Agile piloting Jam in Open Living Lab days


Smart Kalasatama: Agile piloting engages the urban community

In 2013 the City of Helsinki decided to make Kalasatama as a model area of smart city development. Today Smart Kalasatama innovation platform run by Forum Virium Helsinki, has hit the headlines with engaging the urban community for the development of a smart district: it is a laboratorium for smart and sustainable urban everyday life and for developing methods to engage the users and other stakeholders.

During 2016 -2018 a total of 21 “agile pilots” have been run and facilitated in Kalasatma. Agile Piloting is a facilitated co-creation process that focuses on experimentation, it combines methods from service design, lean development, user research and fast prototyping and adopting these to the needs of urban development. 

The process for co-development and experimentation offers startups, SME’s and other innovators a chance to get the first learnings from the user feedback. Purchasing small pilots ( 1000-8000 euros) has proven to be an interesting means for the cities to have alternative ways for public procurement, but the model can be also run without compensation, as entry to the city is also valuable. The model  has been widely adopted in Helsinki and in a number of other major cities in Finland. Over 60 agile pilots have been run in Finnish cities following the model created in Kalasatama.

Our experience shows that the programme format, instead of individual pilots, provides synergies when several pilots are carried out simultaneously. This also boosts new collaboration beyond the pilots. A good pilot always provides value for the end user, uses technology in an innovative way, and is truly novel. Furthermore, the pilots offer valuable insights for the decision makers on user cases of the future. The greatest value is provided by the learnings from the process; even good failures can offer valuable insight to develop smart services of the future.

Sharing best practices in Open Living Lab Days

During Open Living lab Days 22.-24.8. in Geneva our team hosted a workshop with the aim to communicate our learnings for living labs and city developers. We planned a hands-on-session that provides concrete tools and understanding on how to tailor the method of Agile piloting programme to the needs of different living labs. 

The aim of the  “Agile Piloting Jam” was to make the guidelines from Smart Kalasatamas Cookbook for Agile Piloting tangible, to communicate what’s needed for experimentation in urban environments. During the session we shared concrete examples of how Agile Piloting can accelerate the development of a neighbourhood or city and showcase the potential of new resilient solutions.

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Introducing the theme: Value Creation Throughout the Process

The participants of the workshop were to get familiar with the process of designing an Agile Piloting Programme for the needs of their urban lab. The session started with a 20 minutes introduction to the subject, opening the benefit of a programme format and how to get started.  In the introduction we aimed to open the essential:   running an agile piloting program requires understanding the value for all stakeholders. The objective is always solutions-focused and the iterative process that can also provide alternative new starting points along the way. The first market references and integrating the service to the city infrastructure is also invaluable. The program has proven to provide a neutral platform, or safe space for co-creation and collaboration. And it is all about learnings!

Hands on workshop to pilot your way!                                                         

After the Intro we continued with the workshop. We introduced two templates for the exercises: identifying stakeholders and filling the Agile Piloting canvas to mix and match the elements of a Piloting Programme to achieve own goals.

We had organized the  tablegroups by inspirational wider themes such as “smart cities” or “social inclusion” , and the participants could join a theme  based on their own interests. Once in groups, and after brief introductions the groups were able to discuss and define a more specific theme for a piloting programme.  The stakeholder canvas helped to identify the different levels of collaborators, organisers, co-creators needed, and whom should be influenced and shared the learnings. The agile piloting canvas served as a framework for discussions on what the premises of a programme can be. Within half an hour the groups had 5 initial programme themes ready.

Learning by doing

The same workshop was run two days in a row for different audiences. During the first day we opened a concrete case in detail as an example. This led the audience to concentrate on the subject way too much. Therefore in the second workshop we decided to give more detailed briefings, instead of examples. This helped the participants to work with their own contents. We experimented with the format the first day, and applied the learnings, based on the participant feedback, on the second one. “This is well structured and clear” was our feedback from the participants in the second session. And yes, something to be used in their own labs, too, confirmed the participants leaving the room with their Cookbooks.

Download the Cookbook for Agile Piloting here!


The author Kaisa Spilling is an urban interventionist, innovation accelerator with a passion for smarter cities.


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