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Urban Experimentation

Urban Experimentation
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At the Cities Lab we seek to put innovation into practice through experimentation in Latin American and Caribbean cities. We believe that "learning by doing" is a very effective way to build the capacity to co-design, implement, and evaluate prototypes and concepts that address complex and recurring urban challenges. We recognize that the public sector has low tolerance for failure, and that there is a general preference for developing solutions without major uncertainties. Historically, this has resulted in few opportunities to test new ideas, methodologies, technologies, and concepts in urban development.

How do we Experiment?

In the Cities Lab we promote the articulation of actors to address problem-solving in a holistic and innovative way. We use experiments that are limited in scope, time, and cost, so that we can correct mistakes quickly. We evaluate the impact of possible solutions through prototypes before moving them to a larger scale. Our experimentation process is mainly based on Design Thinking methodology, which we apply together with local government teams to develop experimentation capabilities, emphasizing the importance of intersectoral vision and citizen participation.

Iterative Experimentation process
Reactivation of Public Space in San Telmo, Buenos, Aires, Argentina

Large urban infrastructure projects can have negative urban impacts. This is what happened to the emblematic neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is crossed by the 25 de Mayo Highway, splitting the neighborhood in two and creating uninviting spaces. The project "Enlace Defensa"

was carried out to spatially and emotionally connect those two parts of the neighborhood that the highway had separated.

Creation of a Waiting Space for Delivery Drivers in Montevideo, Uruguay

During the pandemic, the number of people working on delivery services increased exponentially. Delivery workers oftentimes gather around pharmacies and grocery stores waiting to get an order. The public space did not provide adequate conditions for waiting, resting, washing hands, or charging phone batteries. With this problem in mind, a space was designed in a participatory manner in Montevideo, with furniture that allows for resting, sanitizing, and repairing bicycles. Learn how this project was carried out by watching the following video.

Calle 36, Shared Walkway of a Bio-Diverse city, Montería, Colombia

Cities in Latin America and the Caribbean face, on the one hand, climate risks such as the urban heat island effect and flooding, and, on the other hand, an increasing loss of biodiversity due to its exclusion from urban planning and development practices. In this context, in the city of Monteria, Colombia, a participatory process was carried out to combine aspects of climate resilience and biodiversity inclusion in a proposal for Calle 36, located in the heart of the city. This proposal is part of the BiodiverCiudad National Strategy, which seeks to consider biodiversity in territorial planning and urban development practices. We invite you to watch the video of the participatory design process of the Calle 36 preliminary project.

City for Children and Adolescents, Participatory Diagnosis in Montevideo, Uruguay

Have you ever wondered what a child likes about their city, or how they see it? Cities are often hostile places for children, teenagers, and their caregivers. When we think of children, the first things that probably come to mind are playgrounds and daycare centers. But cities could offer them much more. Thus, in the neighborhoods surrounding the “Mercado Modelo” in Montevideo, Uruguay, a participatory diagnosis focused on children and teenagers was implemented to learn directly from them what they like, how they see it, and what they would like to change about their neighborhood.

Urban Agriculture and Composting in Popular Neighborhoods of Mexico City, Mexico

We believe that urban agriculture and organic waste recycling techniques can be better received and replicated if their implementation is promoted through a participatory approach. Because of the impact that scaling up these practices can have on food quality, household economy, and urban resilience, the Cities Lab supported the Bank's Competitiveness, Technology and Innovation Division to implement urban gardens. Specifically, the project sought to promote the implementation of two gardens in two popular neighborhoods in Mexico City, where low-cost food production and organic waste recycling techniques were tested with residents and schoolchildren, encouraging the formation of networks for the exchange of inputs and knowledge that provide sustainability to the process.

Agricultura urbana y compostaje en barrios populares de la Ciudad de México
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Testimonios | Agricultura urbana y compostaje en barrios populares de la Ciudad de México
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Definition of an Experiment to Lower the Carbon Footprint of Freight Transportation in Bogotá, Colombia

In the city of Bogotá, 48% of greenhouse gases are generated by the transportation sector. Based on this information, together with PROBOGOTÁ and the academia, the Cities Lab facilitated Design Thinking workshops to design a pilot project on monitoring freight vehicle emissions. The pilot is based on the use of civic data, as the companies and their cargo vehicle drivers supported the collection of data since the beginning through sensors that allow monitoring the performance of the vehicle with high levels of detail as it circulates in the city.

During the ideation sessions, solutions that seek to reduce the impact of the freight transportation sector on the carbon footprint and air quality of the city were explored, aligned with a change in the behavior of freight vehicles drivers.

Using concepts from behavioral economics, it was agreed to develop a gamification or labeling system to recognize and reward those drivers and companies whose driving and vehicle maintenance habits respectively denote an improvement in emissions performance. In the long term, we hope that this prototype gamification system could be used in conjunction with local transport and environmental authorities to support decision making and generate changes in public policies that regulate these vehicles.

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City Laboratory Pilot Repository
  1. Placemaking in Arica (video 1) (video 2)
  2. Plaza of sexual diversity in Montevideo, Uruguay (video 1) (video 2)
  3. Sustainable urban mobility in Rupa Nui, Easter Island, Chile (video) 
  4. School roads and road safety in Palpalá, Argentina (video) 
  5. Tactical urbanism in Rímac, Lima, Peru (video) 
  6. Tactical urbanism “Panama Walks”, Panama City (video) 
  7. Examples of tactical urbanism in Latin America and the Caribbean (video)
  8. Tactical urbanism in Santo Domingo (East), Dominican Republic (video) 

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