Living Labs – a multi-level network

Working together in living labs: A multilevel network approach towards maximizing impact.


    In 2014 the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) started the first of many area-based living lab (called ‘AUAS fieldlabs’) in collaboration with the district municipality, introducing an area-based innovation approach to local challenges like unemployment, poverty or a healthy neighborhood (Lab Amsterdam, Majoor et al., 2017). For each challenge, the living lab brought together local entrepreneurs, NGOs and citizens. This multilevel structure was devised to connect change at local policy level to innovation at a practical service level. In addition to the area-based living labs, the AUAS co-founded several new living labs varying in size, subject and scale, which all share characteristics of so-called system innovation initiatives. They consist of a cohesive set of experiments by a multi-actor innovation network to contribute to a process of sustainable structural change in dominant structures, relations and practices while interacting with the system.


    The workshop aims to understand how a living lab network structures contribute to system innovation. Living labs as system innovation initiatives can substantially alter established network structures. Moreover, structures can undergo alterations through subtle interventions, with impact on the overall outcomes of living labs. To understand how such change occurs, we develop a multilevel network perspective to study collaborations toward system innovation. We take this perspective to help understand living lab dynamics, drawing on innovative examples and taking into consideration the multilayered structures that the collaboration comprises. 
* For relevant literature see: Beers, P. J., Van Mierlo, B., & Hoes, A. C. (2016). Toward an integrative perspective on social learning in system innovation initiatives. Ecology and Society, 21(1): 33-45. Brass, D. J., et al. (2004). Taking stock of networks and organizations: A multilevel perspective. Academy of Management Journal, 47(6): 795–817. Geels, F. W., & Schot, J. (2007). Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways. Research Policy, 36(3), 399-417.


      We offer examples from our own practice and support participants in gaining hands-on experience to evaluate their own living lab as an example of system innovation, and design an appropriate network strategy. • Participants of the workshop will gain knowledge of relevant theories and practices on system innovation and social network analysis; • Participants get an illustration how a multilevel social network approach can be applied through the example of living lab “House of skills”, a particularly interesting case example as an initiative for system innovation towards a skills-oriented labour market in the Metropolitan Area of Amsterdam; • Participants will apply knowledge as a means to assess how to create impact within their own living labs by applying a multilevel network perspective.


     The workshop has a participatory approach and starts with a brief introduction followed by hands-on practical sessions. The workshop comprises a short introduction to network theorizing and system innovation applied to the context of living labs. We will share our experience of collaboration in Amsterdam-based urban living labs. The example ‘House of Skills” is illustrative for a multilevel approach as it brings together the business community, trade organisations, employee and employer organisations, knowledge institutes, education and regional administrators, collaborating toward system innovation. We will explain how we make choices concerning the organisational structure of our living labs in order to contribute to (labour market) system innovation. We discuss in small subgroups what participants can learn about their own living lab from this viewpoint and what kind of network strategy could work in order to support the system innovation. This is followed by a final reflection.


Workshop Facilitators