LAB Procomum - a methodology for citizen labs
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The lab aims to create a new us- a world between where the different can coexist in its singularity and where life in all its forms is important. A space that offers an infrastructure for creators, developers and citizens who want to test prototypes or develop projects with social impact and to manage, protect or create the commons. In which people are encouraged to network and collaborate, forming different communities of creation and practices.

Description of the tool

All commons, to be affirmed and/or protected, need to mobilise “an immense amount of knowledge” which is available in the community itself that engages in the process of commoning. “(...) the citizen laboratory is marked by the crossing between worlds and the permanent effort of openness. It is a space-time where the experience might be possible, and where the production of knowledge enriches itself through the singularities that are involved .” (Lafuente, Parra and Fressolli, 2017, online). Whenever there is a common good being built, there will be a need for a citizen laboratory with the mission to develop this knowledge. South America is a multiplicity of cosmovisions, resulting from the (seldom peaceful) relationship between those who were there (the natives), those who imposed and established themselves there (first Europeans, then other immigrants) and those who were brought here by force (black women and men) but created deep and prosperous roots. In Procomum’s view, the concept of commons carries the power to bind together this pluriverse, for which the best definition is the Zapatista proverb: "A world where many worlds fit." The macroscopic lens of the commons sweeps through this multiple world and finds a reference in the various forms of resistance that keep diversity alive. A new “us” will only be possible if we articulate from the differences, potentiating each singularity, but visualising possible convergences. “We are not working with the idea of diversity or tolerance, but with the idea of conviviality between different people, without separability. And, to reach this goal, we've developed management tools, like racial and gender quotas in all of our public calls; compose a multiracial team, with gender diversity; make room for theoretical, artistic and technological investigations based on non-white and western knowledge.”

Steps of application

1 LISTEN A citizen lab needs to recognise that every territory already has its innovative makers, creators, and agents. It does not carry all the answers and could be asking the wrong questions. Listening is to place people, their yearnings and desires ahead of pre-existing answers. A citizen innovation lab is made by people and for people. It cannot be an alien spaceship that lands in a territory. On the contrary, it only makes sense if built from the bottom up, through active listening of the community it intends to benefit. The first - and permanent movement is to listen to the citizens through collaborative processes, with thematic conversation circles, integration activities, clarification and mapping of citizens’ initiatives. / MOBILIZATION Mobilisation is the first step of Listening. A moment to talk and create activities about common topics that aggregate people and makers – such as a workshop on maker culture or cultural production. But it is necessary to go beyond and see the initiatives as a living, affective ecosystem: a network. The first mobilisation activities must strengthen the network and begin the mapping work. / MAPPING Following the Mobilization comes the Mapping, which must happen in a collaborative and continuous manner. We suggest it be carried out after an in-person event and then kept open to online contributions. The idea is to invite local agents and network-builders to include in the city map every citizen initiative known to them: urban gardens, community libraries, spaces for makers, community workshops, street parties, among other initiatives. The mapping must be published in an open, collaborative platform that remains available to future access and collaboration. 2 CONVOKE In this step, we organise an open call for citizen innovation projects through our knowledge of the local networks built during the previous step. The call is an invitation to experience the city through other eyes and undertake actions that promote the common good. The open call should fit the local needs and desires, but points towards citizen innovation. / CALL OPEN CALL Make submissions easy: a good project is easily identified. The Procomum methodology’s model to invite citizens, collectives and agents to participate in a Citizen Innovation Circuit is the open call – an open invitation for any person who wishes to take part. The invitation is simple: to carry out actions for the common good in communities and territories. The call must explain the goals, vectors and selection criteria clearly and objectively and applications must be quick and easy; for anyone who wishes to build a network to transform the city. / SUPPORT TO TALK, GATHER, LOOK EACH OTHER IN THE EYES; TO CREATE TOGETHER Doubts and concerns will emerge. It is normal for people to feel insecure about their ideas, the model, prototypes. It is important to hold an event to launch the open call, invite the entire network and explain the ideas and vectors of the circuit. The launch event not only clarifies doubts but also strengthens the network. Many people wish to support the initiative and collaborate with it, so it makes sense to foster connections between agents, collectives and platforms during the open call. It is also essential to rely on a team to assist those who are interested with the shaping of their ideas, projects and initiatives into the criteria and vectors of the circuit. / SELECTION A JURY THAT RESPECTS THE CALL’S GOALS AND VECTORS In its decisions, the jury must reflect the call’s vectors and the territorial and cultural diversity present in the city’s mapping. The jury is a tool to ensure the result is fair and thoughtful and complies with the call’s principles and goals. We recommend the adoption of a points system that facilitates the jury’s assessment and is easily understandable. / NETWORK CROSS-REFERENCING DATA AND HUMANIZING NUMBERS The open call becomes a proper database. The production team must pay attention not only to the selected projects but also to those that were not chosen. All actions submitted to the open call must be individually and collectively evaluated. When publishing the final evaluation, it is important to emphasise the non-competitive nature of the circuit and offer non-selected applicants an opportunity to collaborate with the selected actions. 3 ACTIVATE / CARESHIP The Careship’s first step is to invite the proponents to a meeting. In this conversation, it is important to identify any possible difficulties in the implementation of the actions. We suggest that the production team emphasises how it can be of help in cases such as bureaucratic hindrances and network strengthening. Don’t forget to restate the goals and vectors of the circuit: many cultural agents are immersed in their activities and may forget the importance of narratives, so it is good to help them identify how innovative their actions are and what vectors they activate. Try also to assist with the correct use of the stipend’s funds because, once there is an active network, it is possible to find collaborators and save money. / PUBLICIZING CREATING INSTANT SHARES To activate and publicise the innovation circuit, we recommend a free, open launch event in an easily accessible venue. On this day, the proponents will present their actions’ goals and ideas to the public. The model of a citizen innovation circuit is in itself strategic to promote the actions. When a proponent publicises their action, they are also publicising the other selected actions and promoting the vectors as one major common good. / COLLABORATION Collaboration is the keyword in a circuit of citizen innovation. While in many processes, competition is the rule, we wish to strengthen people and projects that cooperate among each other, constituting outstanding networks in which everyone wins. / IMPLEMENTATION A LITTLE HELP CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE During a citizen innovation circuit, continuous support should be maintained to the proponents in executing their activities, even if in a prototyping form. / DOCUMENTATION CREATING NARRATIVES AND VALUING STORIES: ENCOURAGE SHARING An essential part of the entire circuit is to encourage proponents to document and publish their actions. The lab's team must also be committed towards monitoring and documenting all actions, writing articles and producing videos and photographs, but also remembering that the proponents must build their own narratives. It is essential to help them identify how interesting and innovative their projects, activities and ideas are, and how these stories can be told in a way that is easily understood. Documentation and sharing in a free, open and collaborative manner also allow replication. An open-source project will have an unlimited reach and can be remixed, expanded, and perfected. The governance model of LAB Procomum is based on communities of practice who organise into permanent working groups responsible for activating different agendas inside the lab and the surrounding territories: Audiovisual, LGBT, Arts and Transsexuality, Permaculture, Blackness and Heritage, Medicinal Plants, Solidarity Economy, Culture, Traditional Music, Critical Consumption, Waste Management, Inventions and Traquitanas. Procomum have developed management tools, like racial and gender quotas in all public calls; compose a multiracial team, with gender diversity; make room for theoretical, artistic and technological investigations based on non-white and western knowledge.


LAB Procomum promotes relationships and hybridisation between three communities: (a) the Brazilian and international community devoted to the production of social innovation for the common good and the promotion of free culture; (b) the local community of social creators and innovators at the Santos Basin; and (c) the community of residents of the neighbourhoods surrounding the headquarters of the lab, an area known as Bacia do Mercado (Market Wharf), in the city of Santos, on the coastline of the state of São Paulo. Their goal is to foster innovative technological solutions to complex social problems based on the agency of collective intelligence, setting the neighbourhood as their scope. For them, technologies are processes, methods or artefacts that change the way we act or produce, and are essential when creativity is at the service of a better life for all. Innovation, within this conception, is anything that presents a new outlook or angle to approach an existing problem. Citizen innovation, on the other hand, is produced by those who are directly affected by issues, fight for their rights, and practice the mixing of different forms of knowledge (from traditional to contemporary ones). The territory where they build the Citizen Lab is marked by serious social problems, such as lack of decent housing, child sexual exploitation, systemic violence with the presence of organised crime, lack of public spaces, high rates of drug trafficking and illicit drug use. One of the main intentions behind this action is to generate a reassessment in the social perception – at a city and national level – of these neighbourhoods, which are stigmatised as “unsolvable issues”. In the absence of accountability on the part of the State and market, urban commoners can take over the narrative and show that, yes, there are alternatives.They also believe that, with this format, they will contribute to the regeneration of the social fabric. In their grassroots, permanent work, they mapped and established contact with numerous organisations operating in the territory that have shown interest in participating in this cooperation network. From the standpoint of infrastructure, the space was gradually threaded to welcome the needs of its users. LAB Procomum hosts two multi-purpose rooms (blank spaces), one of them a 2,100-square foot warehouse, which are used for various activities – from a classroom to a ballroom or a setting for conversation circles and co-creation practices; a maker/hacker room, with electronic equipment and digital production materials; an ambulatory care facility; a community kitchen; a backyard where celebrations, parties, games and outdoor meetings take place; a garden for urban permaculture activities and a space for knowledge and aesthetic enjoyment with a library, discotheque and furniture for resting and chatting. The mediation of this huge flow of relationships is done by the LAB’s management team, who have been trying to develop shared protocols, guided by the design principles systematised by Elinor Ostrom.

Context of origin

Visual representation


Maral Methodology and he Commons



LAB Procomum