Metabolism of Cities Living Lab Promo Video

San Diego State University, Big Ideas, Metabolism of Cities Living Lab Website

Summary of project goals and activities

Urban metabolism is used as a metaphor to compare the city to a living organism. Similar to a living organism a city needs energy, water, and nutrients to grow. The concept has been used in climate adaptation planning to develop decision-support models for environmental policy and sustainable design approaches to tackle climate vulnerabilities. The Metabolism of Cities Living Lab [MOC-LLAB] is a multi-actor partnership of interdisciplinary international professionals (universities, cities, individuals, and organizations) from across the world (USA, Mexico, Italy, France, and Ukraine) to pioneer new frontiers for better solutions by “Strengthening Diversity and Deliberation in Climate Adaptation Planning” using data-oriented solutions. The MOC-LLAB is hosted by the Center for Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age at San Diego State University, in San Diego, California, USA.

The international border is the playground of the Living Lab. Our Big Ideas vision leverages the integration of (i) smart urban systems, (ii) citizen science, (iii) big data analysis, and (iv) model forecasting, with an overarching goal of providing data-driven tracking and monitoring of sustainability. As part of our Toolkit, the “SDSU Sustainable Development Goals Tracking Dashboard” can monitor, explore sustainability trends, indicators, and related targets. The Dashboard can enable us to visualize, analyze, and download data, and to help foster a strong community in the Baja California’s. Governments, academics, and others can use the Dashboard to perform easy analysis of sustainability, important to make the decisions that affect our underrepresented communities. Our research outputs can provide a resource to higher education institutions, through teaching, research, partnerships, dialogue, and organizational practices.

“We re-imagine SDSU as a leader in sustainable development, in southern California and the Baja California Mexico region.” Our vision is to apply unique participatory planning tools to generate knowledge from communities consistently overlooked in traditional development planning scenarios. At the MOC-LLAB we strive to engage directly with under-represented communities during disruptive moments of change, working on the ground with community leaders to help determine how local assets can be utilized to catalyze economic, social, and environmental justice. Under representative communities possess critical experience, insights, and knowledge for addressing systems failures and driving innovation. As a result, at the MOC-LLAB our aim is to garner the interest of potential funders, donors, and foundations to support activities ranging from planning to project implementation. Building on the legacy of SDSU as a leader in southern California we aim to develop projects and programs related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the cities of San Diego County, Imperial County, (USA) Tijuana, Mexicali, and Tecate (Mexico). By developing SDG matrix models in cities along the US-Mexico International border and creating principles of reflective practice in southern California and Baja California Mexico region.

At the MOC-LLAB we seek to leverage a range of community assets, including community knowledge, to advance democratic (equitable) engagement, urban sustainability, and shared wealth creation in cities while helping cities localize the SDGs by 2030. Our overarching goal is to build, co-produced, and build scalable solutions to (i) create knowledge: between underrepresented communities (people with disabilities, elderly, homeless and refugees, children, and LGBTI+ community) and cities alike; (ii) share knowledge and outcomes: between communities, businesses, citizens, stakeholders across organizations, and cities in southern California and Baja California Mexico region; (iii) apply knowledge: co-develop research/technologies for underrepresented communities and local-based solutions with city professionals; and (iv) foster a community-partnership model across the world on minority research and sustainable development.

Elements of community engagement/ direct impact

At MOC-LLab we facilitate the interchange of knowledge and resources between SDSU (SDSU three campuses) and community organizations in the cities of San Diego, Imperial, Mexicali, Tijuana, and Tecate. We engage students to be practitioners of this approach to community change and sustainability. We believe that community knowledge can drive powerful innovation and can help make markets an arena for supporting social justice. We want to encourage SDSU staff, students, and community partners to connect their work to a deep inner intention and their own personal growth trajectory using reflective practice and methods. At MOC-LLAB we translate our vision and mission into knowledge creation, practice, teaching, service, and professional education by providing space for students, faculty, and community partners to improve local and regional practice through inquiry, dialogue, collaboration, and reflection. Generating new and relevant knowledge about urban sustainability and developing theories of community engagement, development, and social change. Moreover, preparing a new core of planners/professionals with the commitment, skills, and agency to lead innovation across sectors and address systemic failures.

Our SDSU Big Idea aligns with the goals of SDSU’s Climate Action Plan as transdisciplinary engagement across partner organizations we provide an opportunity for various types of communities to see their interests, needs, and concerns reflected in the MOC-LLAB team while growing a culture of sustainability that entails climate action, resilience, social/environmental/economic responsibility, and academics. We plan to measure the impact of the MOC-LLAB by supporting the development and use of knowledge from excluded communities to improve community progress, inform policy, generate shared wealth among different groups of people, mobilize community assets, and deepen civic engagement. Collaborative innovation with communities is the most effective way to generate and integrate sustainable solutions (i.e. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals) (SDGs) to local and global problems.

MOC-LLAB works closely with SDSU students, SDSU faculty, community leaders, policy-makers, international thought leaders, and technical resources to build collaborations with under-represented communities. Together we implement strategies that harness existing community assets and capture value to promote inclusive economic development that is environmentally sustainable, socially just, and deeply aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals - #Leave No One Behind motto. At MOC-LLAB we bring multidisciplinary expertise from urban planning, municipal government, business, computer science, technology, big data, community media, civil rights advocacy, and community and labor organizing. At MOC-LLAB we aim to utilize our convening power to engage communities with strategic partners and stakeholders and with each other to build leadership capacity within communities. Serve as a research and development Living Lab which harnesses the depth of wisdom in under representative communities to address issues of inequality.

The MOC-LLAB team leverages expertise/strengths on minority research, cross-disciplinary knowledge, and past successes developed in other countries (Italy, South Africa, China, and Belgium), with UNEP on climate adaptation and civic engagement (Link).

Dr. Gabriela Fernandez, Director of the Metabolism of Cities Living Lab,
SDSU Big Ideas

Go to project website

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