address
social, economic and environmental challenges. Environ. Res. 159, 509–518.
doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.08.032
Fanzini, D., Venturini, G., Rotaru, I., Parrinello, C., and de Cocinis, A. (2020).
Placemaking for the regeneration of the Costanzo Ciano neighbourhood in
Piacenza. Techne 19, 213–222. doi: 10.13128/techne-7830
Ferreira, V., Barreira, A. P., Loures, L., Antunes, D., and Panagopoulos, T. (2020).
Stakeholders’ engagement on nature-based solutions: a systematic literature
review. Sustain 12, 1–27. doi: 10.3390/su12020640
Fors, H., Hagemann, F. A., Sang, Å. O., and Randrup, T. B. (2021).
Striving for inclusion — a systematic review of long-term participation in
strategic management of urban green spaces. Front. Sustain. Cities 3:572423.
doi: 10.3389/frsc.2021.572423
Franz, Y. (2015). Designing social living labs in urban research. Info 17, 53–66.
doi: 10.1108/info-01-2015-0008
García, M. (2006). Citizenship practices and urban governance in European cities.
Urban Stud. 43, 745–765. doi: 10.1080/00420980600597491
Gudowsky, N., and Peissl, W. (2016). Human centred science and technology—
transdisciplinary foresight and co-creation as tools for active needs-based
innovation governance. Eur. J. Futur. Res. 4:8. doi: 10.1007/s40309-016-0090-4
Haase, D., Kabisch, S., Haase, A., Andersson, E., Banzhaf, E., Baró, F.,
et al. (2017). Greening cities – To be socially inclusive? About the
alleged paradox of society and ecology in cities. Habitat Int. 64, 41–48.
doi: 10.1016/j.habitatint.2017.04.005
Hightower, R. (2009). Internal Controls Policies and Procedures. Hoboken,
Hölscher, K., and Frantzeskaki, N. (2021). Perspectives on urban transformation
research : transformations in, of, and by cities. Urban Transform. 3:2.
doi: 10.1186/s42854-021-00019-z
Hughes, S., and Hoffmann, M. (2020). Just urban transitions: toward a research
agenda. Wiley Interdiscip. Rev. Clim. Chang. 11, 1–11. doi: 10.1002/wcc.640
IAP2 (2014). IAP2’ s public participation spectrum. Int. Assoc. Public Particip.
Available online at:
foundations_course/IAP2_P2_Spectrum_FINAL.pdf (accessed October 25,
ICLEI (2019). Urban Transitions Alliance Roadmaps: Sustainability Transition
Pathways From Industrial Legacy Cities. Bonn.
IDEO (2015). The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design, 1st Edn.
doi: 10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2
IDS (2013). Introduction to.... Stakeholder engagement, 10–11. Available
online at:
Introduction-to- Stakeholder-Engagement.pdf (accessed October 10, 2018).
INSIGHT (2013). Policy Modelling and Governance Tools for Sustainable Urban
Development State-of-the-art and Future Challenges. Amsterdam.
Jansen, S., and Pieters, M. (2017). The 7 Principles of Complete Co-Creation.
Joint Research Centre (2008). Backcasting Approach for Sustainable Mobility. Ispra.
doi: 10.2788/77831
JPI Urban Europe (2019a). Urban Transitions Pathways Symposium 2019: After
Urban Living Labs? Maastricht.
JPI Urban Europe (2019b). Urban Transitions Pathways Symposium 2019 : After
Urban Living Labs?
Kabisch, N. (2019). Transformation of urban brownfields through co-creation:
the multi-functional Lene-Voigt Park in Leipzig as a case in point. Urban
Transform 1, 1–12. doi: 10.1186/s42854-019-0002-6
Kanter, D. R., Schwoob, M. H., Baethgen, W. E., Bervejillo, J. E., Carriquiry,
M., Dobermann, A., et al. (2016). Translating the Sustainable Development
Goals into action: a participatory backcasting approach for developing
national agricultural transformation pathways. Glob. Food Sec. 10, 71–79.
doi: 10.1016/j.gfs.2016.08.002
Klimatek Project (2017). Nature-Based Solutions for Local Climate Adaptation in
the Basque Country. Bilbao. Available online at:
wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NBS-Climate-Adaptation- Basque-Country.pdf
(accessed October 16, 2019).
Kronsell, A., and Mukhtar-Landgren, D. (2018). Experimental
governance: the role of municipalities in urban living labs.
Eur. Plan. Stud. 26, 988–1007. doi: 10.1080/09654313.2018.
Lember, V., Brandsen, T., and Tõnurist, P. (2019). The potential
impacts of digital technologies on co-production and co-creation.
Public Manag. Rev. 21, 1665–1686. doi: 10.1080/14719037.2019.
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 16 August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
Mahmoud et al. Co-creation Pathways Towards Urban Living Labs
Loorbach, D., Wittmayer, J. M., Shiroyama, H., Fujino, J., and Mizuguchi, S.
(2016). Governance of Urban Sustainability Transitions: European and Asian
Experiences. Tokyo: Springer.
Mahmoud, I., and Morello, E. (2018). Co-creation pathway as a catalyst for
implementing nature-based solution in urban regeneration strategies learning
from CLEVER cities framework and milano as test-bed. Urban. Inf. 278,
204–210. Available online at:
Mahmoud, I., and Morello, E. (2020). “Are Nature-based solutions the answer
to urban sustainability dilemma? The case of CLEVER Cities CALs within
the Milanese urban context,” in Atti della XXII Conferenza Nazionale SIU.
L’Urbanistica italiana di fronte all’Agenda 2030. Portare territori e comunità
sulla strada della sostenibilità e della resilienza (Roma-Milano: Planum
Publisher), 1322–1327. Available online at:
Mahmoud, I., and Morello, E. (2021). “Co-creation pathway for urban nature-
based solutions : testing a shared-governance approach in three cities and nine
action labs,” in Smart and Sustainable Planning for Cities and Regions, eds A.
Bisello, D.Vettorato, P. Laconte, and S. Costa (Cham: Springer International
Publishing), 259–276. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-57764-3_17
McCormick, K. (2020). Cities, Nature and Innovation | New Directions.
Available online at:
Nature_Compendium.pdf (accessed May 04, 2020).
Mccormick, K., and Kiss, B. (2019). Taking Action for Urban Nature: Innovation
Pathways Directory. Lund University.
Meijer, A. J., Lips, M., and Chen, K. (2019). Open governance: a new paradigm for
understanding urban governance in an information age. Front. Sustain. Cities
1:3. doi: 10.3389/frsc.2019.00003
Menny, M., Voytenko Palgan, Y., and McCormick, K. (2018). Urban living labs
and the role of users in co-creation. Gaia 27, 68–77. doi: 10.14512/gaia.27.S1.14
Morello, E., Mahmoud, I., and Gulyurtlu, S. (2018). Guidance on co-creating
nature-based solutions PART II - Running CLEVER Action Labs in 16 steps.
Deliverable 1.1.6. Available online at:
2018.pdf (accessed December 2018).
Mulder, I. (2012). Living labbing the rotterdam way: co-creation as an
enabler for urban innovation. Technol. Innov. Manag. Rev. 2, 39–43.
doi: 10.22215/timreview/607
Nesti, G. (2018). Co-production for innovation: the urban living lab experience.
Policy Soc. 37, 310–325. doi: 10.1080/14494035.2017.1374692
Nesti, G. (2020). “Partnerships for innovation: the case of urban living lab in
Turin,” in Partnerships for Livable Cities, eds C. Van Montfort and A. Michels
(Cham: Palgrave Macmillan), 293–356. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-40060-6_16
Nevens, F., Frantzeskaki, N., Gorissen, L., and Loorbach, D. (2013).
Urban transition labs: co-creating transformative action for sustainable
cities. J. Clean. Prod. 50, 111–122. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.
Puerari, E., Koning, J. I. J. C., De, Von Wirth, T., Karré, P. M.,
Mulder, I. J., and Loorbach, D. A. (2018). Co-creation dynamics
in urban living labs. Sustainability 10, 1–18. doi: 10.3390/su100
Puskás, N., Abunnasr, Y., and Naalbandian, S. (2021). Assessing deeper
levels of participation in nature-based solutions in urban landscapes - a
literature review of real-world cases. Landsc. Urban Plan. J. 210:104065.
doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2021.104065
Ramaswamy, V., and Ozcan, K. (2018). What is co-creation? An interactional
creation framework and its implications for value creation. J. Bus. Res. 84,
196–205. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2017.11.027
Raymond, C. M., Frantzeskaki, N., Kabisch, N., Berry, P., Breil, M., Nita, M. R.,
et al. (2017). A framework for assessing and implementing the co-benefits
of nature-based solutions in urban areas. Environ. Sci. Policy 77, 15–24.
doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2017.07.008
Reisman, J., and Gienapp, A. (2004). Theory of Change: A
Practical Tool for Action, Results and Learning. Organ. Res.
Serv. Prep. Annie E. Casey Found., 1–49. Available online
at: papers2://publication/uuid/54216947-5317-4A48-9F70-E367BF1A3FB4
(accessed March 19, 2021).
Rivolin, U. J., and Faludi, A. (2005). The hidden face of European spatial
planning: innovations in governance. Eur. Plan. Stud. 13, 195–215.
doi: 10.1080/0965431042000321785
Rizzo, A., Habibipour, A., and Ståhlbröst, A. (2021). Transformative thinking and
urban living labs in planning practice : a critical review and ongoing case studies
in Europe. Eur. Plan. Stud. 0, 1–19. doi: 10.1080/09654313.2021.1911955
Robinson, J., Burch, S., Talwar, S., O’Shea, M., and Walsh, M. (2011). Envisioning
sustainability: recent progress in the use of participatory backcasting
approaches for sustainability research. Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change 78,
756–768. doi: 10.1016/j.techfore.2010.12.006
Rock, J., McGuire, M., and Rogers, A. (2018). Multidisciplinary perspectives on
co-creation. Sci. Commun. 40, 541–552. doi: 10.1177/1075547018781496
Salvia, G., and Morello, E. (2020). sharing cities and citizens sharing: perceptions
and practices in Milan. Cities 98:102592. doi: 10.1016/j.cities.2019.102592
Schäpke, N., Stelzer, F., Caniglia, G., Bergmann, M., Wanner, M., Singer-
Brodowski, M., et al. (2018). Jointly experimenting for transformation?:
shaping real-world laboratories by comparing them. Gaia 27, 85–96.
doi: 10.14512/gaia.27.S1.16
Scholl, C., and De Kraker, J. (2021). The practice of urban experimentation in
Dutch city labs. Urban Plan. 6, 161–170. doi: 10.17645/up.v6i1.3626
Scholl, C., and Kemp, R. (2016). City labs as vehicles for innovation in urban
planning processes. Urban Plan. 1, 89–102. doi: 10.17645/up.v1i4.749
TeRRIFICA (2019). D4.1. Guide on engagement and co-creation. Available online
UN-HABITAT (2020). The New Urban Agenda.
Urban Transitions Alliance (2018). Social Transition Roadmap. Available online
van der Jagt, A. P. N., Smith, M., Ambrose-Oji, B., Konijnendijk, C. C., Giannico,
V., Haase, D., et al. (2019). Co-creating urban green infrastructure connecting
people and nature: A guiding framework and approach. J. Environ. Manage.
233, 757–767. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.09.083
Van Montfort, C., and Michels, A. (2020). Partnerships for Livable Cities.
doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-40060-6
Veeckman, C., and Temmerman, L. (2021). Urban living labs and citizen science:
from innovation and science towards policy impacts. Sustain. 13, 1–15.
doi: 10.3390/su13020526
Voorberg, W. H., Bekkers, V. J. J. M., and Tummers, L. G. (2015). A
systematic review of co-creation and co-production: embarking on
the social innovation journey. Public Manag. Rev. 17, 1333–1357.
doi: 10.1080/14719037.2014.930505
Voytenko, Y., McCormick, K., Evans, J., and Schliwa, G. (2016). urban living labs
for sustainability and low carbon cities in europe: towards a research agenda. J.
Clean. Prod. 123, 45–54. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.08.053
Wangel, J. (2011). Change by whom? Four ways of adding actors and governance
in backcasting studies. Futures 43, 880–889. doi: 10.1016/j.futures.2011.06.012
Wolfram, M. (2016). Conceptualizing urban transformative capacity: a framework
for research and policy. Cities 51, 121–130. doi: 10.1016/j.cities.2015.11.011
Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the
absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a
potential conflict of interest.
Publisher’s Note: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors
and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of
the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in
this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or
endorsed by the publisher.
Copyright © 2021 Mahmoud, Morello, Ludlow and Salvia. This is an open-access
article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC
BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided
the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original
publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.
No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these
Frontiers in Sustainable Cities | 17 August 2021 | Volume 3 | Article 690458
... Each model presents unique opportunities and challenges, and although it is debatable whether cooperation can sustain efficiency gains in the long run, it has been shown to at least able to improve service coverage and quality by overcoming scale-related obstacles [7,26,27]. In addition, an intensifying focus on urban sustainability and transition in recent times has provided a new impetus for shared urban governance [28]. ...
Full-text available
Local government partnerships for producing services are ubiquitous in many countries. However, the approach has rarely been applied in India—likely owing to a history of centralized planning and independent urban and rural governance systems. Nonetheless, the country’s transforming sanitation landscape could benefit from intergovernmental partnerships for scaling services with speed and efficiency. The ongoing national sanitation program has espoused the approach in theory but the body of practice to support its wide deployment is sparse. This paper critically reviews one of the first experiments with the approach for producing sanitation services in the Dhenkanal district, Odisha, India. We ask the question: what can Dhenkanal’s case tell us about the challenges and opportunities for delivering sanitation services through local-level intergovernmental urban–rural partnerships in India? As part of our practice research, we supported the district government pilot the approach. The data, consultations, and observations underpinning the experiment form the basis of our insights. We find that the urban–rural partnership increased access to sanitation services among rural households within a short period, lowered service charges, and clarified institutional responsibilities. The experiment highlighted issues relating to planning, responsibility, accountability, and financing that need tackling in order to strengthen the model going forward. We recommend that evolving a definitive model(s) of intergovernmental partnerships would require experimenting with the approach in diverse institutional contexts and granting governments the flexibility to recreate and renegotiate the form of the partnership.
... More effective decision-making processes are normally associated with transparent and inclusive stakeholder engagement and empowerment across all stages of decision-making as this fosters the creation of collective action for a more sustainable approach to shaping cities (Arlati et al., 2021). In addition to strengthening a sense of ownership, participation in placemaking initiatives also strengthens the connection between people and the places they share, develops learning opportunities, and promotes the creation of quality public spaces (PPS, 2007;Mahmoud et al., 2021) while increasing the social capital of communities. ...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Nature is a source of inspiration, education and scientific knowledge, but also a means to climate adaptation and urban quality improvement for more liveable cities. Yet, recent literature has shown how access to nature is, often, not equitably shared within communities and is driven by demographic and socioeconomic conditions, such as population density and according to areas of advantage and disadvantage. At the same time, nature-based interventions which aim to improve the quality of urban areas, are in many cases not accompanied by significant engagement and empowerment of communities and are rarely followed upon through comprehensive monitoring and assessment of arising benefits, and their distribution within communities. Placemaking inspires people to reimagine and reinvent public spaces used by communities. Here, we focus on the role of 'nature-based placemaking' in revitalising urban spaces in dense urban settings. Inspired by the recent work on the use of nature for the well-being of communities, nature-based placemaking focuses on revitalising urban spaces for communities with and using nature. Ecostack Innovations is proud to present the Nature-Based Placemaking in High-Density Cities publication with the Senglea Local Council, Dawra Madwarna and the University of Malta, with whom we have been collaborating to test a nature-based placemaking methodology to recreate urban spaces in the historic city of Senglea, Malta. Through this document, we are, therefore, sharing some of the learning experiences from the implementation of nature-based placemaking in high-density cities based on our work in the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Community New European Bauhaus project ReCreate. This learning outcomes document defines nature-based placemaking, provides an overview of the benefits of effective stakeholder engagement and evaluates the role of citizen science activities in reconnecting communities with nature while sharing practical advice based on outcomes of the ReCreate project. Finally, we recognise the need for social, methodological and technological innovations to foster the uptake of nature by communities and evaluate how nature-based placemaking activities can be replicated and upscaled to other high-density cities while contributing to the objectives of involving the wider community, reconnecting these communities to nature, and prioritising places and the people that need it most. These efforts are part of a wider range of initiatives that we are carrying out to build interdisciplinary communities that foster placemaking and nature-based solutions and which, as we show here, if integrated can lead to improved urban spaces that provide tangible benefits to the communities, thereby shaping a new era of nature-based placemaking.
... ULLs are dynamic containers for changes in the urban public domain; see also [30,31]. Puerari et al. [32] give a spatial definition for ULLs as "embedded sites for co-creation of knowledge and solutions" by conducting local experiments and hence are an arena for reflexive, adaptive, and multi-actor learning environments, where novel solutions can be experimented with. ...
Full-text available
Within the framework of CLEVER Cities Horizon 2020, London, Milan, and Hamburg are putting in place nine Urban Living Labs in order to implement Nature-based Solutions that address urban challenges in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods. In this article, the means by which co-creation processes and pathways may lead to innovation in governance structures are considered. Through a comparative case study analysis, this research aims to identify integrated, collaborative governance frameworks that are complex and adaptive, as well as reflect the actual changes in governance in cities. Herein, ULLs are intended not just as a vehicle for place-based urban regeneration but also as a starting point for collaborative governance. In this article, it is considered how co-creation pathways may lead to innovation in current local governance structures and achieve transformational change. This paper analyzes the collaborative governance dynamic models at three points in time in the three cities. It is also considered how co-creation pathways may lead to innovation in current local governance structures and achieve transformational change.
... This may be related to factors such as the lack of specialized rural services, monetary factors, and the perception that older adults are more self-reliant and do not want to be seen as vulnerable (Coburn, 2002;Morgan et al., 2002). In addition to the primary care provided by the family, informal care provided by other relatives, church networks, and friends and neighbors play a complementary role for daily help for older adults (Kivett, 1985;Mahmoud et al., 2021). Rural seniors, on the other hand, tend to show a lower use of marketbased, specialized care services (Rowles et al., 1996). ...
Full-text available
The problem of elderly service supply is a important issue that must be solved for the development of an aging society. This study uses microdata from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study that were published in 2017 and from a regression analysis using a dichotomous logistic model. Finally, the article examines the factors that affect the supply of elderly services and land use in rural China. The results show that 1) the health level is the most direct influencing factor on whether rural elderly people in rural land can obtain elderly services; 2) the family characteristics that affects the supply of elderly services in rural land is the relationship of living with children rather than the number of children; 3) socio-economic status has an impact on the supply of elderly services, but this impact is limited; and 4) the factors affecting the supply of family elderly services and social elderly services for the rural elderly are basically the same, with the fundamental difference between the two being that the service targets are different, which reflects typological characteristics.
... One important aspect of innovation in NBS implementation nowadays is its inclusivity and its relatedness to citizen-centred approaches for implementation in Urban Living Labs (ULLs). The notion is that ULLs allow a flexible structural pathway and include a variety of sleeve tools to bring everyone on board [7]. Lessons in this section would mainly address successful case studies from physical or digital ULLs experiences in implementing NBS in urban regeneration processes. ...
Full-text available
The topic of pinpointing Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in the urban context has been cultivating interests lately from different scholars, urban planning practitioners and policy- makers. This Special Issue originates from the Greening Cities Shaping Cities Symposium held at the Politecnico di Milano (12–13 October 2020), aiming at bridging the gap between the science and practice of implementing NBS in the built environment [1], as well as high- lighting the importance of citizen participation in shared governance and policy making. The Special Issue was also made open to other contributions from outside the symposium in order to allow for contributions from a major scientific and practical audience wherever possible. Indeed, we have gathered contributions from Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Brazil, Portugal, Denmark, France, Bulgaria, Sweden, Hungary, Spain, the UAE, the UK, and the USA.
... Stakeholder/ community engagement is considered as the process of uniting a group or network of people, bound either by interest or by geography, enabling them to interact with each other for consensus and support and to promote inclusivity in social activities (Middleton et al. 2005, Hassen andKaufman 2016). Within the broad context of inclusive urban governance, there are many approaches and models for multi stakeholder collaboration, including urban innovation partnerships, commons-based urban governance, and urban living labs (Meilvang et al. 2018, Bisello et al. 2021, Mahmoud et al. 2021. These are given impetus by factors such as the instrumental benefits of incorporating diverse insights and perspectives in decision-making, the social justice and democratic imperative of co-creating solutions with the 'public concerned', and the empowerment of communities to own the solutions and their implementation. ...
Full-text available
Increasingly complex challenges and systemic risks in urban development and planning require systems methods and solutions. This policy brief summarizes the experience of a collaborative systems modelling workshop on the health co-benefits of urban green spaces in Guangzhou, China. The workshop shows that collaborative systems modelling has the potential to surface new, integrated, and sustainable solutions for complex problems, such as urban development, spatial planning, governance, and climate change. For the collaborative systems modelling approach to succeed, it is critical to have the participation of diverse interdisciplinary stakeholders for the co-creation of solutions. Further, while noting that collective learning and capacity building take time, we recommend policymakers apply this method where and when possible, for example in urban planning projects, to address complex problems in cities while at the same time ensuring the representation of the needs and visions of stakeholders in the modelling process. Collaborative systems modelling can be considered a contribution to intelligent urban systems governance.
Full-text available
Currently, the world is facing resource scarcity as the environmental impacts of human intervention continue to intensify. To facilitate the conservation and recovery of ecosystems and to transform cities into more sustainable, intelligent, regenerative, and resilient environments, the concepts of circularity and nature-based solutions (NbS) are applied. The role of NbS within green infrastructure in urban resilience is recognised, and considerable efforts are being made by the European Commission (EC) to achieve the European sustainability goals. However, it is not fully evidenced, in an integrated way, which are the main NbS implemented in the urban environment and their effects. This article aims to identify the main and most recent NbS applied in urban environments at the European level and to analyse the integration of different measures as an innovative analysis based on real cases. For this purpose, this work presents a literature review of 69 projects implemented in 24 European cities, as well as 8 urban actions and 3 spatial scales of implementation at the district level. Therefore, there is great potential for NbS adoption in buildings and their surroundings, which are still not prioritized, given the lack of effective monitoring of the effects of NbS.
Community engagement with civil engineering is essential to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to address 'wicked' problems such as climate change. This paper explains how the Institution of Civil Engineers developed its statement of Principles for Community Engagement with Engineering to underpin best practice across the infrastructure project life cycle. The principles are intended to be adaptable to suit a range of contexts, sectors and scales of project, and to support civil engineers at different stages of their career and levels of influence. They provide a foundation for further development of best-practice case studies and guidance, to be shared through civil engineering education and professional development.
Working DefinitionsNature-based SolutionsAccording to the European Commission’sdefini-tion (See also (2015), nature-basedsolutions (NBS) are solutions that are“inspiredand supported by nature, which are cost-effective,simultaneously provide environmental, socialand economic benefits and help build resilience.Such solutions bring more, and more diverse,nature and natural features and processes intocities, landscapes, and seascapes, through locallyadapted, resource-efficient and systemic interven-tions. Nature-based solutions must therefore ben-efit biodiversity and support the delivery of arange of ecosystem services.”Sustainable Development GoalsThe 17 global Sustainable Development Goalswere introduced in 2015 by the United NationsGeneral Assembly as part of a new global devel-opment agenda to be achieved by the year 2030.They comprise 169 targets addressing the devel-opmental challenges facing the world includingeconomic growth, urbanization, poverty, inequal-ity, climate change, environmental degradation,peace and justice, see
Full-text available
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
Full-text available
‘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.
Full-text available
This systematic review contributes to the research field of user participation by suggesting a new holistic approach comprising a cyclic process model for long-term participation in the strategic management of urban green spaces, including analysis, design, and implementation phases, each followed by an evaluation. User participation in urban green spaces is encouraged in international conventions. Such initiatives aim to involve citizens more closely in decisions regarding local spaces, based on the premise that this will create better, more inclusive, and sustainable local environments. However, a social inclusion perspective is largely absent in the growing body of European scientific literature on urban green spaces. Further, user participation processes are often carried out within projects, with uncertainties about which strategic management phase (planning, design, construction, and/or maintenance) to emphasize and about the long-term sustainability of project-based participation. Therefore, the literature was examined for tools for participation with the focus on participation of local users in the strategic management of urban green spaces, and in particular, marginalized groups. A systematic review based on peer-reviewed scientific papers revealed the necessity for adapting participation processes to the known needs of different participant groups, including those of marginalized groups often excluded in the past. Local authorities have several pathways to socially inclusive and long-term participation. These include choosing and employing a suitable participation approach, anchoring repeated project-based participation in existing municipal long-term strategies, continuously supporting participating users and evaluating ongoing participation processes, and employing a mix of participation types and approaches. The “cyclic process model for long-term participation in strategic management of UGS” presented in this paper could guide such efforts.
Full-text available
The narrative of ‘urban transformations’ epitomises the hope that cities provide rich opportunities for contributing to local and global sustainability and resilience. Urban transformation research is developing a rich yet consistent research agenda, offering opportunities for integrating multiple perspectives and disciplines concerned with radical change towards desirable urban systems. We outline three perspectives on urban transformations in , of and by cities as a structuring approach for integrating knowledge about urban transformations. We illustrate how each perspective helps detangle different questions about urban transformations while also raising awareness about their limitations. Each perspective brings distinct insights about urban transformations to ultimately support research and practice on transformations for sustainability and resilience. Future research should endeavour to bridge across the three perspectives to address their respective limitations.
Full-text available
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.
Full-text available
City governments are currently exploring different participatory mechanisms in order to meet the growing demand in society for deliberate decision-making. Through developments in sensing technology, data processing and visualization, citizen science is emerging as a powerful tool for the general public to participate in scientific research that informs policy. Citizen science can be used as an approach in Urban Living Labs, whereby public and private stakeholders are involved in innovation and data collection processes together with citizens. However, there is currently little synergy between citizen science and Urban Living Labs, and how science, innovation and policy can be interoperable. Therefore, this article conducts a comparative case study analysis on the participatory processes and related outputs, outcomes and impacts of the FloodCitiSense Urban Living Labs (Brussels, Birmingham, Rotterdam). These initiatives developed an early warning system for urban flooding through the collection and analysis of crowdsourced information. Data on the participatory processes were collected through 11 in-depth interviews and evaluated on its effectiveness in achieving policy outcomes. The discussion reflects on best practices in incorporating citizen science in Urban Living Labs based on the experienced opportunities and challenges in FloodCitiSense.
Full-text available
The concept of Urban Green Infrastructure (UGI) has emerged in response to the need to highlight and ensure access to the multifunctional benefits of green spaces in changing cityscapes. Recent literature reviews around UGI have focused on environmental benefits and services, and the management of these spaces has been comparatively neglected. In addition to this, the core conceptual and practical research around UGI management has been produced in the Global North, and far less research has been generated in Latin America, despite the contextual challenges and opportunities brought by this rapidly urbanizing and diverse region. In response, this trilingual systematic review asks: What are the research trends in terms of topics and case studies that characterize UGI management research in Latin America? Which management types are the focuses of this research? A total of 47 publications, found through Scopus, Web of Science, and SciELO, were subjected to both quantitative and qualitative assessment. The research was both geographically concentrated and predominantly recent. Government-led initiatives made up the highest proportion of the research, and more than half of the publications described local government as the principle actor in the management of the UGI studied. Community-run initiatives were consistent across the temporal span of the articles found, and their established presence was supported by the qualitative review. Findings also revealed a directional push toward governance practices but significant obstacles in the form of weak local government, divisions driven by a lack of context-sensitive approaches to informal settlements and socioeconomic segregation, and a management discourse that jarred with urban practices by indigenous communities. Through demonstrating the contribution of existing literature on UGI management in Latin America, this review highlights the need for further published research on the region.
Full-text available
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.
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.
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.