Workshop of the Digital City Alliance Berlin on “COVID-19: Lessons learned for the Berlin Digitization Strategy” focusing on observations and experiences during the spring 2020 pandemic and drawing conclusions for a democratic and inclusive digitization policy for Berlin.
Workshop Kiez Lab @ Digital City Alliance Berlin, 6 May 2020
One of the outcomes of the workshop is the call for Kiez Labs as local, neighborhood-based contact points for digital participation. Kiez Labs are designed as accessible discursive formats embedded in an urban context as well as temporary laboratories in neighborhood facilities such as care homes, libraries, schools, hospitals, and parks.
The challenges of digital transformation are becoming increasingly tangible in the everyday lives of Berliners. There is an increasing need to get involved and take the digital future of the city into their own hands. Starting in 2019, Berlin will develop a digital strategy in which goals for the capital’s digital future will be formulated. The development of such a digital strategy, like the digital transformation itself, is a dynamic process that requires continuous management, support and reflection. In Berlin, there is already a diverse patchwork of very different initiatives and people at the local level who are practically testing visions and ways of a collaborative digitization oriented toward the common good. This potential must be made visible and used in the future development of Berlin’s digital strategy.
To this end, we propose the establishment of Berlin Kiez-Labs: Neighborhood labs to promote public discourse on Berlin’s digital future and to jointly develop Berlin’s digitization strategy. We see Kiez-Labs as a low-threshold discursive format: for joint exploratory learning, for sharing experiences, for experimenting, for negotiating conflicts, for instigating collaborations – and as a local, socio-spatially embedded complement to the newly established City Lab.
Starting in November 2019, during an initial test phase, we will organize the first temporary neighborhood labs at regular intervals and in a nomadic “pop-up principle” in changing Berlin neighborhoods and typical neighborhood locations, such as libraries, hospitals, or parks, in order to prototypically test the long-term design and potential of the neighborhood labs. Currently planned formats are impulse lectures, dialogical forums and workshops, which are aimed at as broad a public as possible. A particular concern here is learning from and with other cities and initiatives that, like Berlin, have committed themselves to the goals of the Cities Coalition for Digital Rights.
The long-term goal is to further develop and stabilize the Kiez Labs format in order to permanently incorporate local perspectives and experiences of Berlin’s civil society into the digital transformation of the city of Berlin. The neighborhood labs must therefore be a fundamental component of Berlin’s digital strategy at an early stage.
The current COVID-19 highlighted the importance of an inclusive design for digitization processes, enabling social participation and making digital infrastructures accessible to everyone in the sense of public utilities. It has become obvious that digitization policy is not a secondary field but must play a central role in cities’ sustainable development.
Problems and challenges in many different areas became very clearly defined, and at the same time the very diverse Berlin players developed their ideas and potential with initiatives, neighborhoods, and the administration showing the manifold possible achievements of cooperation.
Digitization should no longer be understood as a technical and technology-driven policy field but must be perceived as a social change challenge that is to be designed in an interdisciplinary and participatory manner. The strategic alignment of Berlin’s digitization policy should be worked out in close collaboration in an interdisciplinary cooperative exchange process.
Christian Grauvogel, HIIG | re:Kreators – Network for Civil Society Urban Development in Europe
Prof. Elizabeth Sikiaridi, Hybrid Space Lab
Prof. Frans Vogelaar, Hybrid Space Lab
Felix Hartenstein, TU Dresden | Inwista | Urbanophil
Hişar Ersöz, studio amore
Leon Jank, studio amore
Prof. Melanie Humann, Institute for Urban Design and Urban Research | TU Dresden