Adaptive Governance Lab


Rosie Webb



1. Living Lab description

The Adaptive Governance Lab is coordinated by the School of Architecture at University of Limerick and works with the Fab Lab Limerick and the Interaction Design Centre at the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems. The AGL works collaboratively with local government officials and community activists on action research projects co-designing with communities to improve their public spaces.

Objectives and Innovation value:

In the public interest design collaboration model developed by the AGL, local communities are involved in designing specific solutions for improving liveability in their areas with the involvement and support of local government collaborators. The co-design process coordinated by the AGL uses a human centred approach. Design proposals address safety and liveability of the area. Solutions emerge through the co-design process with local input and with an explicit agenda to ease change. Solutions are tested out as temporary installations, feedback is collected, analysed and discussed to influence new iterations of the projects.

Benefits and Challenges:

The AGL is testing new ways to build strong community networks for greater citizen involvement to influence the design and operation of shared public spaces. The process allows for a high degree of civic engagement and promotes an incremental approach to change in the built and natural environment using small scale, temporary installations.

2. Project(s)

 Identify and describe 1 - 3 recent projects :

 Imaginative Neighbourhood Woodquay.

In the Summer of 2015 the Adaptive Governance Lab carried out a ‘Designing with Communities’ process in Woodquay, a historic neighbourhood in the City of Galway in the West of Ireland. The collaboration with local residents, businesses and community activists focused on the design of a demonstration parklet, to transform a parking spot into a space for human use. In presentations at weekly critiques the group debated the design and placement of a parklet for the area. They refined its shape and purpose and agreed who would maintain it. The seating elements were fabricated in the Fab Lab Limerick. It was assembled by the Galway Men’s Shed with safety supervision of the City Council. Local industries supported the project with materials sponsorship and expertise. The parklet installation formed the basis of a further ‘Designing with Communities’ week addressing the theme of “Street Culture” in Woodquay. It was the focus of community access auditing for a Universal Design workshop. The AGL collected feedback, analysed and presented the results and presented these at an open critique on European Culture Night together with ideas for further temporary use projects to improve liveability in the area.

The ‘Designing with Communities’ process and temporary installations resulting from the collaborations form a framework for collaborative urbanism which allows citizen led initiatives to connect with formal policies and objectives of local government. It builds trust, common meaning and purpose between citizens and their government.

Neighbourhood Greenway Rhebogue 

In the Spring of 2014, the Adaptive Governance Lab worked with local community groups in Rhebogue a suburban area of Limerick City near the University of Limerick. The collaboration team included the Limerick Smarter Travel Team and other Limerick City Council officials. The AGL lead 2 intensive design sprint weeks from which emerged the proposal to improve liveability by ‘undeveloping'  the main thoroughfare as a cycle priority street. That project was realised as a reduced carriageway width street through the smarter travel funding in 2015 , fully supported and adopted by the local residents.

Outcomes, maturity of innovations created and type of living lab project:

The ‘Designing with Communities’ process provided a platform for local interest groups to form networks for collaborating toward an agreed outcome and to link that with funding opportunities provided by the local authority.

3. Living Lab methods and tools:

The AGL ‘Designing with Communities’ process includes learning days, workshops and open  design critiques. On Community Learning Days, information is gathered from both local and official sources. These days include presentations, field visits and guided tours. Through these,  participants gain a feel for the history and culture of the place. Workshop days include Community Mapping events and Community Auditing exercises. Through discussions at these events an understanding of the aspirations of all collaborators emerges. Each week culminates in an Open Design Critique to present ideas to improve liveability in the area and to get feedback. Ideas are presented in the form of ‘Strategic Maps’ for the area analysing what already exists in the area and  imagining what could exist.    

4. Your living lab or project in a box

The Adaptive Governance Lab is collaborating on ‘Living Georgian Limerick’ this year with an urban prototyping festival to support the Living City Tax Initiative for the Historic Core of Limerick City. Through a community engagement process which includes ‘Age Friendly Community Audits’ and community mapping of Limerick’s unique historic heritage, several prototypes to improve the stewardship of shared public and semi public spaces have been imagined. These designs are being developed to integrate urban interaction elements and to invite programming from participants identified through the ‘Designing with Communities’ process. The AGL is collaborating on this project with the FabLab Limerick and the Interaction Design Centre on an Instabooth to facilitate feedback collection and co-design processes.