In the digital age, taking advantage of online tools to foster citizen engagement has become a strategic imperative, but requesting feedback in a one-way stream of communication is not sufficient. This is why Consorcio Valencia 2007 (CV07) is taking La Marina Living Lab a step further by developing an insight community where people who have been involved in previous projects and have expressed genuine and continuous interest in collaborating with CV07 can continue to do so directly over time, both online and in real life. The insight community is the most recent of Living Lab initiatives but public interest in the idea is already growing.
The insight community is a tool for generating sustained constructive dialogue between the organization and the participants. In this synergy, members of the community provide feedback, respond to propositions and generate ideas, while the administration reciprocates by sharing with them up-to-date information about the impact of the community’s contributions, about current and forthcoming interventions in the public space of La Marina and about prospective projects and opportunities to get involved. Nourishing an active insight community is critical to the idea of co-creation and co-design. It also allows the administration to probe, at the earliest possible stages, the viability of certain intervention propositions and hence – manage better its use of time, money and resources. The insight community is also likely to boost public satisfaction with the space, since people can witness first-hand the application of their contributions in the context of La Marina within a relatively short time span.
All of the initiatives launched under the Living Lab umbrella thus far have championed collaboration and the involvement of a diverse set of constituents. Some programs, like SUREM La Marina, have targeted a specific section of the ‘user’ community, while others like the InvisibleCity app and the Insight Community were designed to engage with a broader audience. Yet, all of them are based on the same core premise: that CV07 ought to approach the transformation of the Valencian waterfront not from the position of a sole decision-making body but rather as a partner in a much larger group of stakeholders, be they students, civic organizations, academic institutions, or other public and private companies.
This approach has several positive implications. First, establishing a dialogue between the administration and the community ensures that the latter stays informed at any time about present or upcoming interventions in the public space of La Marina. Second, by building a platform for local engagement, CV07 is tapping into the creative potential of Valencians from all sectors and ensuring the seamless and diversified inflow of new propositions and ideas. Third, involving the citizens as stakeholders in the transformation of the waterfront restores their sense of belonging and their emotional connection to the site. The white elephant projects of the early 2000s left many of the locals disillusioned with the new image of La Marina as a place reserved almost exclusively for lavish international events. Reopening the conversation with locals is an opportunity to re-knit this broken relationship and ensure that people experience the historic waterfront as their own and look after it with pride and care. Finally, active collaboration promotes transparency and strengthens the level of trust between the public and the administration, which manages La Marina de Valencia. Ultimately, the decision of CV07 to approach the revitalization of Valencia’s historic harbor as a living laboratory based on collective creation and ideation processes has made the entire endeavor more open, more inclusive and certainly more democratic.