Transitioning to a sustainable, just, and stable society is necessary, on an unprecedented scale and speed. Methods to do that have developed over the last decades: from research, demonstration, to innovation, to transitioning and transformative approaches. In that spectrum of methods, Living Labs have caught attention and are gaining traction and are seen as an important in-between-step between fundamental research and society wide implementation.
At AMS Institute we want to use, develop, test, and teach Living Lab methods and tools to better and faster find metropolitan solutions.
But what exactly are urban living labs? In the AMS publication “Urban Living Labs: A Living Lab Was of Working” we researched the theoretical framework that can be used as the starting point for living lab research.
“The publication is a mix of theoretical and methodological components of living labs, the conditions identified through case studies, and general recommendations and tips encountered throughout the research on how to tackle the challenges in setting up a living lab”
Professor & AMS PI
The aim of the research was to develop a methodology to facilitate systematic achievement of the living lab goals and ambitions in practice. How do urban living labs work? How can they contribute to a more sustainable environment? And how can you set up a successful urban living lab?
In our living lab way of working we explain the basics of a living lab approach, such as the essence of having a common ground and shared interests, and explain the implications this has for the required behaviour and mind-set of the actors.
The living lab way of working guides actors in what to think about in which stage of the process, while offering advice on elementary questions such as for example how to set up a project, how to formalise the made agreements, how to achieve inspiring co-creation sessions and how to manage an innovation collectively through a suitable legal organisational form.
Based on a literature review of living labs and urban living labs and a quick scan of 90 local innovation projects in the Amsterdam region, nine defining characteristics of urban living labs have been identified in four dimensions:
Also the core methodological components of urban living labs have been distilled from proposed living lab methodologies and process aspects repetitively referred to in urban living lab literature. In-depth case studies of the innovation processes of innovations that have emerged in living labs in Amsterdam have been conducted to research how urban living labs work in practice. This has led to conditions that have shown to be necessary for allowing successful emergence, implementation and replication of innovations in urban context.
Finally, recommendations are made to ensure that the evaluation, refinement and dissemination activities in the living lab are conducted with success. This is necessary to allow an overarching learning mechanism in the larger urban innovation system by adoption of the formulated lessons in other urban contexts, realising the full potential of a living lab.
The results of the research project are summarized in the publication ‘Urban Living Labs: A living lab way of working’ by former AMS Research Fellow Kris Steen and AMS PI Ellen van Bueren.