30 June 2017

Final URB@Exp conference launches Guidelines and LAB kit for urban lab practitioners

From 7-8 June 2017, the URB@Exp project consortium held a final conference in the city of Graz, Austria to present and discuss the results of this 3-years transdisciplinary research project co-funded by JPI Urban Europe. After an afternoon with field trips facilitated by local city officials and urban lab practitioners, participants enjoyed a full day of workshops by the project partners and keynote lectures provided by Prof. James Evans and urban innovation consultant Remko Berkhout. At the conference, two of the key deliverables were showcased, tested and discussed: a small book with Guidelines for Urban Labs and a LAB kit for (future) urban lab practitioners.

The URB@Exp project looked at urban labs and new forms of urban governance and city development. Urban labs appear to be a particularly promising, innovative form of governance to address complex urban challenges and create public value. However, policymakers and other urban actors struggle with the implementation of urban labs and seek guidance for their further development. Evidence-based guidelines and design principles are still lacking concerning types of issues for which urban labs are most suited, how urban labs can best be organized in terms of structure, process, and participation, and how urban labs can best be combined and integrated with formal local government structures. The overarching aim of the URB@EXP project was to develop such guidelines, in order to enhance the successful uptake of this new form of urban governance and contribute to improved governance of urban complexity, creating more sustainable, inclusive, attractive, and economically viable cities.  

The guidelines are intended for team members and managers of urban labs and, more generally, for civil servants and facilitators in cities working with experimental urban governance processes to tackle complex challenges. They aim to support the everyday practice of collaboratively experimenting and learning how to create more sustainable and inclusive cities. These guidelines do not provide a single definitive answer on ways to organize and run an urban lab or its experimental activities, but rather they offer, through frameworks and examples, guidance for ways to act in relation to, and reflect on, key issues. 

The toolkit (including a printed version of the book with guidelines) is aimed at municipalities or other stakeholders in a city who are toying with the idea to set up an urban lab. Through guidelines and materials, the kit supports, inspires and helps to structure multi-stakeholder discussions in a three-phased workshop setting to lay the groundwork for an urban lab for sustainable development in cities.