Impacts of urban real-world labs: Insights from a co-evaluation process informed by structuration theory in Wuppertal-Mirke

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Ways of evaluating the societal impact of real-world labs as a transdisciplinary and transformative research format are under discussion. We present an evaluation approach rooted in structuration theory, with a focus on structure-agency dynamics at the science-society interface. We applied the theory with its four modalities (interpretation schemes, norms, allocative and authoritative resources) to the case of the Mirke neighbourhood in Wuppertal, Germany. Six projects promoted the capacity for co-productive city-making. The effects of the projects were jointly analysed in a co-evaluation process. Previously proposed subcategories of the modalities as an empirical operationalisation were tested and confirmed as being applicable. Five new subcategories were generated. The use of the modalities seems appropriate for co-evaluation processes. The tool is practical, focused on real-world effects, and suitable for transdisciplinary interpretation processes. We encourage further empirical testing of the tool, as well as development of the subcategories.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society
Issue numberSupplement 1
Pages (from-to)102-109
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 16.03.2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgement: We would like to thank the guest editors of this Special Issue of GAIA and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. We thank all the workshop participants for their valuable contributions. MW thanks Melanie Chahrour for her assistance with the initial literature research. Funding: The empirical work and writing were partly funded by the Research for Sustainable Development framework programme of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. MW worked in the Well-Being Transformation Wuppertal project (grant no. 01UT1412A; 2015–2018) and held a doctoral scholarship from the Heinrich Böll Foundation (2018–2022). KA worked in the junior research group in social-ecological research UrbanUp – Upscaling Strategies for an Urban Sharing Society (grant no. 01UU1701A; 2018–2023). Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests. Author contribution: MW, KA: initial research design, data collection and analysis; MW: manuscript drafting; MW, KA, TvW, DJL: writing the final manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 by the authors.

    Research areas

  • co-production, evaluation, real-world laboratory, societal impact, structuration theory, transdisciplinarity, transformative research
  • Transdisciplinary studies