Urban Design Thinking implicates a user-centered urban development: Concepts are created by residents and stakeholders rather than solely by planning professionals. It is a collaborative process that enables urban innovations for Mannheim’s tomorrow.
In the city of Mannheim, highly skilled migrants and stakeholders co-create solutions for the Mannheim of tomorrow. In a series of nine “UrbanLabs”, participants will develop new ideas to improve their city towards increased sustainability, improved social balance, flourishing economy and cultural diversity. The UrbanLabs will follow the methodology of Urban Design Thinking, a creative workshop-process to foster collaboration in development of urban innovations. This implies:
  • Working in small and efficient groups on a variety of topics which have been selected by the participants to be of special relevance for future Mannheim. The focus is always on the improvement of the living environments and needs of all Mannheimers.
  • Specific challenges will provide solutions which are drawn from peoples’ life and are technologically viable and economically feasible. Therefore the Urban Design Thinking process will include relevant local politicians, stakeholders, entrepreneurs and scientist.
  • Each UrbanLab will be part of a multi-level process – from the identification demands, the co-creative development of possible solutions up to implementation. During this process, ideas will be tested, re-evaluated and re-thought, what will lead to a much deeper and publicly accepted final product.
1st UrbanLab “Understand & Empathize” – Define your topic and identify users
What it is about and who are relevant users?
During “Understand & Empathize” the participants will first specify their common understanding. Second, they will identify potential user groups. In order to grasp needs and problems of potential users, they will start to engage with other Mannheimers and will interact within specific spaces in the city.
2nd UrbanLab “Observe and Define” – Definig tasks
What are the users’ needs and how can we address them?
The aim of the second step is to determine the demands of user groups. The participants will enlarge and foster their knowledge about users and challenge their own understanding of the city. Unearthed topics and opportunities from interviews and observations will be converted into memorable stories which are graphic and easy to understand.
3rd UrbanLab “Ideate” – Finding ideas
What solutions are imaginable?
“Ideate” invites the participants to create first ideas for possible solutions. All ideas must be reflected from the viewpoint of identified user groups. The most promising approaches will be chosen for “Prototyping” – the next step of the Urban Design Thinking process
4th UrbanLab “Prototyp” – Developing solutions
What could work?
Prototyping serves the purpose of testing specific ideas. By concluding this step, participants and residents should be able to actively review the developed solutions in matters of usability and efficiency.
5th UrbanLab “Test” – Testing solutions
What could work even better?
Testing prototypes practically will reveal possible flaws. In conclusion: Testing solutions will provide valuable input on further development or conclude in an entirely new approach.
6th UrbanLab “Prototyp II”
What makes a solution realizable?
Solutions and ideas from UrbanLab “Test” provide valuable data to revise the prototypes while developing promising products, methods, instruments, strategies and masterplans.
7th & 8th UrbanLab “Test II”
What does the target audience think about the solutions?
During a second testing by a variety of user groups the participants of the UrbanLabs will evaluate and interpret the feedback of Mannheims citizens during two entire Labs. The conclusions will be incorporated into the final marketable product.
9th UrbanLab “Business Model”
Who is going to implement the solution?
During “Business Modelling”, the developed solutions will be merged with a viable business model and prepared for market introduction. In the end, the approach of Urban Design Thinking is the creation of practical instruments, strategies and concepts.

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