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Experimental co-Design Approaches: Investigating possibilities for creating networks of resilient citizens and civic actions of urban resilience through hybrid platforms

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EcoDA (Experimental co-Design Approaches: Investigating possibilities for creating networks of resilient citizens and civic actions of urban resilience through hybrid platforms)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2017-09-30

The unprecedented environmental, social and economic challenges of the 21st century ask for searching new ways of enhancing the resilience of cities and urban communities. The discourse of ‘resilience’ has (re)gained prominence among the academic community, policy-makers and grassroots activist groups alike.

In parallel with the proliferation of resilience work within academia and the policy arena, numerous community-driven initiatives have emerged throughout Europe and beyond. Typically, such initiatives are aimed at enhancing community resilience and experiment with alternative ways of addressing the challenges through processes of ‘commoning’ (Linebaugh,2008). Yet, while the number of such practices has increased in the recent years, only few of them seem to have the means to become sustainable in the long term and up-scale (Petrescu et all,2016).

EcoDA addresses this need, investigating ways of scaling community resilience practices and opportunities for using digital technologies to assist this. The project had three main objectives:

1.To examine the social, cultural, political and technological contexts for urban resilience, and specifically map existing community resilience practices in three European cities, focussing on the neighbourhood scale.
2.To co-design, prototype and test digital tools that could support and potentially amplify community resilience practices.
3.To evaluate the capacity of these tools to generate an open resilience platform that could foster and sustain connectivity and knowledge sharing across scales and locations.
The research approach involved a co-production process, which included collaborations with architectural practices from Bucharest, London and Paris (i.e. studioBasar, Public Works and AAA), who have had a key role in initiating and/or supporting community resilience projects in their cities. Through the practitioners’ mediation, the co-production process extended also to formal and informal local groups with whom they collaborate as part of these community projects. The co-production process had three stages:
• Stage 1 / Visioning carried out through collaborative mapping workshops with local practitioners and some of their collaborators to better understand what resilience means in each urban context and to define key needs for the tools that could be prototyped. The needs for tools are connected to the types of capacities that the participants considered necessary in order to enable them to advance their resilience practices at different scales.
• Stage 2 / Prototyping carried out through research residencies (secondments) involving co-design workshops with local practitioners in each of the three cities to prototype digital tools. This stage was aimed at conceiving and testing a number of tools by working closely with potential users and engaging with their projects, on the ground. Focus was placed on hands-on workshops to ‘make’ the tools together.
• Stage 3 / Reflection & Transferring carried out through co-reflection sessions during an International Symposium. The Symposium brought together representatives of the local participants to evaluate the tools, and also external academics and practitioners, as a way of opening up the co-design process and initiating the intended open resilience platform.

The main results include four digital toolkits and an initial digital platform. The toolkits, prototyped in Paris, London and Bucharest during the secondments, address the specific characteristics of the practices and projects used as case studies and their resilience needs. Rather than ‘reinventing the wheel’ the toolkits are made up of existing digital technologies, re-appropriated for the specific local needs. Each prototype (or toolkit) could be described as an assembly of technologies, brought together via a ‘portal’ – that is, websites built using the Hotglue software (https://hotglue.me/).
• Toolkit 1 (Paris, AAA secondment): http://agrocitehub.hotglue.me; offers tools for the self-management of community resilience hubs
• Toolkit 2 (London, Public Works secondment): http://resourcingcommons.hotglue.me; provides support for communities to resource urban commons initiatives
• Toolkit 3 (London, Public Works secondment; developed as outcome of a Live Project with SSoA students and in collaboration with Public Works) http://masterclasstoolkit.wixsite.com/masterclass; tools for knowledge and skill sharing.
• Toolkit 4 (Bucharest, studioBasar secondment): http://bibliolab.hotglue.me; encourages knowledge-sharing across networks of local libraries and engagement with communities of users
• Platform: https://ecodaplatform.hotglue.me/

The toolkits, although developed in connection to specific needs and challenges, are aimed at being transferrable and replicable, so that others can also use and expand them, beyond the life of the project. The initial open platform, which brings together these toolkits and offers opportunities for others to contribute to it, was discussed during the International EcoDA Symposium on Open-source Urban Resilience, which took place in May 2017.
In addition to the technological outputs, the project advances knowledge beyond the state of the art by putting forward the proposition of ‘open-source resilience’ as a path towards enhancing the resilience of cities and their inhabitants (Baibarac and Petrescu, in press). This proposition builds on a transdisciplinary body of literature, which links resilience theory and practice with the ‘new commons’ and the open-source (commons-based peer production) movements. More specifically, it consists of three key concepts (or principles):
• The connected ‘local’ represents a significant site for resilience experimentation, which combines the re-localization of resilience knowledge and the means for co-producing it with trans-local connections across scales and locations.
• Open-source, commons-based peer production (e.g. of knowledge, know-how, methods and practices) can offer a potential path towards radical transformation for greater resilience.
• Collaborative technologies can be promising tools for connecting distributed local resilience initiatives and co-producing strategies with the potential to enable system change.

The project has had an impact on the practitioners and groups involved in the co-production process, changing the ways in which they think about technology. By engaging them in processes of making the toolkits using existing technologies, the participants (even those with minimal or no previous technical skills) have gained confidence about identifying and re-appropriating technology for their own needs and purposes, by themselves and without depending on external experts. This is an important achievement as it has the potential to enhance the agency of practitioners and groups involved in resilience projects, typically working with limited financial and human resources.

In addition, the project has the potential to generate impact beyond its term, through the open platform that it has initiated. Rather than being a mere technological proposition or project output, the platform can become a mediator that brings together diverse groups involved in urban resilience and commons initiatives across Europe, as illustrated by the EcoDA Symposium. Following the Symposium, a second stage of the platform has been proposed for discussion at a commons networking event in Paris, taking place in autumn 2017.
example of activity carried out as part of the visioning stage
diagram illustrating the co-design stages
example of activity carries out as part of the prototyping stage
diagram illustrating the multiple and interlinked scales of the platform
example of activity carried out as part of the EcoDa Symposium
example of toolkit in use
example of activity carried out as part of the EcoDa Symposium