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TransXperimentation in Cities ©

A program to support ‘transformation through experimentation’, linking small to medium sized cities and towns across Europe, to hasten their response to challenges from climate change. 

 Emerging from a two-day multi-city consultation in Leeuwarden, Friesland (celebrating the culmination of four years of Eco-Acupuncture work for their 2018 EU Cultural Capital program), this program was developed by the participants from five European cities and four universities. 

The idea for a new program developed from an understanding that:

  1. The scale of and pace of climate change has brought us to an era where an enduring, truly sustainable future requires a fundamental (systems-level) transformationof our existing world;

  2. This transformation will depend on action within towns and cities. The majority of the world’s population lead an urban existence. Cities are now the engine of global carbon emissions; their consumption has impacts on the regions in which they are located, as well as on the national and international flows of energy and materials.  

  3. The technology and infrastructure constructed to support urban life has taken shape over centuries of economic and physical investment. The support systems of a city – their infrastructures of provision – have developed to exploit available natural resources. Climate change creates significant new vulnerabilities for those systems. These vulnerabilities extend to the relationship between a city and its surrounding region. 

  4. Energy is a critical vulnerability. Our massive dependence on the exploitation of fossil fuels has to quickly end. Other resource systems, such as water, food, waste disposal and transport, will be greatly affected by shifts in the climate as well as the transition to renewable energy. Provision of these resources often place a large burden on peri-urban and regional areas.

  5. Historical conceptions of ‘the city’ often involved ideas of a refuge from nature; now when natural systems are under threat, it is the city’s connection to nature that has become critical.  

  6. ‘The city’ is a social and cultural invention. Economic systems, cultures, rituals, practices, aspirations, life-styles, power structures and identity, are intermingled with the physical form of our constructed world.  Transformation has to address these aspects of urban life. 

  7. Transformationrequires the creation of new urban imaginaries, new stories aligned with new sustainable forms of urban living. 

This program will engage citizens in a network of experimental projects in the participating cities (and their regions). The term experimentation is used to describe a process of collaborative innovation (both social and technical). Experiments will be defined using the methodology of the International Eco-Acupuncture program ( Phase one of the process focuses on virtual experimentation – the co-creation of visualised futures and local, niche, interventions in the existing fabric of urban life. Phase two involves the realisation of as many of those virtual niche interventions as possible, structured as small living laboratories so that their progress is transparent and so that they generate knowledge that can be transmitted through the network of all the experiments. 

 The program is targeted at small to medium sized cities (currently expected to be in the population range 100,000 to 400,00) to take advantage of their close formal and informal networks and their flexibility to support experimental projects. 

The Eco-Acupuncture process is strongly connected to university research and education. Universities support: 

  • analysis of projected local/regional impacts from climate modelling, 

  • systems and technology options and emerging solutions 

  • access to potential business partners

  • access to post-graduate students (particularly in design-related disciplines) who can join in experiments as co-producers of virtual experiments, bringing their knowledge, design and visualisation skills to developing and communicating new experimental proposals 

  • providing the students and university researchers with new knowledge from their engagement in the 25yr and virtual experiments generation - using that experience as case studies for academic work. 

Because not every small city has appropriate university facilities, this program envisages that the network of cities will encompass those with and without university research and education programs, so that those without can be linked to universities in another participating city.

The process envisaged in this program is collaborative and distributed; the city members and representatives from the city-regions act as a network. Experiments, as they are conceived firstly as virtual visions and then as they are established, will form a network of learning and exchange. This process takes a different approach to the amplification of impact; rather than planning for ‘scaling up’ or ‘replicating’, the emphasis here is that the transfer of knowledge across the cities involves the transmission of ideas and the translation of learnings and outcomes. This will occur through recurrent meetings and presentations between experiments in different cities. It is acknowledged that experiments will be conceived as appropriate within a particular context. In a city that context is complex;  each experiment will respond to specific spatial, ecological, technological, cultural and social conditions. Amplification of impact will not be achieved by assuming any uniformity in experimental solutions that can be applied as template in other contexts, nor that those solutions can necessarily be scaled up beyond their context. This approach is referred to as the ‘translocation of experimentation’. 

A major aim of this program is the creation of a significant diversity of niche experiments and trialled solutions that can stimulate the transplantation of ideas, possibilities and solutions in cities and towns across Europe. To facilitate that aim, the TransXperimentation program will place great emphasis on the open transparent communication of ideas, visions and knowledge from experiments. A portal for the transmission of these ideas and knowledge will amplify the impacts of the program, with the transfer of ideas, concepts and proposals, that can be translated by cities beyond this city/university network. 

“Leeuwarden is a mid-sized city in Europe, as there are many around the world. We face a lot of challenges in maintaining a good place to live for our children and for the generations to come. Mid-sized cities have the ideal conditions to develop and try new solutions for challenges: the energy-transition, social and safety-challenges, challenges on water and food and transport.” 

Ferd Crone, Mayor. 



2019: Cities and Universities sign up to EOI. Funding sought from EU. 2020 Program commences.

Set up phase:


  • Assist in mapping of expected Climate challenges for each city.

  • Assist (in conjunction with City officials) in mapping of projected implications of the above for the core systems of provision for those cities (energy, water, food, transport, waste disposal, buildings)

  • Establish opportunities for post-graduate students (design, engineering, business, governance  etc) to join in experiment formulation in cities.

Eco-Acupuncture International – with Cities and Universities.

·      Eco-Acupuncture training workshops for city and university personnel.


Program Implementation:

Phase One - 25 year futures.

City and University (with initial Eco-Acupuncture support):

·       Virtual experimentation visioning exercises; Eco-Acupuncture process .

All Cities: Translocal learning event. “Futures Crit.”:

·       Exhibition, dialogue, feedback workshop. All visions from cities displayed for feedback. Comparison and critique of visions;.

City and University (with initial Eco-Acupuncture support): Co-designing Niche experiments.

·       Identification by City of potential Acupuncture ‘places’ for niche experiments. 

·       Eco-Acupuncture process to co-design experiments (with input of local constituents of ‘places’ defined above.

·       Visualisation of possible experiments.

All Cities: Translocal learning event. “Virtual Experimental Niche Concepts -  Constructive Critique.”

·       Transparency: All virtual experiments and the dialogue, analysis and critique to be published on project portal.


Phase Two - 25 year futures:

All Cities:Selection of initial experiments to implement.

·       Identifying those virtual concepts that have support for implementation

·       Designing monitoring and knowledge generation processes for each experiment

All Cities and selected experiments – on-going  

  • Implementation/ establishment of selected experiments – becoming niche living labs

  • On-going feedback – data/ knowledge transmission  - from all implementation sites to all partners and project portal .

Phase Three – in Parallel with the on-going experimentation and monitoring

City and University 

  • Second round of virtual experimentation co-designing and visioning exercises; 

  • Eco-Acupuncture process operating in parallel with the operation of the niche experiments. 

  • Refinement/elaboration of 25 years futures 

  • Further refinement of previous virtual niche experiment proposals (taking into account the critique)   and/or development of additional, new virtual niche experiment, proposals  

  • Transparent publication and further Translocal learning events. 

    ©Chris Ryan 2019

TransXperimentation Diagram 300 copy.jpg

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