Enhancing Citizen Observatories for healthy, sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities

A Horizon Europe Project

CitiObs in a nutshell

CitiObs will consolidate and apply tools and practice-based knowledge for co-creating data, knowledge and local action via Citizen Observatories (COs). These tools:

  • Will enhance existing and new citizen observatories to engage citizens and marginalised communities
  • Add value to environmental observations in the urban context
  • Increase and validate citizen observations of the urban environment as part of the existing in-situ Earth Observation systems,
  • Co-create inclusive local actions for sustainability
  • Ensure that CO data contributes to research and policy development towards the objectives of the European Green Deal

To ensure broad use, the CitiObs tools and approaches will be developed in co-creation with COs in 5 Frontrunner cities, finetuned with 30 Implementer cities and showcased to 50 Fellow cities.

CitiObs will support and leverage existing COs, communities of practice and knowledge networks, and replicate and scale-up state-of-the-art methodologies and practices to integrate COs in multi-level governance across all corners of Europe to achieve better informed decision-making processes, societal engagement and innovation.

CitiObs will ensure uptake and impact beyond the project duration by engaging citizen science practitioners (public and institution-based), and policy makers at the city, regional, national and EU level in co-design and co-creation activities, and embedding the results of those activities in a Knowledge Platform with a detailed CitiObs Cookbook that directs and guides users to relevant CitiObs tools for future use.

CitiObs' Concept

  • CitiObs reimagines and deepens the role of citizens in governance processes by increasing opportunities for participation, deliberation and influence, building open infrastructure and strengthening capacity to support the inclusion of COs in multilevel governance.
  • CitiObs aims to enhance COs so that they can serve as a vehicle for societal transformation towards sustainable development, increasing awareness and actions to reduce the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation to the health of the citizens and the planet. To do so, CitiObs proposes a socio-technical approach to deal with the prevailing challenges that limit the uptake of COs in multi-level governance.
  • CitiObs will connect, support, enhance and scale up COs so they can provide the locus for jointly monitoring the environment, and for initiating and undertaking citizen-led actions protecting the urban environment, alongside (typically slower) changes in policy.

Main Objectives

Achieve more widespread, diverse, inclusive and stable participation of citizens and communities in the observation, monitoring, and protection of the urban environment via citizen observatories

Greater temporal and spatial availability of citizen observations as complementary to official observations at local, national and EU institution level for policy and research use, that contribute to the in-situ component of existing observations systems

Strengthen the recognition of Citizen Observatories as a powerful research and policy-making approach in support of zero pollution and climate change mitigation and adaptation

Large scale demonstration of CitiObs tools and approaches for enhancing Citizen Observatories

14

Partners

10

Countries

4,991,205

EU contribution

48

Months

What are Citizen Observatories

Citizen observatories (COs) are community-based environmental monitoring and information systems, typically at the community level or in a specific location, even if linked to a national or global environmental concern. COs involve citizens using modern mobile and web technologies and/or sensors to collect and share data, which enhance Earth observation systems and official data sources by filling in gaps and adding detail. Often using dedicated IT infrastructure, COs support the flow of data and information between citizens, scientists and decision-makers, and typically have a distinct focus on influencing decision-making, policy change and/or environmental governance outcomes.

What we do

CitiObs will support citizen observatories in distinct cities to create/enhance/or scale up inclusive and diverse citizen observatories, fostering in particular an active role of citizens in the observation of the urban environment using low-cost sensor technologies and wearables, with a particular focus on air quality and related environmental measures. CitiObs will formalise, valorise and legitimise the role of citizen observations.

CitiObs will provide the set of tools and methodologies that will enable COs to better transform co-created data into knowledge that is integrated into relevant policy and decision-making processes, and to channel the urgency of citizens and communities for change into concrete action via New European Bauhaus (NEB)-inspired co-creation.

How we work

5

Frontrunner cities

30

Implementer cities

50

Fellow cities

The CitiObs consortium combines highly diverse and relevant expertise from the natural sciences, computer science, social sciences and the humanities in an inter-disciplinary project combining the fields of atmospheric science, engineering, algorithm formulation, software and hardware development, citizen science, multi-stakeholder engagement, innovative participatory governance, collaborative product design and social innovation studies. CitiObs will work directly with citizens and communities, city authorities, national and EU-level policy and decision makers, practitioners and scientists as well as (commercial) data aggregators.

CitiObs will create synergies with existing initiatives such as the New European Bauhaus movement, which shares the values and vision of COs in terms of sustainability transitions and which can help co-create actions and solutions using cultural artistic approaches that reach a broad spectrum of societal actors beyond those already interested in and passionate about the environment.

Methodology

The demonstration and validation of the CitiObs tools and approaches for enhancing COs is the prime and central activity of the project and defines and shapes the overall approach and methodology used. Over the course of the project lifetime, CitiObs will work in 85 cities with citizens from all backgrounds, authorities, scientists and other relevant stakeholders, enhancing their COs to co-create data, knowledge and citizen-led local actions to improve their urban environment. This work will be undertaken in four consecutive phases
- Inception;
- Demonstration with Frontrunners;
- Refinement with Implementers; 
- Upscaling and impact creation with Fellows

CitiObs work will encompass the social and the technological dimensions of enhanced citizen observatories. 

As part of the social dimension CitiObs will develop and apply practices to engage women, disabled groups, and ethnic minorities, that go beyond the usual recruitment methods and channels. Another key element of the CitiObs concept is to enhance COs beyond joint monitoring of the environment to respond to the urgent desire of citizens and communities to take action and empower their creativity in doing so. CitiObs will contribute to the vision for a NEB by supporting green and digital transitions with an eye for design, culture, and quality of community life through partnerships between the COs and local arts and crafts associations.

As a general principle, CitiObs will build on open-source code, address user feedback and interoperability, and iteratively improve supportive technologies for sensing, data discovery, data aggregation, data sharing and visualisation, to improve technology effectiveness and re-usability. CitiObs will leverage different layers of CO infrastructure to deal with different levels of data and information:

  •  Leverage the use of low-cost sensors and wearables in COs;
  •  Improve access and interoperability of COs data;
  •  Develop/standardize data quality and validation toolkits to increase acceptability and uptake of citizen observations in policy and research;
  •  Develop Citizen Observatory Data Services in European research infrastructures.

Working with three different city types: Frontrunner, Implementers and Fellow cities. The demonstration in these three categories of cities will be supported by specific learning, knowledge sharing and collaboration mechanisms for each group (namely, mentoring, peer learning, twinning, Roadshows, Communities of Practice, collaboration/networking). These proven capacity building modalities for each stage ensure effective knowledge-transfer, while shifting ownership and agency from the CitiObs team over to the local leaders and implementers in the COs for their ongoing operations.

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