BLOG: Replicating to make a difference
The important things are not always easy to obtain.
Replication and scaling allow us to improve existing solutions while saving time, effort and maximises the resources spent on R&D. most often it is not a copy pasting exercise, it has to be adapted to the local context, challenges and needs. Sometimes one can re-use part of a solution, sometimes it is the process that is important. Regardless, having a useful and functional pilot is a good start, but not close to enough to guarantee a successful replication. So what would it take to make, for example, SCORE’s Mobility Dashboard or the QR Code Toolkit a standard in all cities?
There is no silver bullet, in fact, there are many ways to go about the replication efforts. Under WP5, SCORE partners have worked with guidelines, questionnaires, hackathons, workshops and through many discussions both developers and replicators have worked hard to replicate some of the project’s innovative solutions. Even though we have had the right tools, time, resources and willingness, the replication process has not been simple and not all the results have been as positive as we had hoped for, but there have been some positive results.
Instead of challenges let us talk about lessons learned.
Some of the key take-aways from this process have been:
- Timing is key! All the relevant stakeholders need to be involved at the right time of their own decision-making process.
- Even though replicating an existing solution is more efficient than starting from scratch, one should not underestimate the time needed for discussions to understand the challenge the solution is meant to solve, thus determining what aspects of the solution are most relevant and how they are best replicated.
- The right stakeholders can vary from city to city considering the unique organisational structure of each municipality. For a smoother more efficient implementation they ought to have the right mandate, time and resources required in the replication process. In the case of SCORE, this has also meant involving different department who are not always used to collaborating with each other – particularly in the larger cities. This means including the problem owners, the technicians or programmers who will develop the digital tool and possibly other city officials.
- Establishing a fluid internal communication between the various departments involved can take time. Not to mention that the people involved do not always have the priorities or use the same vocabulary.
Looking at the silver lining.
Though there have been some bumps along the way, as there always are, there have also been some positive outcomes and success stories. Not least, each replication activity has been positively received by the partners with positive results.
- For example, in November 2020, the Masterportal hackathon was a complete success! Read more about it on the blogpost “First international Masterportal Replication Workshop with Bradford, Ghent and Gothenburg”.
- In March we hosted a two-hour replication workshop during which representatives from the traffic office of the city of Gothenburg met with the experts behind the Mobility Dashboard from the City of Bergen and discussed which parts of the Norwegian solution would best address the challenges and needs of the Swedish city. The latter is now working on getting the appropriate people and time resources to continue the replication efforts.
- One of the most successful activities of first half of 2021 was the replication workshop organised in collaboration with IMEC and co-hosted with the City of Ghent. At the beginning of April, various representatives from 8 of the SCORE partners participated in an extremely interactive workshop following the IMEC methodology.
- Because every step counts, we would also like to point out the discussions that have been initiated between Bradford City Council and Bradford University to replicate the latter’s Citizens as a Science solution around flooding. In addition to the ball that has started to roll between the Cities of Gothenburg, Dordrecht and Aarhus to replicate the QR Toolkit from Ghent and District09.
- The IOT Registry: It is a replication that originally started in Amsterdam, the source code of the tool was analysed and improved by developers from Aarhus & Ghent. Ghent launched their replication based on these improvements and another round of refactoring the code. Then finally it was also implemented in Hamburg as a Masterportal instance! Video will be released soon with the full explanation.
Discussing the possibility of replicating each other’s solutions has strengthened the collaboration between cities, underlined the similarities they have and enhancing the sense of a united European community. Moreover, in some municipalities it has promoted collaboration between departments not used to working with each other – breaking the silo structure often found in many large organisations.
There is still work ahead, we must continue to make a difference.
There are many ways to facilitate the replication efforts to be explored in the remaining time of the project. In fact, based on the experience gathered during the past months, we are looking to adapt the format of the workshops – instead of doing them in one long sitting we will break them down into three or four shorter sessions to better adapt to the replicator’s needs.
If you are interested in replicating one of the SCORE solutions do not hesitate to contact Evdoxia Kouraki (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get help and support, building on the experience gained.