Metabolism of Cities Living Lab Video


Summary of project goals and activities


Urban metabolism is used as a metaphor to compare the city to a living organism. The concept has been used in climate adaptation planning to develop decision-support models for environmental policy recommendations and sustainable design approaches to tackle climate vulnerabilities. The Metabolism of Cities Living Lab (MOC-LLab): Strengthening Diversity and Deliberation in Climate Adaptation Planning applies unique participatory planning tools to generate knowledge from communities consistently overlooked in traditional development planning scenarios at San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA. 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, 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 Imperial Valley, Brawley, San Diego by developing SDG matrix models across campuses along the US-Mexico border and creating principles of reflective practice in the cities of Brawley, Imperial Valley, and San Diego, California, USA.


MOC-LLab seeks 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 overall goal is to build co-produced and build scalable solutions to (i) create knowledge: between the underrepresented communities (people with disabilities, elderly, homeless and refugees, children, and LGBTI+ community) and cities alike; (ii) share knowledge: of the MOC-LLab activities and outcomes across SDSU campuses and cities in San Diego, Brawley, and Imperial Valley, California; (iii) apply knowledge: co-developing research/technologies for underrepresented communities and local-based solutions with governments; (iv) foster community-partnership: the SDSU-wide network of professionals on minority research.


Elements of community engagement/ direct impact


The MOC-LLab will facilitate the interchange of knowledge and resources between SDSU (SDSU three campuses) and community organizations in the cities of San Diego, Brawley, and Imperial Valley, California. 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.  MOC-LLAB translates its 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 Sustainability Plan as transdisciplinary engagement across the campuses will provide an opportunity for various types of communities to see their interests, needs, and concerns reflected in the MOC-LLab campus 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 with SDSU students, SDSU faculty, 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. MOC-LLab brings 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 under representative 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 SDSU team leverages expertise/strengths on minority research and cross-disciplinary knowledge, successes developed in other countries (Italy, South Africa, China, and Belgium), with UNEP on climate adaptation and civic engagement (Link).