ENHANCING COMMUNITY LEARNING THROUGH LEARNING LOOPS INSIDE URBAN LIVING LABS: HOW TO IMPROVE URBAN CO-DESIGN
For the renovation and regeneration of urban areas, co-design involving citizens is a practice that is diffusing, but usually the results are not satisfying and the possible learning occasions for participants are lost and knowledge produced inside laboratories dispersed.
With the LOOPER (Learning Loops in the Public Realm) project, co-founded under the JPI Urban Europe and in collaboration with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the University of Manchester, the goal is to bring the learning process inside the Urban Living Labs involved in the co-design process.
Considering the Living Labs as design strategies focused on the experimentation and on the end user, in our research, Urban Living Labs are open innovative systems based on a systematic approach of co-creation with the user within public-private-citizen partnerships, which integrates research and community participation processes in real environments.
In this paper the pilot case of South Verona from LOOPER will be taken into account. This area is influenced by air quality and noise pollution issues, and there are multiple neighbourhood associations which have a conflictual relationship with policymakers. This contrast is mainly due to misunderstandings which are raising from lack of knowledge by both parties.
Within LOOPER a set of steps are followed to activate a learning process that is organized in two loops. There are 3 stages for each loop:
1Identification of problems:
2Co-design and evaluation of alternative solutions:
3Implementation and monitoring:
During these three steps the learning is activate, as stakeholders actively participate to all stages starting from the identification of problems until the implementation and monitoring of what have been done. During this learning loop, three different types of learning are turned on inside the community:
1. The first learning is about the knowledge and learning on the issues investigated by citizens (for example air quality). This can be called “functional learning” as it is about how to directly solve specific problems with technical solutions and how to frame problems in a way that tangible aspects can be identified through data
2. The second learning is about wider and deeper problems or opportunities. Here citizens learn that solving urban issues is more complex of what they think, and in addition citizens and policymakers learn how to relate to each other. This phase is the “strategic learning” and during it the community can build capacity and gain empowerment
3. The third learning is again a “strategic learning”, but it involves policymakers.
Policy makers and policy institutions are, in fact, generally knowledgeable in their area of expertise, but this often is part of a top-down, technocratic approach, which tends to exclude and disempower local communities. Valuable local knowledge and local resources are ignored, and vital insights on topical agendas are missed. In this phase, the learning is by looking at how the inner loops are working, and how they can improve and transfer and scale up.
To conclude, this paper will describe how the Learning Loop process is organized within Urban Living Labs, to trigger the three types of learning in order to improve the co-design activity. In the paper it will also be explained how this process of learning will help the community to perpetuate the learning and co-design processes.