Andalabs, a network for citizen innovation in Andalucía.

The Red Andalabs project – Network of Laboratories Citizens of Andalucía (http://andalabs.org/) sees the light in the month of May of 2017 sponsored by Medialab UGR – Research Laboratory in Culture and Digital Society of the University of Granada. AndaLabs focuses on the plurality of physical and / or digital spaces, hybrids, that serve as channels for social and citizen innovation. A contemporary way of integrating knowledge distributed in society for the development of transformation projects co-created by a plurality of social actors, highlighting the leading role of citizenship.

In the name of the Network, “Anda” not only refers to the andalusian perspective; it’s also a call to “walk”, a start up of society that from the public, the private sector, the third sector, social movements and organized citizenship as protagonist is active to design their future collectively, experimental, Inclusive, collaborative and open.

Andalabs aims to map the initiatives that take place mainly in Andalucía but not in an exclusive way as it could also incorporate initiatives from another part of the spanish or international territory, with particular interest in the Latin American and European field, as long as they manifest an interest to connect with ecosystem Andalusian model of citizen innovation. Although we develop and grow in the territory, we connect and contribute to the community from the globality provided by the Internet. For that reason, the more actors we are able to visualize an involve, the greater the potential for generating initiatives.

The current digital platform allows to complete an online form with the most relevant information of the laboratory, providing access to its web pages and profiles in social networks. The laboratories are shown geolocated through a map that facilitates the navigation and the discovery of the same ones. It also includes a space for news and event publication.

What do we understand by citizen’s laboratory?

In the conception of “citizen laboratory” we do not begin from a normative approach, but from a descriptive and inclusive perspective we intend to construct and to agree terms that are a practical instrument for the new actors identification that enrich the Network. We start with a proposal for an initial definition in the following terms: “Citizen laboratories are those entities that, in the public, private, third sector, social movements and other forms of organized civil society, constitute physical spaces and / or Digital experiments and production of innovation initiatives that arise from open co-creation processes, conceiving the citizenry as protagonist along with other actors of the system. ”

On the same, both in the first Andalab meeting in Granada (in which we will focus later) as a recent seminar in Seville (“Social innovation oriented to the Common Good: Laboratories Citizens”, June 16, 2017, University of Seville) refer to the activities in the line of inclusion of the clearest way to social movements that without an officially constituted finding act as socially identifiable and recognized interlocutors. In this way we have already begun a process of consultation and revision of the definition to allow the Andalab to meet the objectives that we raised with their creation.

Network goals

The main Andalabs Network’s goal is to constitute an instrument for the promotion of a system of social and citizen innovation, for the territory and from the territory (cities and towns) in Andalucía. From the recognition of the possibilities offered by technology, this laboratory allows sustainable movements deployment to create transforming, disruptive innovation ecosystems and catalysts for social change. Fortunately this is not a system that starts to take its first steps directly, the andalusian region has a large number of innovative initiatives carried out by the citizens. For example, we focus on the impulses from the public sector, it is remarkable the great work done in the Guadalinfo Centers in populations with less than 20,000 inhabitants. Many of these centers have gone from being the only places of physical access to technology to becoming major players in social innovation in the municipalities. However, it is necessary to support from the public a greater development and support for initiatives that, even within the Administration itself, in all social spheres and especially in the larger urban centers, where innovation can develop a mayor Scale The articulation of these different levels is one of the needs of the initiative Andalabs aims to solve.

All this speech is connected in addition to a political point of view, not only with the speech of innovation, but with citizen participation, whose bill is in the last stages of processing in Andalucía. The processes of citizen participation will not only count on the individual citizens but from the associations, movements and other social organizations is going to play a very important role. By incorporating innovative perspectives into this panorama, the andalusians become an instrument of visualization, connection, support and digital empowerment for the groups that will need to enhance their social projection and thus reach wider citizen groups in order to support initiatives of participation in the framework of the future.

Some specific objectives of the Network that we would like to highlight would be: • Increase the number of laboratories participating in the innovation, the number of users of these spaces and the number of innovation projects, intensifying the collaborations between initiatives as well as the joint and shared work. • Contribute to the development of centers of knowledge specialized in research and development for and with society, particularly in universities and other spaces dedicated to R & D. This line would promote the development of citizen laboratories that from these centers of knowledge develop a work from a radical opening to citizenship based on principles of collaboration, co-creation, recognition of diverse knowledge, etc.

  • Increase co-creation practices in addressing social challenges from the scales closest to the citizen to those that refer to society as a whole. This design approach at various levels of the innovation system, public, private and citizen, can constitute an interesting complement to the future system of citizen participation Andalusian. A complementary approach that, outside the channels included in said legal text, according to a set of practices that generate a participative citizenship pedagogy fundamental for the operation of this system.
  • Develop training and experimentation proposals for citizens that contribute to personal development, employability and a more active citizenship.
  • Make it easier to participate in calls for international projects as well as participation in national and international networks in order to help finance the andalusian system of citizen innovation.

Further development of the system and innovation and participation would make it possible to place the region in a strategic position within the Spanish system itself, and internationally on a very interesting and promising axis between Europe, Latin America and North Africa.

Launching of the Andalabs Network

The Andalabs digital platform was presented in the framework of the Week of Citizen Innovation (http://medialab.ugr.es/noticias/una-semana-para-la-innovacion-ciudadana-en-granada/). In relation to the analysis of the current situation, it was verified the existence of many disconnected initiatives that could acquire a greater projection and support if they could learn and collaborate with other spaces but of a similar conception. For example, there was a need to integrate older groups and families: the former as very active groups with a great deal of experience and technical and social knowledge.

And the latter as groups with little time but with great interest for the improvement in their community and the generation of friendly environments for the childhood. Critical reflection on the concept of a citizen laboratory allowed the identification of groups that in practice act in this way and could potentially be prominent actors if they received support on issues of digital identity and communication, approaches to innovation and organization, social projection, etc. This would be the case, for example, of initiatives of economy of common good, Associations of Mothers and Parents of Students (AMPAs), communities of neighbors, etc

Between identified needs, relationship generation are mainly highlight, for which it was suggested to facilitate the generation of networks by digital means that are the germ of subsequent physical encounters. Greater support was also requested from the public, which should be the area of support for these citizen and cross-cutting initiatives. There was also the conviction that from the connection and the union, the Administration would show more attention to support this system of innovation and expanded participation.

Finally, it was discussed the nature of so-called citizen laboratories and what their defining characteristics would be. The positions already mentioned in the article would include issues such as the importance of inclusiveness, openness as a fundamental value, innovative orientation and essential communication for the construction of a powerful identity that allows for a shared and public space in the society to which it is intended to serve and with which it is intended to create.

The work of identification and especially of self-identification as a citizen laboratory is very important for Network development. The inclusive view also leads us to take into account not only laboratories that arise from public institutions, private or social movements, but also laboratories that arise within organizations already created, in an internal “hacking” movement with own difficulties, clear resistances but at the same time with a great transforming power in the medium term.

A clear risk that is detected in these initiatives is the central role of the promoter of the initiative, particularly in those cases where there is no shared leadership by the community structure. It is necessary to encourage the generation of this type of leadership in order for new initiatives to emerge and above all with the aim of having the appropriate relays and projects can truly settle.

Next steps

The current main task is to increase the number of laboratories identified in the Network with a view to organizing a meeting at the end of 2017 to strengthen ties between the community, to agree on definitions and principles and to outline future projects.


Translated by Leticia Jaén Tapia Cybervolunteer, Villanueva de la SerenaBadajoz, Spain