By May 2021, the team responsible for the development of the 12 FUSILLI Living Labs(Work Package 1) has submitted two deliverables to the European Commission: D1.1. “Living Labs for Urban Food System Transformation – an inventory report” and D1.2. “Guidelines for the identification and involvement of city food system actors”. For the development of these reports, the team could rely on active contributions from the 12 FUSILLI cities and other project partners.

The first report (D1.1.) contains reflections on Living Labs as a means to foster the transformation of urban food systems. This report draws heavily on self-assessments provided by each FUSILLI city in response to a questionnaire. The questions were:

  • Has your municipality been actively involved in a Living Lab, City Lab or similar?
  • Independent from your municipality, have there been any Living Lab, City Lab or similar up and running in your city?
  • Have there been any initiatives, including bottom-up citizens’ initiatives to transform the food system including, but not limited to, starting up a Living Lab, City Lab or similar (prior to the FUSILLI project) in your city?
  • What do you foresee being the first step(s) in your city to establish/connect a Living Lab for the FUSILLI project?
  • Overall, looking to the next four years in the FUSILLI project, what do you think will be barriers/pitfalls/challenges for Living Labs to contribute to the urban food system?


The self-assessments clearly show that the point of departure for the 12 cities differs quite a bit. Living Labs are by necessity tailor-made to specific urban contexts and situations. Unsurprisingly, cities` self-assessments reveal a varied pattern with respect to the initialisation and governance of Living Labs. Some are initialised by municipalities, others by the private sector, civil society and/or other non-municipal entities. The report compares the cities’ municipal, non-municipal and food-related experience-base of Living Labs. It also assesses the 12 cities’ experiential, conceptual, institutional and societal capacities for designing Living Labs.

A common denominator is that Living Labs embody real-life, experimental and collaborative co-production of knowledge. In a review of international academic literature, the report addresses the state-of-the-art of Living Labs. D1.1thus concludes by assessing implications of the findings. It suggests that practitioners must draw a roadmap by transcending a merely conceptual understanding of what a Living Lab is. They have to seek a proper implementation of an operationalised, tailormade version of a Living Lab in specific local contexts and situations. A crucial success factor for the FUSILLI project is that the documented diversity across and within cities emerge as a positive resource for reflection, learning and innovative actions.

The second report (D1.2) pays special attention to the collaboration dimension of Living Labs. It defines a knowledge framework for guidelines that can help cities manage Living Labs, and justify and identify principles, practices and challenges to collaboration that should be part of these guidelines. The keywords are inclusion and participation. A literature review is complemented by reports from five workshops, each involving two of the city partners and one of the university partners in the FUSSILI project.

The literature review provides theoretical perspectives from recent innovation and governance research – perspectives that emphasise, justify and prescribe the role of collaboration in transformation processes. While the focus is on participation by citizens, social movements and other civil society actors, the literature review also considers participation from various branches of private and public sectors such as food production entities, food distributors, and government branches. The review outlines conceptual development towards ‘collaborative governance’ and ‘co-creation’. Next, a subsection presents the importance and implications of including civil society organisations (food movements) in the governance arrangements when system transformation is the goal. The final section reviews practices that can improve inclusion and participation in Living Labs, e.g. recruitment and retention of citizens and other stakeholders.

The five two-city-workshops addressed the following questions:

  • What are the main experiences and practices supporting inclusive participation in planning processes in your city?
  • How can these experiences and practices be fed into the subsequent elaboration and implementation of a plan for food system transformation?
  • How can the Living Lab(s) be used for experimentation of inclusive participation and subsequently rolled out, or ‘scaled out’, to serve the food system transformation?

Furthermore, participants were invited to reflect on these two questions during and after the workshop: (a) How do the experiences and strategies of your city compare with the ones of the other city in the workshop? (b) What can you learn from what the other city does? A potential yet crucial success factor for the Living Labs and the entire project is that the documented diversity across and within cities emerge as a positive resource for reflection, learning and subsequent innovative actions.

The workshops confirmed that all participating city partners are ready to create Living Labs that are collaborative, inclusive and participatory. The cities` willingness to co-create with citizens and other food-system actors is strong. In the extension of this, two challenges were identified and should be addressed in the near future:

  • The challenge of legitimate inclusion: How can a city secure optimal inclusion of stakeholders and citizens in the designed process? How can actors and citizens with only a small ‘stake’ in the food system, or with less (perceived) capacity to participate, be fully included?
  • The internal quality of participation: How can we ensure equal opportunities for participants so that all stakeholders get a real stake in the urban food planning, and a situation is avoided where a few actors dominate (or take over) the process?

How these and similar questions are addressed and answered in practice is crucial for a successful transformation of the urban food system.


Authors: Einar Braathen (OMU), Danielle Wilde (SDU), Svein Ole Borgen (OMU), Anders Eika (OMU), Ellen Marie Forsberg (OMU) and Maria Karyda (SDU)