University of Ljubljana Innovation and Development Institute (IRI-UL)

The UCITYLAB Pilot Programme in Slovenia is being implemented in partnership between project partner IRI UL (Institute for Innovation and Development of University of Ljubljana) and the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Arts. The Pilot is embedded within the second cycle curriculum and spans in two stages over two semesters in the study year 2019/2020, with two groups of students involved from diverse social sciences and humanities backgrounds. The general aim of the Pilot Programme is to incorporate anthropological expertise, research methodology, and theory into the development processes of diverse solutions (services, policy-making, products, or governance) to urban challenges, from which the former are often absent. However, sustainability challenges require an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates the social dimension into the context of developing sustainable, people-friendly, and smart cities.

The Pilot combines team research project assignments with theoretical and methodological inputs (on people-centred development approaches, complex systems, relationship between people and technologies, emerging technologies, interdisciplinarity etc.). In the first semester, the first group of (international) students has been focusing on exploratory qualitative research of two selected urban challenges: urban mobility and waste management. In the second stage, the students are following up with qualitative team research projects on a concrete city challenge, defined through exploratory research and UCITYLAB network activities. Student teams will be tackling the design of services that would support the transition towards Mobility as a Service in urban environments, incorporating car-sharing, e-mobility, and public transportation. New forms of mobility are rapidly developing in the Ljubljana Urban Region (e-scooters, e-car sharing systems) and are already making an impact on the urban way of life as well as on policy and on technological levels (e.g. sustainable energy use, distribution, network, infrastructure). How are the daily mobility practices of urban dwellers changing, what are their needs, and how can we co-create solutions and services that will support the transition towards a more sustainable urban mobility?

The programme is designed and delivered in cooperation with external stakeholder organisations of the UCITYLAB Network: the student teams work with professionals from company Voyego, developing and implementing Mobility as a Service solutions, as well as with municipality representatives, NGO, and research organisations. The theoretical and methodological part of the course equip the students with broader insights into the role of anthropology, ethnography, and people-centred design approaches in tackling interdisciplinary challenges in urban environments. Lectures are supported by thematic workshops, including teaming up the UCITYLAB students with students from other Faculties (e.g. Faculty of Electrical Engineering), thus bringing in an additional interdisciplinary dimension. Working in smaller teams, the students conduct ethnographic, qualitative research – engaging residents, local community organisations, and other relevant research participants. They experiment with designing research-based development ideas through co-creation with external stakeholders and research participants.

One of the key intended learning outcomes is the ability to design and carry out a challenge-based research and development project in an interdisciplinary setting, in a team, and in cooperation with external stakeholders. The leitmotif of the course is people-centred development and design approaches, which are grounded in ethnographic methods, supporting co-creation and innovation processes. Such a course is particularly relevant in the social science and humanities programmes, where the availability of project- and problem-based learning experiences in cooperation with city stakeholders is scarce, narrowing down the general perception of applicability of e.g. anthropological knowledge and methods in governance, policy-making, business, or industry.