Cities are chaotic and complex spaces where people from a wide variety of backgrounds simultaneously interact with each other and Laboratorio para la Ciudad de México (LabCDMX) has found that these characteristics make cities prime locations to conduct urban experiments. “With a group of only 20 people composed of typical experts such as internationalists and political scientists and also atypical participants like artists and movie producers, LabCDMX strives to change the traditional concept of governments and democracy through collaboration,” Gabriella Gomez-Mont, Director General of Laboratorio para la Ciudad, told the Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Summit 2017 in Mexico City on Wednesday. “We strive to capture and catapult the talent of citizens and create a space where individuals that do not commonly get to collaborate have an opportunity to develop a creative urban ethos.”

Over the past four years, as an experimental muscle of the Mexico City government, LabCDMX has provided training and workshops to over 3,000 users. The laboratory believes that the cities of the future will not strive to replicate the model of European cities but of those in Latin America due to their dynamic characteristics. “Mexico City is unique as it is a bridge between an emerging country and developed countries,” said Gomez-Mont. “It has all the problems of an emerging nation and the infrastructure of a developed one, which makes its potential enormous.”

To achieve a new way of governing, the laboratory has prototyped a wide variety of successful experiments that strategically intervened in key urban issues. One example is the Mapatón the lab conducted to map out the routes of the city’s microbuses. “Microbuses carry over 70 percent of the population in the city and their routes had never been registered,” she said. “We wanted to create a database but had a very limited budget. We decided to make it a collaborative experience and created a game where teams of citizens acquired points by mapping different routes within the city.” To its surprise, in a matter of weeks and through the participation of 4,000 citizens, enough information was collected to map out the routes. Collaborative solutions are an example of the changes that cities are undergoing and the areas of opportunities that exist to create new forms of government, Gomez-Mont said.

To fully take advantage of the potential of the city, the laboratory strives to transform the concept of government from a supplier of services to a catalyst of change. “We are developing tools that speak the language of the public and engage citizens in a different manner,” Gomez-Mont said. “We have seen that simply opening the doors to the public is not enough and we must be able to create added value to truly engage citizens. We are intrigued by the possibilities in creating new ways to connect the government and society.”

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