Laboratori di Quartiere (Neighbourhood Labs)

Laboratori di Quartiere has set up a stable model to link public resources with citizens, engaging them in proximity policy-making across Bologna’s districts. The objective is to shift from the paradigm of smart city to a collaborative “Augmented City”, requiring citizens to not just collaborate to the co-design of urban spaces instead to become responsible of the ongoing transformation.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Laboratori di Quartiere aims at setting up a stable model to link public resources with citizens, engaging them in proximity policy-making across Bologna’s districts. The objective is to shift from the paradigm of smart city to a collaborative “Augmented City”, requiring citizens to not just collaborate to the co-design of urban spaces instead the initiative Laboratori di Quartiere (Neighbourhood Labs), inserted in the Urban innovation plan of the City of Bologna, is an attempt to activate and manage structured participatory and collaborative processes in every district of the city and with the support of data and new technologies.

The project is also the result of the presence of a vivid and active social fabric and a particular civic culture in the city of Bologna, that led to years of experimentation in the fields of urban commons management and community engagement. In the framework of the project Laboratori di Quartiere, Urban Center Bologna/Ufficio Immaginazione Civica (UCB/UIC) is trying to connect resources with citizens, asking them to participate in the definition, co-design and implementation of priority actions become responsible of the ongoing transformation and project impacting different territorial areas of the neighbourhoods of Bologna.

Each of the six laboratories instituted in the neighbourhoods of the city, asks people to experiment new decision-making processes in the fields of citizens basic services offer, community welfare, local development, urban and social regeneration and governance of urban commons. For example, citizens can be engaged in order to decide how to spend public moneys or how to use public spaces and buildings. Labs can be seen as a space of relation and interaction between Public Administration and formal and informal groups and citizens. They’re conceived as a tool to collect and map information about social needs, listen, consult, co-project, report and monitoring social capital. Each Lab implements strategies aimed to empower citizens and to engage competences on the territories, ensuring an open and transparent interaction with the neighbourhood population.

Operatively, the project Laboratori di Quartiere is implemented through a series of workshops organized in the neighbourhoods of Bologna in which people co-design their projects with the support of facilitator and municipal officials. Moreover, beside offline actions, citizens also have the possibility to access a digital space on Iperbole - Rete civica, the civic network of the Municipality of Bologna, through which participate to the Labs. The tool is called Comunità and it is an online community on which users can have a personal profile and a blog, can present projects, interact with other citizens and participate in participatory budgeting actions. UIC coordinates the initiative with the methodological support of the University of Bologna and the partnership of the Municipality of Bologna and its districts.

In order to foster replicability of the project year after year, Labs are structured in different phases that should be implemented in defined moments of the year. The phases are:

1)Information: every year citizens should be informed about the developments of the lab and the resources and tools they would have access to in order to co-design interventions on the territory.

2)Consultation: Labs should be a space in which citizens can bring ideas, underline critical aspects and opportunities, share opinions and visions about the future development of their own neighbourhood.

3)Participation: citizens are invited to join meetings based on participatory methodologies (i.e. Open Space Technology) to go beyond the idea of participation as simple consultation of citizens and to create a collective and shared picture of the neighbourhood and its future.

4)Collaboration: citizens will be engaged in real processes of co-design of actions and projects dedicated to their own neighbourhood working with other people living in the same territory sharing the same interests to improve and take care of the city as a whole.

Moreover, the entire process is led by five fundamental principles:

1)Inform people about the meaning of the Lab and the logics behind the public action;

2)Structure every lab on a shared system of rules and values;

3)Be accountable and transparent in order to make citizens aware and in favour of a real process of empowerment, capacity building of every participant.

In order to favour the implementation of this principle, processes are supported by open data and in particular by the use of a)vulnerability maps produced by the Department of Statistics of the Municipality; b)culture maps produced by the Department of Culture of the Municipality; c)HUB ecosystem data on online collaborative speeches in Bologna.

4)Create inclusive processes in which every citizen, independently from their own expertise or personal characteristics can participate and make a contribution to be taken into account and emphasizing the different competences;

5)Consider both organized and non-organized citizens as social change actors not only beneficiaries of some resources or projects, in order to promote a shared sense of belonging to a bigger process and its results (ownership).

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

Innovation Reflections

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Year: 2017
Level of government: National/Federal government


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

Innovation provided by:

Join our community:

It only takes a few minutes to complete the form and share your project.