“…Developing networks and finding interested academics, operations staff, and community partners is key. Don’t worry if there are only a few projects at first – with increasing student interest in experiential learning, more collaborators are likely to come on board over time” – Liz Cooper, Research and Policy Manager
The University of Edinburgh’s Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability (SRS) coordinates a Living Labs initiative, working with academics, professional services, students and the community. The SRS department was established in 2013 and now has around 20 staff. The team sits within Corporate Services Group at the University and collaborates closely with senior leaders across the University, including via the SRS Committee which reports directly to University Court.
Living Labs style projects and partnerships have been taking place at least to some extent for a long time, although it was only in the last few years that these have been formally coordinated and recognised as such. Whilst the SRS Living Lab initiative was originally internally focussed, there are now significant numbers of community integrated projects. An increase in community engagement for Living Labs comes as the department’s work and priorities have expanded, achieved through the appointment of a Community Engagement Manager.
Responsibility for coordinating Living Lab projects is distributed across the SRS team, this aims to ensure Living Labs become a joint responsibility and embedded across different thematic areas. A Living Lab project database can be found on the SRS website, featuring past, current and proposed projects. A Living Lab toolkit has been developed to encourage staff and students from across the University to develop their own collaborations, without requiring SRS Department coordination.
As the initiative has gained momentum, the team has increasingly seen academics, professional services staff and community organisations approach them to ask for support with project initiation, identifying funding opportunities, identifying researchers and facilitating meetings. There are a few great examples of courses at the University that have formally embedded Living Labs opportunities into the curriculum e.g. the masters level Case studies and Sustainable Development course.