Video Greeting for the Policy Forum

Script of the video:

Good day. I am Vesa Saarinen. I’m a sociologist, currently affiliated with the Media Lab Helsinki of the Aalto University, Finland. Through this video, I’m sending you greetings from Finland’s gray spring.

On this video, I’ll present you some of the key research insights related to the Living Labs research project, that has been conducted during GESCI’s and AKE’s Creative Media Skills Course.

The research project has been done in co-operation with GESCI’s The African Knowledge Exchange project and Aalto University’s Media Lab Helsinki.

Aalto University is a multidiscliplinary university, located in the capital area of Finland. Aalto combines technology, art, design and science. Within the Aalto University, Media Lab Helsinki explores the possibilities of the new digital technology. For more information, visit

One of the goals of GESCI’s African Knowledge Exchange project or AKE is to identify new and innovative education approaches, solutions and trends that support the development of skills and enterprise in the Digital Creative Media industries.

One of the more specific goals was to execute ‘Living Lab’ research to produce new knowledge about the formation of these new education approaches.

The research conducted and presented here, answers to this call.

The research is mainly conducted by two researchers, myself and dr Minna Aslama Horowicz. Minna is an expert in Living Labs research and analysis, and in bringing different stakeholders’ points-of-view together. My perspective combines new media research with my sociological background.

In addition to myself and Minna, several external professionals have assisted the research project, by answering to our questions and by pointing us to interesting material. We sincerely thank all of them.

(Living Labs)

The GESCI/African Knowledge Exchange’s 2014 Creative Media Skills course, which had the title “The Sound of the City”, is an example of a “Living Labs” project.

A “Living Lab” is a research and innovation concept. Their core idea is that “Living Labs” are about creating and learning by innovation. They are an example of what is called open innovation – innovation not only by experts, but by everyone.

You can learn more about “Living Labs” and research related to them from our research blog, at, and from the policy brief documents provided.

(Living Labs in Creative Collaborative Processes)

LLs have become a key tool in creative industries as well as in policy-making because they have radically mixed the roles of those who innovate. They are all about co-creation, exploration, experimentation and evaluation of innovative ideas. They involve user or client communities, not only as observed subjects, but as co-creators and co-researchers.

LLs can also be used within companies to come up with new ideas and products. In that situation, end-users and company’s own experts work together throughout the creation process.

LLs are a relatively new concept in education. Therefore one of the possibilities in this research has been the chance to clarify the characteristics of educational Living Labs.

(Researching “The Sound of the City”)

The research component in the GESCI-AKE’s Creative Media Skills Course was designed taking into account of the novel use of Living Labs in education design.

The basic research premise was that the Living lab would have two specific, but intersecting, sets of processes and goals: (product) innovation-related and educational ones.

The research was a combination of background research, survey research and thematic interviews.

  1. Background research provided information on previous Living Labs models, their possibilities and best practices.
  2. Two survey research questionnaires focused on, for example, getting information and feedback from various stakeholders of this LL project and obtaining information on best practices while doing creative collaboration.
  3. Thematic individual and focus group interviews were conducted throughout the whole LL process. They were used to gain deeper insight to the work done in Living Labs.
  4. In line with the ransparent nature of the LL research methodology, a research blog was used, where all participants were encouraged to participate. The blog can be found at

The Policy Forum is a part of this collaborative research process. Therefore, we need your expert insights to contribute to this research project.

(Research results)

While the research project is not finalized, since the feedback from Policy Forum adds to the research, there already are results that we’d like to present and find interesting.

The results reflect specifically the perspectives of participants and instructors, who’ve participated to the GESCI-AKE’s Creative Media Skills course.

The results are presented through the keywords of innovation, leadership, content, sustainability and local/global.

The keywords not only describe some of the factors of GESCI-AKE 2014/2015 Creative Media Skills Course, but also describe the key challenges and possibilities in Living Labs models and, building broader innovation ecosystems.

Results are presented here in a very condensed form – for more specific research information, please see the policy brief documents provided.


First, When building a LL project, leadership is extremely important. It should be seen broadly: not only as selecting good individual leaders with good leadership abilities. Second, it should be also seen as organizing the whole innovation ecosystem in a way that the workflow within a LL project is clarified to all participants and stakeholders.

Third, leadership was also one of the entrepreneurial skills that needs to be cultivated.

And fourth, a good program leader can identify core issues in the field that may extend beyond technology or creative content. Leadership means understanding diversity as a resource, and supporting diversity and individual growth of students in a collaborative setting.

Innovation is in the core of a Living Labs.

First, innovation takes different forms — and it should be given time in a Living Labs project.

Second, It’s to be noted that innovation is not only creating new ideas, but also improving existing ideas and concepts. Innovation also requires the opportunity to experiment, and opportunity to fail.

Third, feedback and peer critique and dialoque with stakeholders are essential parts of project innovation. These possibilities should be embraced while building Living Labs projects.

And fourth, innovation means also practitioner involvement with curriculum or agenda development. In other words, people participating in a Living Labs should have their say in building a Living Lab project’s content and agenda.


First, the need for a hybrid Living Labs model, which answers to both educational and “third partner” needs, was one of the main outcomes of this research.

Tomorrow’s innovation professionals need to understand business skills and be able to market their talent. In turn, stakeholders need to understand the mechanisms how innovation is happening in Living Labs projects. A hybrid Living Labs model should combine the interests and needs of both participants and stakeholders.

Second, the content of a Living Lab project needs to be carefully planned. For example, participants appreciate both individual projects and mentoring as well as the collaborative effort. The former should not be forgotten because of the latter.

Third, the thematic focus of the GESCI-AKE LL on local content was very highly appreciated by all stakeholders. Practitioners feel strongly they want to contribute to creating social-cultural value. Other stakeholders feel there’s a market niche that needs to be filled.

And fourth, content-creation often requires that participants have industry-standard hardware and software to use. Could the industry representatives or policy-makers be of assistance in providing this?


First, sustainability in terms of content, collaboration and follow-up. Living Labs projects are often goal-oriented: when a certain goal is reached, the project is concluded. Participants’ requirements differ somewhat from this: even after a project is concluded, participants wish to continue in the same field, and even by improving the so-called “concluded” project, or with meetups.

And second, sustainability in terms of professions. A major advantage of a Living Lab -type of educational project is that it can teach not only skills but build alliances and partnerships beyond the project itself. Incentives as possible drivers for sustainability could be built into the course.

Local and Global

First, innovation environment in Kenya has flourished creating international fame, yet institutional support for innovations has not developed accordingly. It is also interesting to note that Kenya’s locally inspired content has begun to reach both local, regional, and global audiences.

Second, Kenyan model of  the innovation ecosystem  – including policy, business, end users, international, local, for-profit and not-for-profit actors – is unique, yet under-researched. It is essential to understand it better in order to envision new technologies  and markets.

And third, practitioners expressed strong desire, as well as a sense of market need, for producing social value through original Kenyan media products. But practical issues such as international industry-standard hardware and software need to be in place to support this.

(Some Policy Recommendations)

To answer these research results, some policy recommendations have been included in the policy brief documents. They are presented here within categories such as Knowledge Creation, Educational Responses, Community Creation and General recommendations.

Here the policy recommendations are presented in a condensed form. For more information, please see the policy brief documents.

Knowledge Creation:

  1. Conducting a national-regional study on consumer markets for local digital cultural products,possibly in collaboration with other national and international actors.
  2. Conducting a similar multi-stakeholder consultation process for digital creative industries that has been done in regards of the Kenyan music policy, resulting in recommendations for a variety of policy tools and approaches. This process should be carefully prototyped, documented and researched.
  3. Supporting additional Living Lab innovation-research efforts for Living Labs involving educational components.
  4. Conducting mapping of best practices and policy solutions for well-functioning education-industry partnerships

Pedagogical / Educational Responses:

  1. In education, creating innovation outcomes, not only educational outcome.
  2. Training  and supporting the emergence of innovators and entrepreneurs, all while enhancing technical skills and artistic vision.This is essential for job creation.
  3. Providing industry/market-responsive training that is also tailored by, and for, individual participants.
  4. Providing one-on-one mentoring for participants in addition to collaborative projects, to improve their existing skills and abilities.
  5. Developing a technology-based platform to support the multistakeholder ecosystem.

Community Creation:

  1. Offering other specific incentives for practitioners (e.g., innovation competitions; start-up mini grants; creation of rosters of talent of local content, etc.)
  2. Fostering young professionals’ meetups, associations, and other semi-structured events that allow for networking for collaborations and job opportunities.

In general:

  1. Multi-sector policy support to educational – business partnerships as their mission falls under education, entrepreneurship and employment, culture, social value, and innovation.

Next Steps and Open Questions for Policy Forum

While the research project is nearing its closure after the input from policy forum, some questions are yet to be answered, and some needs for additional research have been identified.

First, what do we know about the markets and environments for Living Labs, especially new hybrid Living Labs models? Should we conduct a regional research on consumer markets, for example?

Second, this research provides information on the participants and facilitators of an educational Living Labs. But what do we know about the needs of stakeholders? For example, should we conduct a multi-stakeholder consultation process for digital creative industries that has been done in regards of the Kenyan music policy?

Third, how can educational Living Labs serve the needs of both participants and facilitators even better? Additional Living Labs research is needed to fully understand the potential of educational living labs.

And fourth, how could the educational initiatives and industries work together in a hybrid Living Lab model, in a way that is the most beneficial for both parties? Should we map the best practices and policy solutions further? Should we do prototype projects?

– –

We hope that the policy brief documents and this video have provided you some information on the research done by Aalto University Media Lab’s team and GESCI / AKE.

For additional information, please see the policy brief documents. Do also see the research blog at

Thank you – and have a great day!


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