Identifying local challenges and fostering collaboration with Citizen Observatories in Barcelona


On November 3rd, 2023, Fab Lab Barcelona hosted at the IAAC headquarters the first collaborative workshop in the context of the Barcelona Frontrunner case. Fourteen representatives from 8 citizen observatories across the city came together in a collective interest in advancing citizen observatories in the metropolitan area. The workshop unfolded in two dynamic phases, each connected with the goal of identifying existing citizen observatories and cultivating avenues for collaboration. Participants were invited to map out existing initiatives across Barcelona and present their work, methodologies, objectives, and the type of data collection the perform. This exercise allowed the participants, including universities, the municipality and independent initiatives, to share their latest achievements while pointing out areas for further engagement. Among the participants were representatives from the Citizen Science Office of the Barcelona Municipality, Lichen Innovación Social and Lab CSU, Ideas for Change, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, AQUÍ Bcn, Universitat de Barcelona, and The Education Department of the Catalonia Government.

Citizen Observatories Onboarding Workshop in Barcelona. Photo by Fab Lab Barcelona. 

Citizen Observatories Onboarding Workshop in Barcelona. Photo by Fab Lab Barcelona. 

In the spirit of collaboration, the workshop transitioned to further identify the tasks, challenges, and opportunities connected to each observatory's journey. During a collaborative activity, participants discussed their challenges: strategies for community engagement, inclusivity, and technological aspects. In the social dimensions, there was a recognized necessity for stronger connections between citizen initiatives, academia, and municipal bodies from the different initiatives. Methods to enhance communication strategies to effectively engage a diverse array of stakeholders were also pointed out. As for technical challenges, participants cited complexities associated with sensor installation, maintaining the continuous reliability of data, achieving interoperability among various data sources, and managing the diversity of data origins and formats.   

Citizen Observatories Onboarding Workshop in Barcelona. Photo by Fab Lab Barcelona. 

Following up on the initial engagement and after interpreting the data provided by each initiative, a second workshop was held online on March 20th, 2024. By facilitating an iterative exercise, participants collaborated on prioritizing the previously identified challenges, fostering consensus on crucial areas for development. Through open discussions and collective brainstorming, thematic clusters were co-created for these challenges, guiding the focus for the upcoming mentoring program. From influencing public policy to ensuring data validation and fostering collaboration channels, these categories of priorities mirrored the varied nature of citizen science in the city. 

Screenshot from the Online Prioritization Workshop for the Barcelona FRC. Photo by Fab Lab Barcelona. 

Although the focus of the activities was to select specific needs and citizen observatories for the application of CitiObs tools, the workshops catalysed a broader spirit of collaboration. Based on the information gathered and aligned with local partners, a tailor-made training program is being prepared to keep working with the citizen observatories in Barcelona and strengthen the citizen science fabric in the city. 



14 May 2024


Milena Calvo Juarez & Óscar González


Fab Lab Barcelona