Can citizens be involved in the political decision-making of a municipality? The answer is yes, and in TRANSFORM, we are making it a reality, contributing to the improvement of the selective waste collection system in Mollet del Vallès.
The Catalan cluster set up two pilot projects using citizen science as an instrument to move towards a greener, more digital, more resilient and fairer socio-economic model. The pilots integrate the quadruple helix stakeholders to favour a collaborative and inclusive workspace. The process and the results aim to impact public research and innovation policies, both at a local and regional level, and for citizen science to be included in the new Research and Innovation Strategy for smart specialisation in Catalonia (RIS3CAT).
WASTE PILOT transforming the selective collection model in Mollet del Vallès
One of the pilots of the Catalan cluster is a citizen science project improving the selective collection of municipal waste, which involves all actors of the quadruple helix – government (both local and regional), academia, private sector and citizens.
In Mollet del Vallès, the current share of the selective collection is 39%, far from the 55% target set to be achieved by 2025 by the European Union. To increase its efficiency, the city council is considering the implementation of innovative selective collection systems (smart containers and door-to-door collection), but first, it wants to involve the citizens, taking into account their preferences.
Currently, there is little information in Mollet on these preferences and variables that citizens take into account when adopting or rejecting innovations, or the reasons for opposing changes. It’s also of utmost importance that the citizens have prior information and reflect on the pros and cons of these systems in order to issue an informed opinion.
To contribute to this process, the Catalan TRANSFORM cluster has designed a pilot consisting of the co-creation of a digital game on waste, called “Dilemma R“, used as a citizen science tool.
This pilot is carried out together with the Mollet del Vallès City Council and in collaboration with the Autonomous University of Barcelona. In addition to generating useful information for the strategic planning of the future municipal waste collection system, this pilot is also part of the specialization and territorial competitiveness PECT project “HubB30, beyond circularity” (Operating Program ERDF Catalunya 2014-2020) of the RIS3CAT.
An educational game that is also useful to do science
Co-creation of the digital game “Dilemma R”. The co-creation of the game was carried out through a total of four sessions: two sessions with citizens of Mollet (10-15 people, different profiles), the third with different departments of the city council and the fourth with students of the Smart Cities Management and Sustainability course of the UAB.
Deployment of the game as a tool within a citizen science program, involving 60 secondary school students from four schools in Mollet del Vallès, over four sessions, and 400 respondents.
The game has two objectives:
- On the one hand, to inform citizens about the pros and cons of innovative systems, increase their level of knowledge and promote debate;
- and on the other, to collect the preferences of citizens and their assessment of different environmental, practical and economic aspects of the new systems to detect the possible barriers to their implementation.
The purpose of this process is to detect the most relevant variables for the different agents involved and co-create the messages and hypothetical situations that would be part of the game.
Once the game had been developed, a citizen science program was deployed together with schools in Mollet del Vallès in which the students were able to participate in the definition of the data collection protocol, in the data collection itself (both in the neighbourhood and with their relatives), in the interpretation of results and in the preparation of proposals for the city council.
Finally, the results will be presented to the city council, which will provide a clearer picture of the preferences of citizens regarding innovative selective collection systems and the most relevant aspects to take into account for their implementation.
The city council, for its part, will reflect on and take into account the results when defining the new waste management contract for the municipality, to be launched at the end of June 2022, and its strategic planning for the future selective collection system in Mollet del Vallès.
Citizen science, a methodology that benefits all the agents involved
For Diana Reinoso, TRANSFORM project manager at Science for Change, citizen science has multiple impacts, and it has been demonstrated in this pilot. The lessons learned from this participatory methodology are being valued by the Catalan government, in its effort to make research and innovation policies more responsible and more aligned with social needs.
TRANSFORM project helped to introduce citizen science into the next RIS3CAT as one of the methodologies to promote a shift towards a greener, more digital, more resilient and fairer socio-economic model.
On the other hand, this experience shows that collaboration between quadruple helix stakeholders allows for aligning the objectives, perspectives, expertise and efforts and to develop innovations that respond to the challenges that society currently faces.
In the case of this pilot, the planning of the future Mollet selective waste collection system will not be based solely on a strictly technical perspective, but the results of a fruitful collaboration between public authorities, academia, private sector and the citizens themselves.
We also see that the participation of society in citizen science projects increases their level of scientific knowledge, in this case, on the issue of waste management. All people who came into contact with the game had the opportunity to obtain accurate information and reflect on the innovative selective collection systems, helping to improve their critical capacity. The results and the process followed in this pilot will be analysed and published in a scientific article, contributing to the social sciences that study environmental behaviour, resistance to change and the social adoption of innovations.