Experimentation, innovation and participation for sustainable urban development

The IDB Cities Laboratory is the platform for innovation, design, and experimentation for sustainable urban development in Latin America and the Caribbean. We lead innovative prototypes that arise from co-design processes between officials of the Inter-American Development Bank and local actors (community, academia, government); in which citizen participation is key. From these urban interventions, we evaluate the experiences, analyzing their success with the objective of expanding or replicating the pilots implemented and sharing knowledge.

Why a Cities LAB?

Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the most urbanized regions in the world: more than 80% of its population lives in cities. How to face the constant challenges of accelerated urbanization conceiving the city as a collective human project? At the Cities LAB we are convinced of the vital role of urban innovation and experimentation to implement a real impact of change in the urban axis and the well-being of its people. We offer targeted, feasible and testable solutions that are able to meet the needs and demands of the cities of the region.

How does the Cities LAB work?

We connect ideas with projects, we transform projects into practices, we generate new ideas from experience. At the Cities LAB, we use innovation, co-design, experimentation, and lessons learned to transform sustainable urban development from disruptive, scalable and replicable ideas. We focus on demonstration projects and proof of concept, following an iterative non-linear problem-solving process, based on urban experimentation and design thinking. In addition, our interventions are designed from a multisectoral scope, encouraging citizen participation.

5 steps to urban experimentation

  1. Exploration: analyzing and reframing the urban problems to be addressed. 
  2. Experimentation: putting ideas to work and testing them in a temporary way that allows for evaluation and redesign.
  3. Evaluation: analyzing the impacts, effects and cost-effectiveness of pilot projects.
  4. Scaling-up: connecting client cities with technical organizations and companies through creative financial solutions. 
  5. Communication: sharing results so more innovation can happen when pilot projects are adapted to other urban contexts.


Where are we experimenting?

At the Cities LAB, we aim to practice what we preach. We are our own experiment, seeking the best approach to be a catalyst for positive urban change and promote an environment of innovation and design thinking throughout the cities in the region. Whether pilots of tactical urbanism, placemaking activities or activations of public spaces. Urban innovations that arise from the dialogue with the local authorities, with the community, from a hackathon, from a university competition... What is more, the borders of our LAB transcend the region by being in connection with other urban and public innovation laboratories around the world.


The toolbox of our LAB

/// Collaborative design: making a urban square among everyone in Montevideo + 
/// Community participation: looking for all the voices for a pedestrianization project in Santiago de los Caballeros + 
/// Design thinking: a key component of the ABC of our Cities LAB + 
/// Hackathon: an attempt to change urban mobility with participation and technology from Medellín + 
/// Innovation laboratory: the behind the scenes of the creation of our LAB Cities + 
/// Participatory design: experiencing public life in Santo Domingo Este +
/// Placemaking: temporary innovative interventions to transform public life in Mexico City + 
/// Pocket square: public spaces in Santo Domingo Este with so many benefits that they don't fit in a pocket + 
/// Tactical urbanism: a low-cost and agile implementation method with a special focus on people +
/// Urban design: habitability solutions in an informal neighborhood of Buenos Aires + 
/// Urban experimentation: a spectacular case for the citizen meeting in Panama City + 
/// Urban innovation: theory and practice from a workshop with students and the local community in Barrio 31 + 
/// Urban intervention: giving another life to a patrimonial public space in São Luís + 
/// Urban pilot: testing for scaling-up... sustainable urban mobility in Rapa Nui + 
/// Urban prototype: fast-running and low-cost solutions that are making a difference in an emerging neighborhood + 
/// Urban revitalization: revitalizing the historic neighborhood of San Telmo with the community and the academy + 

IDB Cities Lab university contest

The IDB Cities Lab university contest, formerly known as IDB UrbanLab, is an annual call aimed at finding creative solutions and innovative ideas for urban problems in Latin America and the Caribbean by students, professors and young professionals throughout the region. The goal of the competition is to serve as an incubator for young talent in urban planning, offering direct experience to enhance real plans and projects, and promoting a participatory space that put into discussion the paradigms of the discipline.

Check out each edition of the contest:

Join the conversation

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We want citizens to participate in the search for solutions for safe mobility at crossings for all actors, especially the most vulnerable.

Montería +

Cities are a quintessential example of a resource that is shared by all and that we must know how to manage so that most people can enjoy.

Lima +

Eliminate the barrier that the highway represents in the heritage environment, making it more friendly and creating reconnections in San Telmo.

Buenos Aires City +

Because we value public spaces and community life. And because this is an integral part of the vision we have for Ciudad Juan Bosch.

Santo Domingo Este +

It means changing the perception and enjoying the city again; also sharing with local businesses, with their peers who make the same routes and generating community.

Palpalá +

We work on the esplanade where there is already an usage. The users are the dancers, who use the space every day and are a very interesting group on the urban road.

Arica +

Los Dolores square looks attractive and colorful with the installation of benches in the public space. Now I have where to sit and rest after playing for a while.

Tegucigalpa +

The first urban bicycle lane on the island was enabled: the idea is to develop a local public transport concept that adjusts to the conditions and needs of the island.

Rapa Nui +