Pilot Project – What did we learn?

As part of the Pilot Project final report, the Leeds City Lab partners reflected on what they learned from being involved in the research project:

“The constant need to deal with and understand different languages/assumptions/ frames of reference etc for this to work; what gaps there still (and will always?) exist between different silos/organisations/sectors; the importance of attitude – how much is possible when people want to say yes to things rather than no; co-production can be easier at individual levels/small scales than at institutional level.” (Third sector partner)

“Even though the project was not as spatial as was originally anticipated, a lot of new connections have been made between people wanting to do different kinds of projects around Leeds and in different, more collaborative ways that ‘sidestep’ the norm -this is an ambition that we all have in common. Being involved in the project has helped demystify  how people like me could get involved with something with other (more senior and more experienced) people who are already doing things in Leeds, and this is very empowering for a young citizen.” (Project researcher)

“I have some ambivalence about my legitimacy in the co-production of a city lab, partly because I’m a Bradford resident!  I had to think about how much I was really invested in the city of Leeds. I learnt that co-production is (and should be) sometimes uncomfortable, and it takes real strength to challenge the widely held view in a room, and to do so constructively.  I have rich personal learning about how I could or should become more involved in co-production, but there are a lot of institutions, and institutional processes in the way – and a pilot can’t unpick all that!  I learnt that co-production has very distinct meanings for different people – co-production for service delivery is, surely, different to co-production of a place?” (University partner)

“I have a better understanding of how others frame and learn from co-production and the impact an environment can have on the implementation/execution. I have learned that I knew more than I thought and will be implementing this into my work with clinicians and users developing digital health tools.” (University partner)

“The workshops provided an interactive and dynamic learning environment that enabled active listening and creativity amongst the participants. This provided some key lessons: (I) that people across different working contexts and with different everyday lives share common concerns; (ii) that there is a mutual desire to work together to co-produce solutions to key challenges facing Leeds and the region; (iii) that it is important to engage across occupational and other differences in order to fashion meaningful projects that can begin to address such challenges.” (University partner)

“It is clear that there is a multi-disciplinary and multi-organisational commitment in the city to developing a ‘city lab’ approach to better understanding issues, problems and solutions. At the same time however, there are a number of closely related initiatives in the city as well as alternative spaces where these dialogues might take place and these potential conflicts will need to be understood and managed in order to align activities and maximise benefits. Overall, the intention through the City Lab to put citizens at the heart of co-production activities for the city is a very positive step to democratising decision-making. For the University, this is also a potentially powerful mechanism for connecting research with Impact. This has reinforced for me, the importance of the City Lab / Living Lab as a key activity that should be supported by the University’s emerging ‘Cities Theme’ as it will further differentiate what Leeds has to offer as an exemplar for best research and practice.” (University partner)

“So the lesson is that it’s not necessary to protect the ‘technical core’ of a project idea from this sharing/exchange context; instead, that can be risked, and even improved. Giving up control over the discussion of all aspects of the issue in question, trusting the process, can pay off with this method of exchanging and transforming ideas.” (University partner)

“My ideas about a city lab have definitely shifted and developed through my involvement with this project. My key learning has probably been around understanding how the different sectors may be able to engage with a city lab, what their constraints are and unique contributions may be. I realise that whilst a ‘new institution’ may be needed to support a participatory re-imagining of an ecologically sound and socially just city, this will not primarily be a bricks and mortar institution. More than a building, we need to cultivate a new set of skills and a philosophy of interaction and involvement that can manifest itself within existing institutions, and across a range of temporal and geographic spaces. It is as much a culture shift as a place to visit and work together.” (Third sector partner)

“I’ve learned loads. That we are / were doing co-production! That we need to shape our offer to do more than just convene but also do, which means establishing pathways that create and produce secure outcomes and projects. We need to measure what we’re doing- perhaps we could collaborate on this aspect. We need more partners – and also look at how we get more people involved, from different groups, perspectives, interests… “(Private Sector Partner)

“That there is a great power in working co-productively but that ultimately there has to be a clear leadership and access to funding if co-production is to become effective, resilient and subsequently sustainable.” (Private Sector Partner)

“The importance of shared language – terms like ‘co-production’ and ‘city lab’ mean different things to different people – it was interesting and important to hear these perspectives. The objective analysis being undertaken by the team is very helpful. Much is already going on and there is an opportunity to align similar projects and ideas across the city.” (Private Sector Partner)

“I have learnt that there are lots of projects at the moment in Leeds trying to do similar things for social change but many of them are gravitating around the local authority. It would be important to equally map out independent projects/initiatives.” (University Partner)

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