Collective learning experiences in planning: The potential of experimental living labs

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‘Living labs’ originate from an R&D environment, and intend to innovate commodities by experiencebased knowledge, with a direct involvement of users. Meanwhile, the living labs approach has been shifting into a wider range of uses, and for instance also into the toolbox of actor- and action-oriented planners. The approach is (implicitly) promoted as a new and better way of combining capacities of different stakeholders by exploring and experimenting in real-world situations. In this paper, we attempt to critically discuss the use of the living lab approach. The first section explores the potential thereof for planning issues: How unanimous is the concept of Living Labs? How much do different interpretations and practices of Living Labs resemble in terms of actors involved, actions stimulated, processes promoted and criteria for good practices accepted? The exploration is based on the experience of two experimental living labs, which are compared to a range of international examples. The second section turns to a series of alternative approaches in spatial planning in Flanders: How do the aims and means of these collaborative learning experiences differ? What is the role of users and how important is experimentation? Which innovation is created in planning? How do the practices deal with path dependencies and uncertainties in complex multi-actor settings? We will answer these questions based on research seminars on ‘collective learning’, which are organized for the Policy Research Center Spatial Planning in Flanders, as a part of a work-package which focusses on methodologies for future explorations.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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