Urban Transitions: climate change, global cities and the transformation of socio-technical systems

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Geography


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Description The key aim of the GUST project was to examine, inform and advance the governance of sustainability transitions (ST) taking place through urban living labs (ULL) in Europe. Urban Living Laboratories are a relatively new phenomenon, through which different actors are seeking to develop solutions to sustainability challenges and to create the capacity to learn 'what works' in order to 'scale up' these approaches. Our research focused on how and why ULL have come to be used by different actors and their implications for how the governance of sustainability is now taking place.
Our research has found that there are distinct types of ULL now being implemented. Before our work was undertaken, there was little systematic analysis of ULL and it was often assumed that they were relatively similar to one another - they were usually caricatured as being rather technical projects, led by businesses and knowledge institutions and concerned with developing 'trials' of particular technologies. Our work has shown that ULL contain a much wider variety of actors and approaches to testing new solutions and learning about their effects. To capture these insights, we have developed a typology of ULL in Europe, based on an analysis of 50 different cases across Europe.
One important aspect of this analysis has been the identification of demonstrations and platforms as specific forms of ULL. We have found that ULL have provided an important mechanism for municipal governments, local universities and businesses to work together to demonstrate the potential for alternative kinds of urban futures. This reduces the risk of innovation and enables new forms of partnership to be tested on the ground. ULL are also often created as platforms, which seek to bring together different actors and innovations in order to open up new possibilities for action, where the outcomes are not prescribed. In short, ULL can provide a space for cities to develop more 'radical' innovations, where the desired outcomes and consequences of particular interventions is not prescribed in advance.
Alongside the research results that we have produced (and which are in the process of publication in a series of papers and an edited book), we have also focused on working with practitioners and disseminating our work widely. First, we have produced a series of 'snapshot' reports which provide details of the ULL which we have investigated in an accessible way for other policy makers and users. Second, we have developed a Handbook on ULL which is intended to provide support for those seeking to design and develop ULL in cities in Europe. Third, we have developed a Massive Open Online Course which provides an introductory course on urban sustainability and the role of experimentation and ULL in sustainability transitions. Details of these outputs are provided on our webpage.
Exploitation Route Throughout the project we worked with stakeholders involved in the development of ULL and developed specific events to communicate our findings to them, including a successful event for policy makers & practitioners in the UK as well as website with short films, news and twitter feed. We have also developed the MOOC offering an accessible route to engage with the ideas, concepts and findings developed in the project. These approaches have ensured that the work of our project has reached a wide range of non-academic audiences and those taking the MOOC for education or continued professional development purposes.
We have collated our core findings into a Handbook which is targeted at actors planning or launching participatory activities related to urban planning or other development projects in urban contexts, focusing on municipalities, housing companies and universities, but is equally relevant for private companies, and civil society organisations active in cities. The handbook aims to bring open innovation and co-creation to urban policy makers and change agents in Europe and beyond, by offering an introduction into the basic concepts and principles of urban living labs. In addition, this handbook provides examples of good practices and guidance on the design, operation and evaluation of urban livings labs. Through this channel, our work may be used to shape the development of future forms of co-creation and experimentation designed to enable sustainability transitions.
Our findings may also be taken up by the academic community, particularly those interested in the dynamics of sustainability transitions and those who have identified other forms of experimentation as now central to the governance of urban sustainability. These key findings will be published in a series of papers, a special issue and an edited book.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.urbanlivinglabs.net/
Description Our findings were used to develop a MOOC on urban sustainability which has now attracted over 76,000 learners on Coursera.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal