Explaining the research method we used for the Plein ’40-’45 case in Amsterdam
Since late 2018 AUAS researchers of Urban Governance and Social Innovation are involved in the development of the Zero Waste Lab of the street market on Plein ’40-’45 in Amsterdam Nieuw West. The aim of the Zero Waste Lab is to establish better management of the market and the square, with the reducing of plastic packaging material and litter and the development of a circular waste management system. Our activities as researchers are targeted at supporting the involved stakeholders in their ambition to solve these challenges through cooperation, leading to the collective management that is urban commons. Because action research is an important ingredient of our approach and because we think that this method can contribute to the realization of the cooperation that is needed in cities today, we wrote down our experiences in a chapter for the book Seeing the City of Nanke Verloo and Luca Bertolini.
Unlike more conventional forms of research, action researchers actively participate in the practices they study. Participation not only results in a better and deeper understanding, but action researchers also aim to contribute to change. For instance, action researchers investigate situations where practices are stuck or search for the knowledge that is lacking amongst stakeholders. By directly sharing their results with the people they work with, they enrich these practices and further development. In the case of the Zero Waste Lab we, for example, analyzed the interpersonal relations between different stakeholders to find that there was a lack of collectivity amongst stallholders and that their relationship with the municipality was rather problematic or even conflictual. We, therefore, applied forms of community building and mediation.
In particular action research attempts to contribute to fundamental and systemic change. This means that we have a special eye for the context in which specific problems occur. We investigate to what extent these issues are related to, for example, patterns of thought people have adopted, values people adhere to, the culture they have been brought up in, institutional structures and processes they are part of, or overarching provisions and regulation. We then team up with involved stakeholders to help them reflect on their own behavior and that of others. And we work on reflexivity, i.e. creating an understanding of how thoughts and behavior are shaped and oriented by this systemic context. The insights arrived at through reflexivity are then the starting point to explore the possibilities for systemic innovation and, possibly, realizing this transition step by step. In the case of the Zero Waste Lab we have found that, amongst other things, central policies are frustrating the process of self-organization, such as standardized levies for waste disposal. Possibilities to implement variable levies following the ‘polluter pays principle’ would allow local stakeholders to develop an own waste disposal system that stimulates reduction, but moreover, it highlights important questions concerning the relationship between a central government and local governance arrangements around places and practices in the city. The goal is to develop governance that allows local stakeholders to develop practices fitting the local context of users and other circumstances in a collaborative and constructive relationship with overarching institutions, for example through acknowledging the principle of equality, striving for inclusivity, and taking into account the conflicting interests of others and by coordinating logistic and organizational elements with other practices.
Our action research method elaborates on the conclusion of Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione in ‘The City as a Commons’ that urban commons require collaborative governance. The method aims to develop and enhance such governance arrangements and is shored by a conceptual model that can be used to analyze and value practices in terms of collaborative governance used for the collective management of common resources by the community of stakeholders. Collaborative governance is a dynamic and ongoing process of interaction between different stakeholders to come to policy choices. Policy thereby becomes a fluid phenomenon, the flexibility and adaptivity of which suit the complexity and contingency of the urban reality. Precisely because action research is relating to the continuous development and change within the practices it investigates and because it holds an interactive and iterative working method, it is an outstanding method to be used for policy analysis within settings of collaborative governance. Thereby it is also a valuable instrument for researchers and practitioners who are committed to realizing urban commons.
The book chapter elaborates on the activities action researchers perform in their work and the attitudes and routines they need to adhere to. It also gives insight into the role and function of a conceptual model for action researchers and how systemic is strived after, illustrated by examples of the Zero Waste Lab case. Nanke Verloo’s and Luca Bertolini’s book Seeing the City offers a rich collection of innovative research methods that have been particularly developed for use with the urban context. Our research is part of the Future Proof Equilibrium project that is supported by SIA-RAAK. It is also part of the Interreg Europe ABCitiEs programma.
According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Weekly Epidemiological Updates on COVID-19, with information as of December 13, 2020, the number of cases and deaths continued to increase to 70 million cumulative cases and 1.5 million global deaths since the onset of the pandemic.
The urgency of the situation has favored the emergence of alternatives of various kinds to alleviate the health, economic, social, psychological, etc. effects of the pandemic, many of these alternatives being of a citizen nature, guided by civil society and other diverse actors.
An example of these initiatives is Frena la Curva – FLC (Slow Down the Curve):
(…) a citizen platform in which volunteers, entrepreneurs, activists, social organizations, makers and laboratories cooperate in public and open innovation, to channel and organize social energy and civic resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving a response from civil society complementary to that of the government and the essential public services. (Frena la curva, 2020)
FLC began on March 12 when the LAAAB team (Open Government Laboratory – Government of Aragon) reflected on the need for some mechanism to organize, channel and enhance the wave of solidarity generated as a result of the advance of the virus, to which groups of volunteers, enterprises and social organizations joined.
Then other open innovation laboratories from all over Spain participated, thanks to which the initiative reached national level when the website frenalacurva.net was launched. Subsequently, it reached Latin American countries thanks to the networks previously created by the civic innovation laboratories promoted by the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB).
A series of phases and steps were established to facilitate the process to countries that wanted to replicate the model, as narrated on their website, remaining as follows:
Phase 1: “URGENT”
STEP 0. Amphibious alliances to weave a community:
In FLC, the public, the private, the social and the common spheres converge. Different actors convened for a common purpose, following an intensive model of “Think and Do Net”, due to the pressing situation.
STEP 1. A forum for organizing resistance:
The original idea of creating a self-help application was modified by the speed with which the context changed. it was decided to develop a forum serving as a repository for the social innovation and citizen creativity initiatives that emerged, grouping them into various topics, which today are: To do with the children, Education / To learn, Among neighbors, Work, Culture, Information, Care, Connection, Distributed Citizen Laboratories and Suggestions.
STEP 2. Generate direct impact:
As the digital community and initiatives continued to grow, the need to take action to generate direct impact with the particularities of each local environment became apparent. However, more inclusive and replicable formats such as Distributed Citizen Laboratories and a map that referenced the different initiatives were also considered.
In Latin America, organizational processes to replicate FLC through Telegram began to take place; the first countries to do so were Colombia and Mexico. While each country created its own strategy, FLC offered support and advice.
STEP 3. Distributed Citizen Laboratories
An open call was launched for which 20 projects were registered, some of which were selected. There was a call for collaborators and about 200 people began working on the development of ideas, organizing through various platforms so that projects continued to stay afloat and remain viable.
STEP 4. A map to take action
An application was developed in the form of a map to organize solidarity between neighbors with the help of a group of trusted volunteers to ensure the safe use of the platform.
The map allows to coordinate the needs of help with the offering of the same, the channeling of the support to people in vulnerable situations through intermediaries, as well as to indicate the existence of public services to satisfy those needs.
Phase 2: “IMPORTANT”
STEP 5. Ecosystem consolidation and map use
The community continued to grow and at the same time, some volunteers asked for relays due to the amount of work. New countries were incorporated and new possibilities arose to create direct impact through the map: traceability of needs with the support of specialized organizations, exchange of materials between maker communities and attention to schools and children without Internet access.
STEP 6. Growth
New partnerships were created with NGOs, neighborhood associations, institutions, etc. to increase the impact of the map. Processes emerging in Latin America were accompanied and an open innovation festival called “Common Challenges” was organized last April.
Distributed Citizen Laboratories
In the case of Distributed Citizen Laboratories, the developed projects were the following:
2. Citizen map for the construction of local and responsible consumption circuits in the neighborhoods.
3. Community network for food care A Coruña.
4. Design of a community for the management of well-being in COVID-19 times.
5. Collection of official COVID-19 data by province in Spain.
6. Pedagogy and learning. Mathematics and statistics.
7. Playing with light, first-person stories by resilient children.
8. Standard form for neighborhood ladder communication.
9. #YaVoyxTi, collaborative solidarity app in times of coronavirus.
10. Cooperative voucher for solidarity and future purchase in local markets.
11. Study on participatory designs in emergency situations.
12. Literary diary of confinement.
As can be seen, all projects addressed varied and current problems that require timely solutions. However, the case of project 1. Ingreso Básico Solidario (Solidarity Basic Income) will be explained in more detail since it was personally experienced in Mexico, a country that according to the WHO’s COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update of 15 December 2020, ranks fifth in cumulative cases and third in cumulative deaths in the Americas region.
One of the identified needs was to alleviate the economic effects of the pandemic that tends to increase the existing inequalities, particularly affecting people who were already in situations of economic vulnerability and structural violence.
For this reason, a platform was developed to facilitate the coordination between people who detected some economic need in their neighborhoods or communities, donors who would like to support them, and associations that could channel the resources obtained through crowdfunding campaigns.
The initiative, which echoes the proposals for implementing a Universal Basic Income, seeks to reflect on the need for a basic income that guarantees minimum material well-being. Since the efforts of the states of the global South have been insufficient to ensure this right in the face of the crisis, IBS proposes collective forms of organization to deal with it from what is common.
The first viable prototype was developed between March and April when the first campaign was launched, and the model worked until August when the project paused to define more agile and efficient mechanisms to carry out the initiatives. During this time five campaigns were launched, benefiting around 275 people with the grossing of $121,869 Mexican pesos.
The campaigns were promoted mainly in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area, Mexico’s second-largest city, but also had an impact in other Mexican cities, supporting the provision of food and medicine for people in vulnerable situations, personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, as well as the development of educational, cultural activities and psychosocial care for children.
These initiatives have similarities with those catalyzed by FLC, that have revolved around access to food, coordination between small producers and consumers, support for community kitchens, attention to cases of gender-based violence during confinement and child needs, neighborhood mutual support, transformative economies, promotion of social and solidarity economy ventures, the boost to local currencies, the production and distribution of personal protective equipment, among many other topics.
After 8 months since launch, the FLC platform has been replicated in more than 20 countries, incorporating situated knowledge for its development, according to the particularities of the context. In Europe, it has a presence in Spain, France, Poland, Portugal, and Germany; while in Latin America it is found in Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia. In addition, the countries of Central America, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador joined forces to create a single Central American map.
According to its website, among other FLC impact indicators are more than 900 initiatives registered in the citizen innovation guide, more than 9000 pins on the map, more than 140 Common Challenges projects, 200 people participating in Distributed Laboratories, 800 people cooperating in online communities, and more.
This is particularly relevant given that the regions of the Americas and Europe, where the countries that replicated the FLC model are located, are the ones that continue to carry the greatest burden of the pandemic, being 85% of the new cases and 86% of new deaths globally, according to the WHO’s COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update of 15 December 2020.
It is worth mentioning that FLC is just one of the numerous solidarity responses that have emerged in the face of the COVID-19 crisis throughout the world; however, it provides us with clues about the importance of developing and promoting open, innovative and collaborative civic initiatives in which the affected population actively participates in the resolution of the many challenges that we face in common.
Frena la curva. (2020). Frena la curva. Retrieved December 01, 2020, from https://frenalacurva.net/
Frena la curva América Latina. (2020). Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1giNjs6rEtl3_B5tbWjsr_t-KEnBVmS25/view
Ingreso Básico Solidario. (2020). Ingreso Básico Solidario. Retrieved December 10, 2020, from http://ingresobasicosolidario.org/
World Health Organization. (2020, December 15). World Health Organization. Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/weekly-epidemiological-update—15-december-2020
The article analyses the current state of the civil aviation industry, in terms of carbon emissions and environmental impact, through data provided by the European Commission. The matter is analyzed specifically in light of the recent push for a green conversion of every sector. Some of the main takeaways are that the current state of technology, in particular energy storage, does not allow for zero-emission aircraft in the near term, especially for medium/long flights. Combining this issue with other threats, and it seems likely that the aviation industry might experience significant disruption. The decarbonization efforts, before the zero-emission aircraft are going to be ready, can start with a carbon-neutral airport, that leverages all the currently existing green technologies to start the effort where possible.
The air transport sector, while not the most important CO2 emitter, accounts for about 14% of the emissions from transport, making it the second-biggest source of CO2 emissions in the transport field, after road transport. Crucially, despite the increase in aircraft efficiency, with a 24% reduction of fuel burned per passenger between 2005 to 2017, the emissions from the sector have drastically increased, due to the growth in air traffic, with a 60% increase from 2015 to 2017.
The European Green Deal is asking all industry actors to make transport drastically less polluting. Although this topic has been around for many years, now the push is stronger than ever because of the current climate crisis. Other sectors have already started strong pushes to reduce CO2 emissions, thanks to new technologies, that are both technically effective, and competitive also on a price standpoint with the polluting ones, like photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and LED lights in the energy sector, electric cars in the automotive sector, and “fake-meat” in the food industry.
One of the main issues with airplanes, is the need for high energy density, in terms of energy/weight ratio. For this reason, the battery technology that is currently used in EVs isn’t suitable for commercial aviation. At the moment, in fact, no zero-emission airplane technology is at technology readiness level 6 or above, but the future looks promising, with two main technologies on the horizon: hydrogen and battery electric. While these technologies are not ready at the moment, the increased push on sustainability for the aviation industry and the accelerated technological development of these energy-storage systems for other purposes (cars, trucks) makes these technologies likely to be deployed in the medium term. (10-20 years).
Still, in the meantime, the aviation industry risks being the black sheep of the climate transition. Together with the impact that Covid-19 is having on air transport, and the push for new high-speed trains, that offer more certain results in terms of CO2 reduction, the aviation industry is going to experience a phase of significant disruption.
Some partial solution might help the industry to pass this transition period, carbon offsetting is the most important one, while emissions from planes can’t be eliminated right away, the compensation through reforestation and energy conversion initiatives in developing countries might offer a partial and temporary solution.
At the same time, it’s crucial for the air-transport industry as a whole, to start decarbonizing all the pieces of the puzzle where the current technology can offer solutions, starting from airports, that can potentially be already converted to carbon-neutrality. These results can be achieved by using a combination of photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, and static battery storage on the energy production side, and LED lighting, efficient HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems, electric handling vehicles on the consumption side.
In conclusion, while the air-travel industry adapts to the new technical challenges brought up by the current climate crisis, by developing new aircraft technologies, a first step in the right direction might be that of the decarbonization of airports.
This article has been written by the students of the Luiss new Msc in Law, Digital Innovation and Sustainability in the context of the class of Law and Policy of Innovation and Sustainability taught by Professor Christian Iaione. The cluster “Automotive and Transportation” is composed by the following students: Antonino Giulio Cesarano, Francesco Daniele, Alessandro Fiastri, Albert Gimenez Busquets, Judith Kankam-boateng, Patricia Martinez Olondo and Laura Pantone.
Resources for built environment practitioners fostering more equal, healthy and sustainable places.
This year, the Black
Lives Matter movement enabled our
society to rethink and focus on the politics of public space, still dominated by symbols of
our colonial past. The history of urban planning has not always reflected
equity for less powerful groups. Rather it has often reinforced the status quo,
injustice, and spatial segregation. As Neely and
“a spatial perspective can provide
particularly useful lens and language for locating and understanding persistent
racial processes” (2011: 1934). Indeed, “echoes
from London and Berlin to Tokyo and Seoul continue to spotlight the workings of
institutional racism in different national contexts. All of this has unfolded
against the backdrop of a coronavirus pandemic that is disproportionately
devastating the world’s most vulnerable” (2020).
As the global reckoning with
systemic racism was generated by the historic wave of protests in response to
the disproportionate, increasingly
televised and often unjustified
shootings of Black Americans by police, Planning for Justice emerged in the
summer of 2020 as a coalition of graduate students, alumni and faculty in
Regional and Urban Planning Studies at the London School of Economics. The
coalition was built on the recognition of an immediate need to acknowledge our
past and establish long term strategies involving an equal representation of
communities in the co-creation of places. The effort resulted in collaborative and multidisciplinary digital
library of both accessible articles and academic material, to offer
planners, community groups and the general public information and inspiration on how to design
more just cities.
The group, led by Associate
Professor Nancy Holman (London
School of Economics), explained how “structural racism is ingrained into
urban policy throughout the globe—and likewise within the academic and
professional institutions that dominate our field. As benefactors, we can
educate ourselves and use positions of power to champion redistributive justice”.
Katie Mulkowsky, graduate in
Regional and Urban Planning Studies at the London School of Economics who first
envisioned the idea of crafting a digital library collecting literature on the
interplay between race and space to rethink the role of urban planning, reported
“Planning for Justice began as a collaborative,
open-source document that gathered accessible articles, academic work and
action items relevant to the events of the summer. As new incidents of police
brutality in America sparked reckonings with institutional racism throughout my
country and the wider world, I began reflecting on the role that urban planning
has historically played in producing systemic inequalities everywhere. From
post-apartheid South Africa to the boroughs of East London, the disciplining of
space has long been wielded as an explicit device of power that narrates access
to basic resources and economic opportunities. After building a team at the London School of Economics, we
therefore worked throughout the summer and fall of 2020 to digitise a resource
library and launch a blog that fosters reflection on the questions of
socio-spatial exclusion which are relevant to the contexts that our students
come from. These issues do not map onto every city in the same way, but we hope
that dialogue across places can reveal common problems and foster creative
Hence, the built environment has often embodied a spatial representation
of structural inequalities that clearly manifested in housing and transport policies, as well as the politics of public space. Those inequalities have never been racially
neutral. Therefore, the urban planning profession, which often induced community’
segregation, promoting redlining and divided cities grounded on social and
racial injustice, has now to openly commit to fostering more equal, healthy and
Therefore, Planning for Justice has the main goal of expanding its digital library as a democratic tool for learning and advocacy. Additionally, Planning
for Justice is building a team of collaborators from urban institutions and
civic organisations in cities around the world. The scope is elevating the
voices of community groups and social justice advocates who have long been encouraging
more inclusive public commons. Planning for Justice is explicitly committed to
anti-racist planning efforts and aim to disrupt legacies of uneven development
through scholarship, dialogue and the promotion of progressive projects, welcoming
multimedia and creative work.
Peeples, L. (2020). “What the data say about police brutality and racial bias —
and which reforms might work” Nature, London, 19 June. Available at:
Fowler and Calkins reported how blacks were significantly more likely to
be unarmed and pose no threat in contrast to whites. More at: DeGue,
S., Fowler, K.A. and Cynthia Calkins (2016) “Deaths due to use of lethal force
by law enforcement: Findings from the National Violent Death Reporting System,
17 U.S. States, 2009-2012”. American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
51(5 Suppl 3):S173-S187, doi:10.1016/j-amepre.2016.08.027. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6080222/.
The buildings sector represents one of the most resource-consuming sectors in Europe. It is responsible for 36% of greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on energy consumption accounts for 40% in the European Union. Construction and demolition waste (CDW) are one of the most massive and heaviest waste streams generated in the EU, it represents 25%-30% of all waste generated in the EU and consists of numerous materials. A green and sustainable approach to buildings construction is required to solve environmental and social problems. Since 2018, thanks to a EU Directive, Member States are required to impose restrictions and parameters for constructors. Some best practices in Europe show how it is possible to break down CO2 emissions, energy and water consumption, but their effort is not sufficient to reach sustainability. The missing ingredient is community engagement. The adoption of a sustainable behavior would guarantee a further reduction of the impact on the environment. In conclusion, transforming buildings and houses into sustainable places is crucial to cope with global climate goals but it must be supported by a much greater engagement of the population.
The buildings sector represents one of the most resource-consuming sectors in Europe. In fact, it is responsible for 36% of greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on energy consumption accounts for 40% in the EU (World Green Building Council). Considering these data, the EU is promoting policies and initiatives aimed at reducing the footprint of this sector through the realization of green and sustainable buildings. Although the two terms, green and sustainable, are often used as synonyms, there are several differences to consider. A building is green when it becomes more efficient in terms of consumption and impact on the environment and on the health of its inhabitants. Instead, the concept of sustainability addresses the protection of the health, environment, society, and animal welfare while preserving the ability of future generations to reach the same results. So, only a building that meets zero energy/zero emissions standards could be considered sustainable. Taking into consideration data analysis in the housing sector and household consumptions, the environmental impact is considerable and hard to ignore. However, there are several best practices spread all over Europe and this is probably due to the accurate Eu policy framework concerning the development of green and sustainable housing. Social impact is a critical point too and for this reason, social effects have been analyzed to monitor how human interaction can change in this kind of building. To understand and acquire a wider perspective, it is necessary to analyze how European policies have influenced and are shaping the way buildings are constructed, designed, and furnished, with a focus on the actual social and environmental impact on society and to cities’ development towards a more sustainable and innovative way of living.
The EU Directive 2018/844 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings and Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency are important references when dealing with the increasing commitment to developing a sustainable, competitive, secure and decarbonized energy system.
It demands the Member States to set parameters to decrease the energetic impact in terms of lightning, water, heating, and cooling. To deal with this directive, different construction parameters have been adopted.
For instance, in the housing sector, it has been set up an innovative public-private partnership (PPP): Sustainable Housing Europe(SHE) This project encourages the development of sustainable homes in France, Italy, Denmark, and Portugal and reported relevant results. Simulations show that it will be achieved 40% energy saving on heating, 100% on cooling, and 20% saving on water consumption reduction.
Examples of best practices for non-residential buildings
The Edge is considered to be one of the greenest buildings in the world, which uses IoT and photovoltaic and LED technologies to measure and reach energy efficiency; in fact, this building uses 70% less electricity than comparable office buildings.
One Angel Square is a sustainable large building powered by a biodiesel cogeneration plant and covered by a double-skinned façade to minimize heating and cooling. This guarantees an 80% reduction in carbon emissions and a 40-60% reduction in energy consumption.
Recent data on consumption show that the building sector energy impact (final energy use per m2) has been decreasing continuously by 0.5% to 1% per year since 2010. Although these data are remarkable, modern buildings are not enough. In fact, according to Sustainable Development Scenario, the rate should decrease by 2.5%; to reach this goal, it is necessary to add a new ingredient: the engagement of communities towards a more sustainable behavior (e.g. encourage recycling attitudes, turn the light off when it is not in use, reduce energy and water consumption). Collective principles such as social responsibility, open membership, cooperation, and also education encourage residents’ participation and involvement through the democratic processes of the cooperative housing system. However, this process has not been without barriers. Indeed, residents were only interested in immediate paybacks.
The benefits of green buildings are several and they can be social, economic, and environmental. From the social perspective, it enhances inhabitants’ health and comforts and ameliorates overall quality of life; speaking about economic improvements, green infrastructures can reduce operating costs and improve occupants’ productivity, moreover, waste reduction and the conservation of natural resources would be guaranteed. In conclusion, transforming buildings and houses into sustainable-friendly places would be crucial to cope with global climate goals. But as it has been written above, it would not integrally exhaust the sustainable objective: the engagement of an ever-greater proportion of humanity would be the most determinant contribution.
This article has been written by the students of the Luiss new Msc in Law, Digital Innovation and Sustainability in the context of the class of Law and Policy of Innovation and Sustainability taught by Professor Christian Iaione. The cluster “Housing and Buildings” is composed by the following students: Alessio Ciotti, Mauro De Iacobis, Francesca Nacca, Maria Elisabetta Realdon, and Ilaria Toppi.
Commission, 2020, Energy efficiency in buildings