Prototype a shared knowledge for the transition and transformation of territories
Everything today indicates that a quality of a study does not only depend on the quality of its production, but also on the care given to its transmission and conditions of its appropriation by the actors of its territories. It is with this intuition that the “Extreme Scenarios” approach was born, a one-year exploration that we delivered in 2019.
This case study was initially published in French. Click here to access the original case study.
Turning three studies into an appropriate common
At Ouishare just as ADEME we are working on bringing about transitions that we believe are right, through projects, initiatives and through varied and diverse modes of engagement. This is why since many years, we have collaborated in different contexts with different interlocutors to produce various studies on cities and the future, notably in the framework of the Ouishare Lab x Chronos.
In 2017, we co-produced Datacites, an exploration of data as a common good of the digital city. On the completion of this, ADEME and their partners are exploring this same digital city from two angles: that of governance with Audacities and that of economic models with Nouveaux Modèles Économiques Urbains (NMEU).
But how can we put all this intelligence produced at the service of the world? In 2019, will producing more knowledge really accelerate the energy and environmental transition? To respond to this issue, the “Extreme Scenarios: prototypes for shared knowledge” approach was born. We share a common ambition with ADEME: to make these three shared and common studies, at the service of concrete actions in the territories.
The “Extreme Scenarios” approach has hence consisted in making an additional effort to enhance the value of this work. Its objective? Converge the results of these three studies in a new common which would allow:
- Better dissemination of their results, that is to communicate them better, make them less theoretical and more operational, connect them more to each other and to the challenges of the territories;
- Better appropriation of the subjects they deal with, by “novice” actors working for the territories, so that they integrate their results into their practices as levers for the energy and ecological transition.
This approach was intended to help shape the future of ADEME's work, by investing in the post-study link that is symptomatically missing.
A collaborative and user-centric methodology
In the initial stages of the project, an intuition of ADEME: to resort to “extreme scenarios” to create a pretext for the exchange, provoke in recipients sometimes already saturated with information or far from these subjects an attention, reactions which, through the emotional and imaginary, would create incentives and “engagement paths” towards other content and tools offered by ADEME.
Through this method, the project kept its name. It was intended to be resolutely experimental and inclusive. In concrete terms, this has resulted in:
- The establishment of a collaborative working framework, in order to encourage dialogue and the proper integration of all project stakeholders (ADEME, expert partners and potential users) in a co-construction approach. This framework allowed for greater methodological flexibility, while requiring even closer collaboration between ADEME and Le Ouishare Lab x Chronos in order to remain aligned with the objectives of the mission and the means implemented throughout it;
- The focus of work on the “user journey”: We are convinced that to create efficient approaches in 2019, it is necessary to place future users at the heart of these approaches, and to select the content and the associated communication channels via iteration loops. This "user-centred" approach has enabled us to design "paths" that are as close as possible to the information consumption habits of our various recipients.
- The production of “models” to be tested in concretely: by putting design back at the heart of the collaborative approach (in association with our designer friends from the BAM collective), we were able to offer “models”: the first prototypes represented visually and which can be quickly tested with differently in public. These models will ultimately serve as specifications that are understandable and directly usable by any individual or organization who would like to use them at the end of the chain.
Experimentation to learn, doubt and improve
Our approach has proven to be rich in lessons. We retain, in particular five strong ideas which would all deserve to be the subject of further development:
- Combining knowledge to generate more impact: both studies and field actions are means that can be used to serve the same end: ecological transition. By promoting exchanges between this knowledge, between the actors who produce it and do not mix or understand each other, it is to initiate convergence between two complementary approaches, in the service of a common ambition.
- Radically changing postures: On the basis of the above observation, it is the whole value chain of knowledge that must be re-evaluated, and to go further, the postures of the different actors in their relationship to knowledge. Broadly speaking (and in a deliberately caricatural way), it will be a matter of the expert coming down from his ivory tower by popularising his knowledge and making the effort to pass it on; for the public player to rethink his support for local emergences and initiatives, by putting himself at the service of rather than prescribing major national plans and models to be replicated ex-nihilo; for the professionals, to get out of a solutionist approach that would only aim to deal with the consequence and not the cause of the issues. Above all, it will involve associating the potential recipients of this knowledge throughout the process, recipients who may themselves be producers of much more precise and suitable knowledge.
- Support the dissemination of results at two levels. Internally, only a strong commitment on the part of the sponsor, who generally relies on one or two individuals, makes it possible to derive all the benefits of the knowledge produced. This is a sine qua non condition for moving the lines and mentalities of organisations that are already highly structured. Likewise, vis-à-vis its external recipients, a study does not end with the publication of its final report. It seems like an illusion to consider that work will be “self-supporting” by the simple intermediary of digital interfaces - however sophisticated they may be. Also, we must support the transmission of its main results to their target recipients in the territories.
- Make it a point to experiment: we often oppose the long time for reflection to the fast time of doing. For us, there is not a binary choice but a mutual nourishment of both. Take the time to reflect and produce knowledge (guarantee of quality), but quickly test transmission methods and formats (guarantee of efficiency). The designer plays a pivotal role between these two dynamics: they make it possible to permanently bridge the gap between reflection and action, with the aim of restoring complexity with simplicity.
- Doubt, critique, change: acceptance in each process is a part of doubt, including one's own convictions, seems essential to us. It also means accepting friction or even conflict, not hesitating to modify the project along the way. In brief, to also experiment with the right to make mistakes in order to learn more quickly, something still too rare in many projects and organizations.
Finally, we moved from a certainty about THE solution to put into place (extreme scenarios to enable better appropriation of complex knowledge), to four possible (but non-exclusive) answers, in the form of hypotheses, developed and prototyped collectively:
- an interactive journey of the extreme scenario type which proposes a story around the city of data. The experience and navigation adapt to the reader's reactions and offer different information and tools that will make them want to go more in depth with regards to the subject
- an appropriation kit, to help you get to grips with the subject through three formats: the Team meeting, the Embedded Conf’ and the participation workshop. The kit offers advice and information to facilitate these formats, as well as a graphic synthesis of the three studies from the point of view of a typology of territory: village, medium-sized town or metropolis
- a chatbot that allows, from simple questions, to studies and content already produced, or to report the different needs in the field
- Research Action and Territory Inspiration, two peer to peer training sessions, with field visits, as experience sharing is key to better appropriation of the content
Today, the work must go on. By sharing, by confronting, by opening up methods, always with a view to work with the greatest numbers. It is likely that other individuals and organisations are asking similar questions, and we still have no clear answers for them. Others are already exploring their own courses of action in this area, and we do not pretend to know them all, let alone to 'outperform' them. But we probably revealed a few vanishing lines, closed some doors and opened so many windows, by trial and error. This is also how we intend to contribute to the commons.
We are now listening to all those who wish to build on this work to continue the exploration and to think of concrete actions.
In the meantime, enjoy your immersion!