Urban Governance and Social Innovation

Urban Governance and Social Innovation Research Programmes

Interdisciplinary research programme

Urban Governance and Social Innovation is an interdisciplinary research programme of the University of Applied Science Amsterdam (HvA). The programme focuses on solutions to the complex and intractable problems that arise in big towns and cities: poverty, neighbourhood safety, liveability, urban layout, the transition from using property to residential space, and attracting and retaining businesses.

One of the neighborhoods in the fieldlab where the practical research takes place

We utilize policy and problem-oriented research in living labs to work on solutions for difficulties that urban areas face. Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences translates scientific findings to concrete pilot studies in urban regions in diverse stakeholder arrangements.

The HvA is located in the heart of the Amsterdam metropolis and has drawn on its connections with the region to develop the Urban Governance package: a collaborative venture between the School of Economics and Management, the School of Social Work and Law and the School of Technology. These broad-ranging foundations ensure that Urban Governance and Social Innovation tackles urban problems from a social, economic and physical perspective.

Urban Governance and Social Innovation brings researchers, students and entrepreneurs together to co-operate on projects that help achieve urban improvements, with education, research and practice all complementing each other.

A living lab constitutes an ‘open-innovation intermediaries’ (Almirall & Wareham 2011) where different stakeholders participate in co-creative social settings. It involves a research methodology for devising, prototyping, sensing, evaluating, fine-tuning and validating solutions in dynamic real-life situations (Ballon & Schuurman 2015). However, the methodology of living labs is still rather in its infancy. Many researchers use traditional methods for laboratory testing instead of using co-creation techniques and participatory methods (Mulder & Stappers 2009). The researchers and developers from the Hogeschool van Amsterdam in particular have extensive experience with implementing living labs through co-creation techniques and participatory methods. One of the main challenges for living labs is to develop methodologies that can be used across living labs (Mulder 2012). We practise this research method in our fieldlabs.

Our research focuses on the last interpretation of social innovation. The development of living labs originates from the design sector but is closely related to the social innovation communities that started arising in the last years of the former decade. The Young foundation is one of the one of the most prominent organizations in promoting social innovation. Their definition of successful social innovation is:

‘new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words, they are innovations that are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act’ (Murray et al. 2010, p. 3).

The main goal of these social innovation communities is to try to co create conditions under which improvement and change actually can take place.

Subsidiarity, equality, efficiency, transparency, accountability, popular participation and security: these principles lie at the heart of good urban governance and sustainability in cities and in our research. Applying them means governing and managing cities in a way that enables citizens to exercise their rights and perform their duties, while providing them with an attractive environment in which to live and work.

Good urban governance makes more demands on local government in terms of innovation. This means improving the management of urban services. Municipal planning, steering, implementation and monitoring capacities must be more effective, structures and operations more rational and more transparent, and local decision-making processes must be freed of unnecessary bureaucracy. Greater use of e-government tools can do much to facilitate access to urban services for citizens and businesses, as well as creating new options for gathering and using data. The basis for all improvements to urban management is human resources development, so that staff are motivated and receive the training they need.

6 April 2020