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Citizen Involvment in Local Environmental Governance: A Methodology Combining Human-Centered Design and Living Lab Approaches

December 06, 2016 by Sandrine Reiter, Guillaume Gronier, Philippe Valoggia

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Nowadays, involving citizens in Local Environmental Governance (LEG) is becoming increasingly important. In order to empower the role of citizen in this context, we propose an approach that relies on the establishment of a physical and intellectual space for shared understanding and collaboration between all stakeholders impacted by an environmental problem (in our case odour emission). Based on the development of an Information Technology (IT) system allowing odour emission measurement as well as the collection of citizen feedback, a Living Lab (LL) approach is being implemented that involves citizens, public authorities, industry and environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs). According to the definition of the European commission, Living Labs are “open innovation environments in real-life settings, in which userdriven innovation is fully integrated within the co-creation process of new services, products and societal infrastructures”. Based on this definition and considering, in our case, citizens as one of the end-users of the IT system, we argue that such an approach will empower their role in local environmental governance. This article presents the method and techniques that will be used in order to set up such a Living Lab. More precisely, we focus here on the first step of this method: defining the components that will support the management of a Living Lab relying on an IT system. This step consists in the identification of the Living Lab stakeholders (citizen, industry, public authorities, NGOs, etc.), including their characteristics, fears, expectations, involvement and engagement regarding the Living Lab. To do this, 2 main approaches are being combined: A Living Lab approach that aims to involve citizens in local Environmental Governance (LEG) design. Use of Human-Centred Design (HCD), to combine IT developments and LL needs, for example Personas methodology and usability test. A Living Lab relies mainly on stakeholders’ involvement in order to build trust and establish a common goal. In this sense, sociologists’ approaches ((Akrich et al. 2006);) bring valuable information on how to mobilise different actors in order to innovate (Actor Network Theory). However, in the innovation process, these approaches are only considering human actors and do not take into account any technological aspects. However, if Living Labs are relying on human actors’ interactions it should also take into account their interactions with the IT system it is based on. In this case, HumanCentred Design (HCD) being an approach that aims to make IT systems usable and useful by focusing on the users, their needs and requirements, is to be considered as complementary to the sociologists approaches. This article, based on the work performed in the FP7 European project OMNISCIENTIS, presents the theoretical context in which this study takes place as well as the overall methodology.