Bristol Living Lab is run by Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC), a non-profit organisation with 20 years’ experience of working with communities and individuals to understand how digital technologies can be utilised to meet local needs. It is a place where citizens, artists, technologists, businesses and public sector organisations come together to co-create ideas, tools and technologies that address local challenges, to innovate and to explore new possibilities.
Bristol Living Lab currently works in the following areas:
Supporting people to create the neighbourhoods and city they want through a citizen sensing programme that includes developing a ‘city commons approach’, ensuring open access to digital assets and the right of citizens to contribute to the development of their city.
Creating opportunities for training and skills development, particularly in data literacy and digital manufacturing.
Developing innovative solutions to sustainability and environmental issues.
Building resilient communities and developing ideas about how we might live in the future.
Bristol Living Lab is based within the community of Knowle West, an area of approximately 5,500 households in the south of Bristol. Like communities in many cities, Knowle West ranks highly in government indices of multiple deprivation; KWMC’s focus is to ensure the inclusion of individuals and groups at risk of social and digital exclusion, and support them to become active citizens with equal access to the city’s opportunities. Projects are commissioned by a wide range of government, voluntary and public sector organisations, from local groups to national organisations, and KWMC is an active participant in European projects.
Bristol Living Lab is a community based ‘enabler-driven’ living lab: KWMC acts as a ‘broker’ between citizens and organisations, ensuring that each participant in a particular project is able to contribute their knowledge and experience. KWMC adopts an ‘action research’ approach, where continual reflection and evaluation are built into the working process, and this enables KWMC to be flexible and responsive to the changing needs of partners and communities.
For the next five years KWMC will be leading community engagement as part of the Bristol consortium in the Horizon 20:20 Lighthouse project, REPLICATE. Other consortium members include San Sebastian (lead) and Florence. Bristol Living Lab will share learning and collaborate with other interested living labs, particularly in relation to the role of the citizen in this major ICT, energy and mobility programme.
KWMC has developed strong relationships with individuals, groups and organisations across Bristol and nationally. The organisation brings about positive social, cultural, and economic change by supporting people to create, make, innovate and produce. Rather than treating people simply as ‘consumers’ and assuming that technology alone is a solution to a problem, KWMC brings different people together to develop new ideas and co-create solutions.
Examples of Bristol Living Lab projects include:
Change Creators - a new Creative Leadership programme for 18-25 year olds who want to make a positive change in the world using the power of arts, media and technology. Young people work in a small team to identify the issues they care about, then use new technologies in creative ways to develop a social change campaign, as well as developing transferable skills.
KWMC: The Factory - a new digital manufacturing space that offers access to tools, training and rapid prototyping, using CNC routers and laser cutters. It supports makers at all stages of the innovation process, from design and development through to prototyping and production, and offers services to a range of clients including local people, schools, businesses and artists.
University of Local Knowledge - explores, uncovers and celebrates the skills, talents and expertise that exist in Knowle West and the surrounding areas. It has collected 970 short films and other resources which are organised into courses on www.ulk.org.uk ULK challenges perceptions of how we gain, use and value knowledge and promotes the value of community-led learning alongside more traditional academic understandings of knowledge.
IES Cities - a European project in four cities including Bristol which developed an open platform to enable the sharing of open data and information contributed by citizens to create internet-based services relevant to the needs of each city. Users were actively involved in the development, testing and evaluation of mobile apps within a specific local context.
3eHouses - a European partnership project that helped local Council tenants reduce their energy consumption and change their energy behaviour. Equipment was installed in 100 homes to monitor electricity and gas and participants could view their usage on a tablet computer via a visual interface developed by an artist. A variety of methods were used to engage and support participants, and the artist worked closely with participants to ensure that the information was accessible and understandable.
Methods and Tools
Bristol Living Lab uses a variety of participatory design approaches within projects including co-creation, user-driven innovation and open innovation. Methodologies and tools developed by KWMC include:
The Bristol Approach to Citizen Sensing - working with Bristol City Council and Ideas for Change, KWMC has developed ‘The Bristol Approach’ which provides a new framework for running inclusive, community-driven digital projects that involve sensor technologies and will lead to the creation of an open ‘city commons’. The framework was launched in November 2015 and iterative applications in future technology programmes will help people to better understand how active citizenship can be combined with digital innovation.
Tips & Tricks - working with female activists from Knowle West and a group of academics, KWMC has developed two sets of 20 recommendations: ‘Tips and Tricks from community activists’ and ‘Tips and Tricks for academics working with communities’. The recommendations are represented by coloured illustrations on posters and a set of cards that are used during training and workshops to stimulate debate and encourage reflection. KWMC is also developing, with ENoLL, a set of 20 ‘Tips and Tricks for Living Labs’.