Making just & sustainable cities: The UrbanA Wiki Database

Date 13 Feb, 2020

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The UrbanA Wiki Database documents 33 approaches to tackling urban injustice and unsustainability, ranging from democratic governance and financial mechanisms to community gardens and Transition Towns. The database is a living knowledge commons that serves as a resource from which city makers can take action. In this blog, DRIFTer Karlijn Schipper describes how the database is developed.

The database is the fruit thus far of UrbanA’s collaborative journey that began in January 2019.  The first step was to map previous EU-funded research and innovation projects and their related approaches to just and sustainable cities. By approaches we mean the diversity of interventions, actions, strategies, solutions or policies to tackling the urban challenges of sustainability and justice.

We began by systematically scanning the CORDIS database leading to a long list of 427 relevant projects. From this a short list of 180 approaches was chosen. Desk study and interviews deepened our understanding of these approaches and helped to whittle the list down to 33 wiki pages.

Why do we use Wiki?

To create a database using wiki is an experiment in itself! We chose it because wiki is a decentralized approach to knowledge co-creation and information sharing, which resonates with UrbanA’s modus operandi. It facilitates a collaborative way of working as users can modify and structure content directly from their web browser without the need for special software. And instead of a central manager the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ is in the lead.

‘The most important reason for creating an UrbanA wiki is that it supports inclusive, co-creative, open access and open source approaches to knowledge generation.’

We use MediaWiki, an open source knowledge management platform initially developed by The Wikimedia Foundation as the architecture for Wikipedia. This is now one of the best-supported and best-known wiki platforms available, as well as one the most exemplary models of an open and self-organizing community.

Capturing insights from co-creative mapping with city-makers

Once the UrbanA team had distilled the approaches down to 33 wiki pages we invited the wider UrbanA Community of Practice — everyone following UrbanA — to input to the database. UrbanA fellows and those who were attending the first UrbanA Arena event in Rotterdam, in November 2019, were asked to engage, add and edit the wiki pages. The database then informed the activities and sessions organized during the event in Rotterdam, at which 60 city makers from across Europe gathered. In turn the feedback and insights from the Rotterdam event were used to adapt the wiki pages.

Thus our way of mapping has not simply been a matter of academic ‘experts’ gathering data, as explained in an earlier blog. It has also been a process of engaging people and of allowing them to feel heard and acknowledged for their prior and ongoing efforts on urban sustainability and justice.

Our database-making contributes to the ongoing creative learning process envisioned for the next UrbanA’s Arena events, in Barcelona, Berlin and Brussels. We actively seek to continue unlocking knowledge beyond the initial EU projects that we mapped, by engaging city-makers in this co-creative process and by grounding the approaches to just and sustainable cities in real life experience and examples.

For a detailed report of our UrbanA Wiki Database please see here.

Supporting the UrbanA Community of Practice

The Wiki Database provides an open source shared resource and knowledge commons for the UrbanA Community of Practice and those who are impacted by urban (un)sustainability & (in)justice. It can continuously grow and adapt based on the community’s collective process over the coming years. Crucially it can also live on after the UrbanA project, which ends December 2021, through its compatibility with other Wiki databases.

What’s next? How to become involved?

Our aim now is to continue opening up and sharing the UrbanA Wiki Database with the wider UrbanA Community of Practice.

We welcome the community to contribute to the wiki by directly creating content (e.g. setting up a new wiki page) or offering suggestions on existing content.

If you would like to engage directly with the Community of Practice, you are welcome to join the UrbanA LinkedIn group.

Karlijn Schipper

Funded by
UrbanA has received funding under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement no. 822357.