Laboratorio para la Ciudad: How to work on a small scale in a megacity!

Date: 27 Apr 2016
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CDMX is a megacity with more than 20 million inhabitants and facing lots of urban-challenges! Projects are burgeoning in the city to address these numerous challenges. Unfortunately, major parts of them are not succeeding when implemented.

On the impulse of Mr. Mancera, mayor of CDMX elected at the last election, LABCDX was created by Gabriella Gomez-Mont in 2013.  This experiment program works on these urban problematic on a small scale by implementing pilots before expanding them to the whole city. As a main mission, the lab looks for encouraging urban innovations and civic interactions!

Let’s have a deeper look on this innovative way to work!

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With the election of Mancera, LABCDX was founded to create interaction between the city and its citizens.
Main missions of this experiment-orientated laboratory are:

  1. Work as a research and development department by:
    • Studying creative and innovative projects.
    • Experimenting: implementing pilots and prototypes at small scale.
    • Promoting:  If pilots have positive results, they are passed to ministries to implement them in a bigger way and write public policies.

At the end, by implementing this way of working, government is “mitigating the risk and thus you can try innovative projects.” (Humberto Fuentes, Director General en InvernaIdeas)

  1. Improve the communication between citizens, civil societies and the government by:
    • Changing the vocabulary, ease the access to public information.”Sometimes we are invited to events and people don’t imagine we are part of the government as we are very accessible” (Roberto Ascensio, LABCDX)
    • Using visual information to explain technical documents and/or data.
    • Organizing free- events (conferences, workshops) on their rooftop about diverse topics with government and civil societies. Urbanovacion was invited to one of them with the Mayor himself!
    • Organizing “Sobremesa” (Spanish expression which means the time you spent after dinner to discuss) : events with members of ministries and civil societies to make the conversation more informal and opened.

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How it works :

“Gabriella was inspired by the work of other cities and/or private initiative as the Boston New Urban Mechanics or Helsinki. However, it hasn’t been a copy and paste from their labs to ours. It has been thought for Mexico City” (Roberto Ascensio, LABCDX). Today, LABCX gathers professionals from various disciplines: designers, politicians and economic scientists, geographers…  

At its launch in 2013:

  • Was organized in a transversal structure with teams by disciplines.
  • When a project was coming up, they were all working on the topic.

One year back:

LABCDX is a creative and experiment-orientated organization which promotes continuous learning. They decided to re-organize themselves into 4 mains verticals to be more efficient:

1 – Ciudad Ludica (a playful city)
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  • Description: “is a hub of research and experimentation that values the game as a common good that promotes social cohesion, urban regeneration and community building.”
  • Example: Expleraciones para un megapolis : https://vimeo.com/146816172

2 – Ciudad Compartida (a collective city)
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  • Description: “promote rehabilitation of public spaces through citizen participation. Promote a shared economy… sharing of goods and services, shared financing and sharing knowledge.
  • Example: ecobici, crowndfunding, urban agriculture, tools to share knowledge (Wikipedia)

3- Ciudad Abierta (an open-city)
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  • Description: “a city that questions, listens and collaborates… coordinates efforts with every stakeholders to overcome together challenges thanks to open knowledge and dialogue.”
  • Example : Mapaton project: Led by LABCDX, this project has involved from the beginning persons from private companies, government, civil society, students. It was a real successful crowd-project!To know more about it please check the article: http://urbanovacion.com/portfolio-items/closing-ceremony-of-the-first-mapaton-in-cdmx/ )

4 – Ciudad Inteligente (a smart city)
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  • Description: “use of technology to improve urban services, reduce costs, environmental footprint and improve the quality of life of the inhabitants.
    LABCDX goes beyond these aspects and includes the collective intelligence of its inhabitants as one of its main assets.”
  • Example : Noche Bus horario Project : “today in Mexico City, there is no indications to know at what time the next bus will be reaching the station. LABCDX experiment fix timetable for the night bus” (Roberto Ascensio, LABCDX)

Each vertical is composed of a team of 4 to 5 persons from various disciplines. They have the flexibility of start-ups and can focus on projects. It makes their work faster and more agile! They are supported by 2 other groups: Direction General and Narrativas.

LABCDX has been emulators by many other cities in Latin America. Today, important cities such as : Bogota (Colombia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Buenos Aires (Argentina) have opened their own Laboratorio. “And what is the most interesting, exclaims Roberto Ascencio (LABCDX), this could work as a network with knowledge-sharing and faster implementation of good practices!”.