Combining methodology and innovation: the IcARUS approach
Innovation is at the core of IcARUS’ mission and vision. The planned approach is both novel and original and will be central to the project’s development every step of the way. How are the project partners shaping such a cutting-edge approach? How are they planning its adoption and application? In recognizing the relevance of the scope of IcARUS, involved partners are currently working to devise a cutting-edge approach to be fine-tuned throughout the project.
Innovation at the heart of IcARUS
One of the main goals of the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme is to tackle societal challenges by removing barriers to innovation, thus facilitating the delivery of original solutions by public and private actors alike. As part of Horizon 2020, the IcARUS project recognizes that innovation is central to its development.
The project’s main goal is to produce a multi-stakeholder approach to tackle urban security issues. To achieve this, the project partners are devising a methodology that examines problems from different perspectives and imagines solutions from unusual viewpoints. In a spirit of innovation, the IcARUS methodology is being designed through the Design Thinking approach, which involves a strategic process for achieving meaningful and innovative solutions.
Although not fully conceptualized, Design Thinking can indeed be a strategic approach to public policy issues. Why? First, it embraces the perspectives of both policy and decision makers. This results in a strong focus on cognitive processes and conceptual knowledge in order to detect areas that need attention and generate alternative solutions. Secondly, the approach is human centred. Instead of considering that end-users are (as the name implies) “at the end” of the ideation and implementation process, Design Thinking puts them right in the centre. As IcARUS develops, the focus on end-users and their continuous feedback will inform an effective and innovative strategy for public policy.
Understanding how issues are perceived by those they affect
Long used in the private sector, the Design Thinking application has also informed many successful public policies aimed at tackling societal problems. In essence, Design Thinking proposes to understand how issues are perceived by those who are directly affected by them and to think outside the box in order to create better and alternative solutions. A significant aspect of this process is that public policies or strategies are co-designed together with the end-users. This co-production approach is reflected in the diverse and international team that composes the IcARUS consortium. In fact, the solutions that IcARUS will develop will be the result of a shared understanding of problems and of close collaboration between all the partners.
The Design Thinking process places end-users at the core of the strategy for reaching innovative solutions, and so does IcARUS. The envisioned methodology will be strongly focused on those who are directly affected by urban security issues and those who will implement the proposed measures. Our project’s methodology places citizens, police officers, municipalities, law enforcement agencies, and other related actors at the centre of this collaborative effort to reach truly effective solutions to urban security issues.
The partners will produce a preliminary methodological approach by the end of the year. The methodology will then be constantly updated and fine-tuned through end-user feedback and testing throughout the duration of the four-year project.
A method that is easy to understand and apply
Co-creation is thus envisioned through constant feedback from the consortium and is ensured by numerous opportunities for exchanging ideas and strategies. It is not the first time that Design Thinking has been applied to re-shape public policies. Indeed, there are plenty of examples, and not only in academic literature, of how appropriate methodologies have been designed to tackle societal problems. The project will thus examine a series of relevant examples of methodologies, including how they were implemented, and based on this analysis structure its own, original method.
It is paramount for the method to be common: it needs to be fully understood by partners and especially end-users, such as municipalities, since they will have to implement it. Thus, the proposed method has a twofold aim: to be easy to understand and easy to implement. So how can we ensure the success of the methodology? As the Design Thinking approach outlines, it is important to go back to our users when a suitable idea is generated or tested. The language used, the tools provided, and the approach envisioned need some form of ‘approval’ by those who will be using the method in the end. Hence, in the IcARUS project, feedback is not just a concluding phase of the process with minimal relevance. Instead, it is a valuable tool that is not placed “at the end” of the strategy, but rather at its very core.
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