Citizen engagement is key to successful energy transitions, with citizens playing critical roles in co-developing localized solutions and adapting behaviors. One of the primary objectives of the +CityxChange project is to trial new methods of citizen engagement and participation in the Lighthouse Cities and Fellow Cities, embedding participatory procedures into local frameworks in order to enable interconnected communities and urban authorities.
Lighthouse city Limerick has made valuable progress in this regard, facilitating participation by creating physical and digital spaces in which citizens can share their visions and desires for the city. One such innovation is the Citizens’ Observatory, which supports locals in becoming next generation smart citizens, and helps communities to develop ownership, understanding and awareness of how they can play an active role in leading the transformation towards Positive Energy Districts and Cities.
So, what is the Citizens’ Observatory?
D3.6: Framework for DPEB Innovation Labs defines Citizens’ Observatories as “programmed spaces, ‘places’ within the Innovation Playground which act as a portal to a digital Citizen Observatory system, lowering the threshold to participation and enabling the next generation smart citizen. The +CityxChange Citizen Observatory can be co-located with the DPEB Innovation Lab or can be dispersed within the Innovation Playground” (Fitzgerald et al., 2020, p. 34.)
In Limerick, the Citizens’ Observatory is a physical and digital space, operating in conjunction with Fab Lab Limerick and the Engagement Hub under the umbrella of the Citizen Innovation Lab. The Observatory hosts a program of events and provides a space for citizens to engage in the +CxC project and the clean energy transition through processes of engagement enabled by the Citizen Observatory’s digital tools. The space specifically focuses on empowering citizens to engage with data, and the space provides access to tools such as the Limerick Energy Model, a digital twin of the city, and the Community Mapping Tool, where geolocated crowdsourced data can be gathered. The Citizen Innovation Lab now also has a digital platform that shares information about events and the programme of engagement including open calls for citizen solutions. This is also where citizen stories of the clean energy transition can be shared.
Want to know more? Check out D4.8: Limerick Citizen Observatory, which describes the implementation of Community-Led Open Innovation in Limerick, documenting the development and establishment of a Citizens’ Observatory, as well as the engagement program of community participation events and the establishment of a Positive Energy Champions Network.