Protective measures against the Covid pandemic, such as physical distancing and reduction of contacts, limit the possibility for social interaction and exchange not only in the private and professional sector, but also in democratic decision making. Especially participatory formats, in which consensus building and decision making play an important role, are strongly affected by the current restrictions. This can also be observed in transdisciplinary real-world lab work.
So far, transdisciplinary research in general and real-world labs in particular have been based on citizens’ participation at the local level with a high degree of personal interaction. Ongoing anti-coronavirus measures, such as physical distancing and restricted access to public spaces, have turned this local “face-to-face paradigm” upside down and real-world labs can only reach a limited number of citizens. As so often in this pandemic, Covid intensifies existing difficulties: in the case of real-world labs, impacting the wider population beyond already sustainability-savvy groups (“the green bubble”).
New participation formats to promote diversity
This is exactly where the project “Dual Mode Participation: Window of Opportunity for Inclusive Real-world Labs” (DuPa) sets in. The goal is to develop more reliable and inclusive dual participation formats (combined digital and in-person formats) to contribute to the overall societal challenge of more inclusive sustainability transitions. DuPa pursues four goals with corresponding work packages:
O1. Developing dual participation formats that promote the inclusivity of real-world labs.
O2. Implementing dual participation formats in real-world labs.
O3. Evaluating dual formats, especially with regard to the diversity of the participants.
O4. Discussing the results with real-world labs in Germany and internationally.
Real-world experiment with new participation formats launched
The new participation formats are being tested in the District Future real-world lab in its ongoing project work, e.g., in the recently started real-world experiment “Dein BalkonNetz – Energie schafft Gemeinschaft” (Your balcony network - Energy creates community). The project distributes balcony modules (small solar panels) to 22 interested citizens to build an inclusive solar power grid with them. Against this background, a digital network (in the form of a forum) will be established that can be used for current and future dual participation formats in the field of sustainability. It is just this transition between face-to-face events and digital exchange that forms the basis for further developing and researching dual participation models.
Further strengthening of diversity in real-world labs
In addition to its own real-world experiments, the project also collects best practice examples and develops them further in exchange with other researchers, for example in the co-founded real-world lab network. The constant exchange should help to achieve a wide national and international reach and increase the inclusivity of various real-world lab activities. In this way, DuPa identifies and develops alternative participation formats that question and complement a common narrative of real-world labs, namely that they can only have an impact if people are present on site, and thus aims to increase diversity in real-world labs.
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
Tel.: +49 721 608-24553