Developing the strategy for and implementing the first social innovation lab - Quartier Stuff on Kirchberg

crowdsourced ideas

lab sessions

lab members (including children)

common vision for the district

Before the Impact Lab was born, its current partners Giny Laroche (back then Kirchberg District Manager) and Lidia Gryszkiewicz (back then Limitless co-founder), in frame of the former’s work for Fonds Kirchberg, we developed and implemented the strategy for the first full blown social innovation lab in Luxembourg, later to become known as Quartier Stuff. The goal was ambitious: how to collaboratively shape the district to ensure long-term social cohesion and high quality of life, as well as territorial cohesion and attractiveness of the territory for its stakeholders?

The preparations lasted months and months before the lab even saw a daylight. They included detailed work on defining lab scope, target impacts, developing the lab process, designing collaboration, identifying and analysing the key stakeholders. We then launched the largest crowdsourcing campaign ever held at Kirchberg, where the inhabitants, workers and visitors of Grünewald have shown their enormous creativity by providing more than 1,300 suggestions on how to shape their district. The ideas were collected through tens of panels placed outdoors and indoors as well as through the online platform. The suggestions were then carefully analysed and clustered to into ‘green’, ‘youth’, ‘mobility’, ‘services’, ‘public space’, ‘social district life’ themes, which later morphed further during months of focused voluntary lab work by dozens of lab participants, including Quartier Stuff Minis – children from Eischoul who served as experts for the youth topic. Each of the challenge teams has immersed itself into an iterative collaborative process combining elements of change labs, design thinking, open innovation and other methodologies. It was crucial to really understand the district users through interviews, observation and research in the district in order to discover their specific needs. This deep desire to really observe and understand the users before jumping into solutions was at the core of the lab’s human-driven design philosophy. This was followed by intensive development, prototyping and testing phases.

The greatest success is that Quartier Stuff is still alive and it continues to shape the district of Kirchberg. Its fruits have been countless, from concrete changes to public spaces to better fit its users’ needs, to more profound changes in district’s development philosophy such full focus on circular economy.

The project has been both nationally and internationally acclaimed. William Mc Donough, the co-founder of Cradle to Cradle has qualified the project as the international best practice. Quartier Stuff, has received a lot of interest from both the media and the scientific community. Below is the excerpt from Quartier Stuff website (property of Fonds Kirchberg):

“The  Paperjam article was one of the first to cover the idea of the lab. Published at the early stages of Quartier Stuff, it explained the participatory principles of the lab and its intention to involve multiple participants in an attempt to make Kirchberg – and Grünewald specifically – a better place to live, work and visit. The plan has worked – currently Quartier Stuff involves around 25 active adult participants from a variety of backgrounds and a dozen of children, supported ad hoc by multiple specialists in several domains.

The Wort article further displays the nature of Quartier Stuff in a captivating photo reportage. The lab is home to many examples of small and large initiatives that make the life and work of the quarter much more engaging for the participants. Many of these improvements and innovations are still in the making, as six teams meet almost weekly to work on prototypes aiming to shape the district.

A recent publication at zooms in on this collaborative nature of the lab.  Participants are trained in the methods they are using so that not only do they come up with solutions in this lab ‘cycle’, but they will also be able to take over the lab process in the future. Quartier Stuff gives legitimacy to the undertaken initiatives: participants are not spectators but actors of the evolution of their neighbourhood, building upon 1,300 ideas collected as part of a crowdsourcing campaign held earlier this year. Decisions are always taken in groups and collaboration is simply the very essence of how the lab works.

Quartier Stuff has also been extensively featured on the radio and television. The RTL Journal has also recently covered the lab story, zooming in on the work of children who actively participate in the lab process. Indeed, as part of Quartier Stuff Minis, 12 children from Eisschoul aged from 6 to 12 years old spend their Friday afternoons in the ‘red container’ (the house of the Quartier Stuff lab), developing prototypes and advising on the projects for youth.

All this is a good example and part of a wider dynamic taking place in Luxembourg, called Third Industrial Revolution. As illustrated by the short movie titled “De Changement ass schonn am gaangen (Le changement est en cours)”, a transition is taking place towards a real paradigm shift and Luxembourg is the first country to prepare for it on a national scale. Under the joint lead of the Ministry of Economy, the Chamber of Commerce and IMS Luxembourg and in close collaboration with the American economic and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin, a strategy has been defined to set the new sustainable model for our country, in order to draw up guidelines for its future development. Quartier Stuff is featured in the film as a showcase of how collaborative, participatory, bottom up approaches can be a vivid accelerator of this transition.

Quartier Stuff is also attracting the attention of scholars. It has been recently featured at Stanford Social Innovation Review online as a prominent example of how innovation labs use openness for the purpose of co-creation.

Last but not least, since its inception, the lab has been active on social media. Leveraging the Quartier Stuff lively FacebookTwitterand Instagram pages, lab participants have been reaching out to the public through live streamed videos, posts, and questions. While the lab has existed for almost a year now, it’s intention has remained the same: encouraging everyone to actively shape their district. The Quartier Stuff story continues…”


Photos: Limitless sarl, / Fonds Kirchberg

#collaborative innovation strategy, #innovation labs, #co-creation design, #urban planning