OECD Smart City Co-Creation Workshop

Organising institutions: Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) acted as coordinator and presenter of the topic, OECD had the role of coordinator and co-facilitator while The Danish Design Centre (DDC) facilitated the workshop and was in charge of co-creation and Smart City experts.

24th September and 4th November 2020. Where: Online via zoom.

Smart City projects offer innovative and digital solutions to the growing number of challenges faced by municipalities, but issues remain when it comes to implementation. The process of getting innovations from the lab to the street is a challenging matter, especially when it comes to legislation and policies.

Organised around the strategic pilot project in Latvia, Smart City and Smart Mobility, the co-creation workshop hosted by OECD, DDC and LIAA explored the challenges for developing smart city policies and touched upon how Latvia’s smart cities can be co-created. The project in Latvia is facing the need for individual players, government, municipalities, academia and other stakeholders to come together in order to raise awareness and co-create adaptive and responsive legislative framework and infrastructure so the Smart City solutions can be tested and implemented in Riga and other cities of Latvia. Europe’s Smart City leading experts, stakeholders and policy makers participated in the workshop where they shared their knowledge and learnings from other smart city projects and discussed the possible next steps for developing the Latvian Smart City arena. More specifically, the attendees were a mixture of people from private organisations in Europe and from the public sector in Latvia. This included both civil servants and deputy heads and directors from the Ministry of Environmental and Regional Development, the Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia, the Riga Municipality, and professors from the Riga Technical University.

The aims and structure of the workshop

The workshop itself was split into two parts held at two different dates. The first part of the workshop was held in September and was called the “International workshop”. It had three primary aims: to introduce co-creation as a driver for innovation within Smart City policy, to inspire through practical methods, examples and dialogue, and to outline initial possibilities, uncertainties and challenges on how to co-create smart policy within the Latvia Smart City Playground. This part was more centered around experts presenting their knowledge for participants to reflect on rather than engaging them in actual co-creation activities.

As for the programme, the international workshop started out with an ice breaker-exercise in mural for participants to reflect how they have worked with co-creation before. LIAA and VEFRESH (an open innovation movement in Latvia) then gave an introduction to the Latvian Smart City Playground, followed by an introduction to co-creation and to the key aspects of co-creation within Smart City initiatives by DDC. Afterwards, four experts presented concrete cases to illustrate best practice, challenges and possibilities of co-creation, and participants were asked to reflect on what opportunities and challenges they see if citizens were the enabler of new Smart City initiatives. These reflections were then later used in a panel discussion between the experts where key possibilities and challenges on how to co-create smart policy together with citizens and companies were identified.

The second part of the workshop was held in November and was called the “Co-creation workshop”. It had the following aims: to formulate concrete challenges from the initial questions and uncertainties from the first part of the workshop, to use the challenge to formulate “how might we” questions, and to use co-creation methods to define next steps, key actions and stakeholders to answer the “how might we”. Here, participants were divided into break out rooms and engaged in a series of exercises which allowed them to work design drivenly towards smart city solutions. Each working group had one moderator from DDC, OECD or LIAA that helped them through the exercises.

Firstly, selected reflections from the panel discussion in the first part of the workshop were presented and participants were offered the chance to write down new reflections or challenges in the shared Mural board. Participants were then divided into working groups and asked to choose a challenge from the board to work together on through the rest of the workshop. Before each exercise, DDC held a short presentation on the different design methods which the participants were expected to use when working on their chosen challenge. It involved the “how might we”-method to turn the challenge into an opportunity and the “brainstorm sudoku”-method for the groups to structure their ideation and make new ideas build on top of each other. Lastly, each group worked on a concept poster where they prioritized their ideas, selected the best solution and made it more specific.

Results from the international workshop (part one)

In the first reflection exercise, 19 out of 24 participants answered that they had worked with co-creation before. Here are some of their reflections:

–          “I always try to involve key stakeholders when starting up new initiatives.”

–          “Our center has been designing co-creation processes based on listening processes for about 7 years now.”

–          “I have just recently started working  with co-creation.  I am working to expand and scale the co-creation projects I work with in the nearest future.”

–          “We work as co-creators. And we have also started this work in the smart city field.”

In the second round of reflections, participants saw a lot of opportunities in having citizens as the enabler of smart city initiatives. They mostly centered around having access to more information about the actual problems in order to create solutions that will make a difference to real people. Here are some of the reflections:

–          “More diverse ideas, insight, knowledge for solutions needed”

–          “Real solutions for real people”

–          “They can point out the pain points in bureaucratic processes”

–          “Better solutions for people with mobility limitations and for moms with strollers”

When it comes to the challenges of having citizens as the enabler, participants especially addressed the difficulties to procure the right solutions, the communication between citizens, stakeholders and policy makers, and the time consuming process of getting solutions implemented. Here are some of the reflections:

–          “There are so many steps before solutions are ready to be implemented”

–          “City planners should communicate more with “city users””

–          “Some solutions could be unrealistic”

–          “Often smart city solutions are not visible, so it is difficult to explain what, how and why they should be implemented”

The main challenge that was framed was: enabling companies, public institutions, academia and residents to communicate, experiment and test innovative ideas in the public space. The participants explored this challenge further in the workshop on co-creation (part two).

During the panel discussion, experts offered their advice on what the next steps should be for Latvia. They also answered additional questions from the chat. Due to limited time, not all questions were answered during the discussion, but the experts did their best to give a written reply after the end of the workshop. The main advice from the panel included:

–          Sketch out the involvement process from the beginning: Who do we need to involve?

–          Early involvement of citizens is important – also from a municipality point of view.

–          Rich data insights make us understand the problem and let us see how the citizens are using the city.

–          Do workshops with the municipality and the companies in the city. Ask them what info they need to provide better services for the citizens.

–          From a company perspective, what is important is a specifically defined challenge.

–          Create empathy among policy makers by showing them concrete examples on how your solution can be valuable to citizens. This can help you in the process of integrating your solution.

Results from the co-creation workshop (part two)

Participants unpacked the main challenge and in groups chose to work with different aspects of it. Group 1 chose to work with “Green and liveable city”, group 2 with “Creating working test beds”, and group 3 with “Smart mobility”. Using the challenge they chose, they formulated the following “how might we”-questions:

–          Group 1: How might we create business opportunities developing new green areas/neighbourhoods/parks?

–          Group 2: How might we create more effective and convenient smart city test beds in Riga 2021 by improving communication targeted at small and medium sized companies?

–          Group 3: How might we leverage the novel citizen behaviors (due to the pandemic) in order to pilot or implement smart mobility solutions?

After brainstorming ideas for solutions to the chosen “how might we”-question, participants in each group voted for which solution they found most suitable for concept development:

–          Group 1: Green tech incubator managed by LIAA.

–          Group 2: GIS based information of testing opportunities made public

–          Group 3: In this group, there was a tie between three solutions:

–          (Crowd-sourced) Map bicycle routes by their safety level, by doing that also identifying un-safe routes (city planning and road building errors) that needs improvement

–          Try temporary bike lanes, taking advantage of reduced traffic now

–          Also, companies can offer trial rides with their CO2 neutral means of transport

For the concept poster to answer their “how might we”, Group 1 decided on the following:

–          Target groups: Small and medium enterprises (for redesigning) and start ups.

–          Stakeholders: Universities, cities, research organizations.

–          Value for the user: 1) Optimised operating costs for the business, 2) Risk management for climate issues CSR.

–          Value for the region: 1) Attracting Green investments, 2) Value demonstrated for investors.

–          What resources are available: LIAA funding programs, consultations and contacts.

–          Knowledge and competencies needed: Experience based study programme.

Group 2 decided on the following to answer their “how might we”:

–          Target groups: SME’s and enterprises.

–          Stakeholders: Municipality, collected data from utility holders.

–          Value for the user: 1) Convenience, 2) Reduce costs, 3) Efficiency.

–          Value for the region: 1) Strategies: the active development plans, 2) Help to define the competitive advantage of the region, 3) Attract companies in competitive sectors (engineering, ICT).

–          What resources are available: The information is available but not accessible.

–          Knowledge and competencies needed: Agreeing on format for data exchange.

The third group did not have the time to go through the concept development process.

Final remarks

Very concrete ideas were developed for Latvia’s Smart City and Smart Mobility project, ideas which can already be integrated into existing plans. LIAA will use the material created in the workshop for their next meeting with OECD.

Overall, the participants were very positive about the process of the workshop and the tools that were used. At the end of the workshop, one participant made this comment about the co-creation method:

“This method has proven itself again. We had a very productive time in our group.”

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