Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Strengthening Urban Labs’ Democratic Aspirations: Nurturing a Listening Capacity to Engage With the Politics of Social Learning

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Abstract:  Urban labs are arenas for fostering urban sustainable transitions, where different actors experiment and learn together how to create inclusive and sustainable cities. A key aspect of these processes is social learning, which is the collaborative learning process through which new understandings and practices emerge from the activities of urban labs. Social learning also includes the process through which these understandings and practices are further anchored and can transform the organizations participating in urban labs. Social learning is seen as key to tackling polarization and creating transformational capacity at different levels. This article explores how social learning can strengthen urban labs’ democratic ambitions. Building on the insights emerging from a collaborative learning process with civil servants within an urban lab, it highlights the need for ensuring plurality and challenging privilege in social learning. It also emphasizes the importance of nurturing a listening capacity within urban labs and municipal organizations.

Keywords:  listening capacity; pluralism; privilege; social learning; sustainable city planning; sustainable development; urban labs



© Anna Seravalli. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.