The Urban Living Lab as tool for introducing circularity in the everyday life of vulnerable neighbourhoods: Case study Kerkrade-West, the Netherlands.

Abujidi, N., Blezer, S., van de Weijer, M. (2021).

This is a contribution for the OLLD conference and was published in the proceedings.

Urban Living Labs have become a popular instrument to find solutions to the pressing
challenge that cities face: How can they combine economic prosperity, social cohesion,
and environmental sustainability? While the normalisation of Urban Living Labs in cities
is well evident to date, a lack of understanding in the nature and purpose of the
empirical phenomenon leaves open many challenges yet to be overcome. One
particular challenge is about their potential impact to contribute to transformative
changes. By combining a retrospective literature review with a comparative case study
to three Urban Living Labs in the city of Groningen, the Netherlands, this study explores
how the triadic relationship between stakeholder roles, funding options and outcomes
generated influences the impact creation of Urban Living Labs. The study confirms and
adds to current theoretical positions taken about how to overcome issues regarding
impact creation in terms of a shared ideology and reviewing the concept of agency and
power. Also, it shows that opportunity lies within trust building among stakeholders in
Urban Living Labs in order to enhance its potential in practise via five ways: redesigning
funding programs, look out for new ways to access effectiveness, political
empowerment of initiators, the level of abstract as facilitator in collaboration, and a
clarification of the concept itself. Consequently, this study calls for further research into
the underexplored potential of existing theoretical approaches and models about Urban
Living Labs, into the workings of power dynamics in Urban Living Labs, and into its self-sustaining character, especially about social adoption and ownership of Urban Living Labs as a self-sustaining governance system to guarantee continuity over time, and
how to make them self-sustaining and less dependent on external funding streams, like
municipal subsidies.