Serendipity in the times of a pandemic: experiences from the +CityxChange and Climathon 2020 Sharing Session

Five +CityxChange cities (Limerick, Písek, Sestao, Trondheim, and Võru) worked together with Climate-Kic to develop coordinated Climathon events (WP10), four of them running parallel from October to December (unfortunately, Võru had to postpone their event until January 2021 because of a lockdown). On Wednesday 16th of December all the organizers gathered together in an online meeting to hear not only the results, but also the thoughts and ideas that had emerged during the process.

A common shared theme of all the individual Climathons was ‘Building resilience: new ideas for climate change’. This theme was localized according to the needs and interests of each participant city: for example, Limerick was focusing on school access, Trondheim in increasing community engagement, while Sestao was working on participatory ways to reduce carbon emissions.

The circumstances forced organizers to re-think of the nature of the Climathon. A shift from the classic “hackaton” style format of an intense 24-hour workshop had already started to better accommodate participants with different life- and family situations, so the Climathon was a perfect chance to test how taking things online and spreading the events throughout a longer time period would affect the nature of the event. When asked to describe the Climathon, participants in Trondheim mentioned words like challenging, educational and collaborative.

On top of positive participant experiences, also the organizers from the participating cities were positively surprised by the outcomes. For many of the cities, the Climathon was perceived as an informal event to start a collaboration with nearby municipalities or professional/academic entities, and for the citizens as a “safe space” for everyone to express their opinions and discuss outside of the rigid municipal public meetings. The Climathons also resulted in multiple ideas for tackling local issues, and several of them are already in further development:

  • Limerick: An embedded sensor system for monitoring traffic, traffic speed and air quality around school zones. The project has been presented to the city council and has received support for further development.
  • Písek: Climathon inspired the officials to start arranging more informal meetings with the citizens. The event also resulted in two water system-related ideas, one of which was the development of a cascading water basin system for both water management and harvesting power. The event also inspired some calculations on the subject that had not been conducted before. The +CityxChange team in Pisek is also undertaking the work of developing this idea further within the project.
  • Sestao: The session resulted in 4 different ideas, and an app for citizens to monitor and reduce their CO2 production is already in further development.
  • Trondheim: Several ideas developed during the workshop. A re-use concept to enable citizens to sell their used items in the specialty shops in the city centre was selected as a winner by a jury panel.

The +CityxChange project offered a community for hosts and was playing a key part in introducing a more systematic thinking in the process. All participating cities saw the Climathon first and foremost as a platform for serendipitous discovery.

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