Cities may be the most complex systems to manage because everyone has an opinion on how to do it best. And many options are always on the table. Instead of dismissing the ones and favoring the others, experimentation promises to provide a structured method of innovation where a large part of stakeholders can get their say, reveal their perception of a problem and commonly work towards a solution. The motto is to experiment locally, involve as many and see where the journey can link you up to other cities and their best practices. But you need to have a set of engagement principles in place to build trust in the process.
This paper presents findings from two projects where experimentation was developed into a viable method of citizen-centric innovation – Dampbusters using the Bristol approach and OrganiCity in Aarhus, London and Santander, building an Experimentation-as-a-Service platform across cities through co-creation. As a central outcome, the paper concludes that experimentation as an approach to innovation is most sustainable, when it has lateral effects: Besides the gains and insights of individual projects, experimentation-as-a-service needs to contribute to an institutional framework within city governance to support new forms of civic and technological capacity building. Start with the OrganiCity playbook and sketch your journey.
The article was part of a special issue on “Urban Informatics: Decoding Urban Complexities Through Data-Sciences”, edited by Nimish Biloria for Smart and Sustainable Built Environment and appeared in 2018.
The scalability of urban innovation processes crucially depends on developing systemic capabilities to experiment within cities and in collaborations between cities to establish best practices, standards and ecosystems between actors and institutions.This is an ongoing process in which very different ecologies of actors and approaches for experimentation will likely emerge. A core area of future research and intervention lies in revealing the relation between translocal standards and infrastructures and their individual adoption in cities, their role in shaping actors’ practices around IoT data and community engagement as well as the larger digital transition that affects governance structures across city spaces.(p.160)
The purpose of this paper is to discuss how experimentation with open Internet of Things data can be institutionalised in an inclusive manner at scale.
The approach is conceptual, addressing key challenges discussed in the literature on experimental cities. This exposition of the problem of scaling experimentation is anchored in findings from two projects (Dampbusters and OrganiCity), which seek to implement experimentation as a practice of sustainable digital urban development.
One central finding is that local interventions need transferable frameworks and mechanisms to achieve scaling effects of experimentation as a practice. In addition, experimentation must embed common engagement principles, structures of data and interfaces, and governance principles across use cases to be scaled.
The authors outline how and why experimentation can be a useful approach to address challenges of implementing urban informatics into concrete uses and procedures for co-creation. Based on reports from two projects, the authors develop recommendations for experimentation at scale that reflect the need for engagement principles, the need for common data structures and interfaces, as well as governance principles.
Brynskov, Martin; Heijnen, Adriënne; Balestrini, Mara; Raetzsch, Christoph (2018). “Experimentation at Scale: Challenges for Making Urban Informatics Work.” Special Issue on “Urban Informatics: Decoding Urban Complexities Through Data-Sciences” (edited by Nimish Biloria). Smart and Sustainable Built Environment 7(1): 150-163. https://dx.doi.org/10.1108/SASBE-10-2017-0054.