with people for people

Cities and metropolitan regions are uniquely positioned to driving change in travel, communication, production or food consumption practices, thereby guiding the transition of socio-technical regimes towards sustainability. Doing so involved multi-actor cooperation that is orchestrated on the basis of a common knowledge platform by means of open and transparent communications.

Multi-actor stakeholder involvement should be based on reliable information and a transparent sequence of interactions and result-monitoring. Communicating and guiding this process requires an experienced project manager (mostly an expert in a substantive discipline), an metropolitan planner, a civil engineer, an stakeholder manager and a environmental expert – ideally a multi-disciplinary expert. In order to make knowledge available to the stakeholders SUSMETRO offers a string of tools such as (1) Maptable Technology for pro-active and data-guided interaction; (2) Living Labs as well as (3) Focus Groups allowing the different parties to repeatedly re-convene making use of tacit as well as fact-driven knowledge domains as this become available (see evidence-based approach).Depending on size, environment and ambition, the number of partners may increase significantly.


Maptable Technology

Rather than taking a pure science-driven approach towards impact assessment and scenario development – SUSMETRO thrives to invite the relevant decision makers and stakeholders to actively engage in a ‘fact-finding-exercise’ that is designed as a Knowledge Brokerage process when developing and exploring different food-chain scenarios for a region. In order to facilitate this process, we have chosen to make use of Maptable and GIS technology as a means to visualising spatial implications of food-chain innovation as well as the expected impacts on social, economic and environmental aspects. The MapTable being a digital design table that is used as an instrument in spatial planning processes. It is used in a collaborative participatory process in which stakeholders are brought together discussing a new spatial design (see Figure 13). The MapTable’s main purpose is to give insight in the spatial relationships in a certain area by making efficiently use of the knowledge of the participants (see Figure 15). This combined with the use of a large spatial database and linked process models will result in a time saving, efficient and effective design process (see Figure 14).

Figure 13: Stakeholder event during the FoodMetres Project with representatives from the Hoeksche Waard during a workshop making use of the maptable.

Figure 14: Application of the Metropolitan Foodscape Planner for the Rotterdam Region as part of the EU project FOODMETRES (Wascher et al. 2015)

Figure 15: Stakeholder event during a Rotterdam Food Cluster session (2014) with representatives from the Food Sector during a workshop making use of the maptable.

Living Labs for building Communities of Practice

Living Labs have in general an important role in facilitating the interaction between industry and policy making. They bridge the different gaps between technology ideation and development on the one hand, and market entry and fulfilment on the other. As flexible ecosystems, Living Labs can provide a demand driven ‘concurrent innovation’ approach by iteratively engaging all the key actors across the phases, and putting the user in the driver’s seat. Its action space involvement adds significant value to rapid prototyping and service/product development phases.

Figure 16: Action space for Living Labs along the Technology Adaptation Cycle (European Commission 2013)

In more specific terms, Living Lab sessions are designed to tackle the following challenges:

  • Achieving a high level of sustainability in terms of social, economic and environment assets that can ensure long-term resilience of the vulnerable agro-food-system
  • Shaping and facilitating the transfer from  a largely volume-based, traditional food industry to a highly knowledge-based processing industry
  • Providing the Rotterdam people and ever-present international community to enjoy a high degree of rural-urban integration, social cohesion, cultural diversity and liveable landscapes.
  • Introducing a broader concept of innovation that includes product, social, technical and governance aspects through the establishment of new (cluster) services coupling Greenport Westland with the Rotterdam Metropolitan Area.

Successfully addressing these issues will allow the policy maker to take the role of a leader in linking sustainable development with economic performance. Producing sufficient, high quality food using less fertilizer, water, and fossil fuel and – by applying the principles of urban metabolism – work towards the valorisation of biomass at multiple levels and sectors , are key assets for metropolitan regions all over the world (see Figure 17).

Figure 17: Schematic representation of the logistical future scenarios for bio-based economy in the Netherlands (based on Annevelink et al. 2009): large scale (blue frame), medium-scale (red frame) and small-scale (yellow frame)

Focus group

Generally, a focus group is a method for collecting qualitative research data through carefully planned group discussions with the purpose of obtaining perceptions of participants in a permissive environment (Morgan 1988). The results help guide the policymakers/ researchers to determine which alternatives are preferred by stakeholder groups. The focus group participants can advantageously be tasked with comparing different proposals and assessing their applicability/suitability in given situations.

The method (see Figure 18) can elicit respondents’ views on how problems and issues can be addressed and in which contexts it is appropriate to do so. Comments made by the participants can tell about how stakeholders perceive the characteristics of certain issues, and the relative importance and weight of problems and conflicting assumptions in comparison to other issues. Furthermore, it generates good insights into stakeholders’ validations of policy proposals.

The tool is useful for investigating stakeholders’ views on how plans and programs being implemented work out in reality, and how to close gaps between expectations and actual performance of such policies (see Figurer 19).

Figure 18 : Process image of a focus group approach

Figure 19 : Focus Group session of Dutch food experts during the World Expo in Milano 2015.