Fri 03 May

Live Case 2: Living Lab as Synergy Hub

The Envisioning phase of the Lucca LL included participating in, observing and attending a number of public events involving different categories of actors (e.g., farmers, farmers associations, civil society organisations, public officials), individual stakeholder interviews, bilateral meetings (e.g., between Living Lab members and municipality officials) and internal discussions.

As anticipated in the Live Case #1, the Living Lab (LL) has a starting point in CIRCULARIFOOD, a participatory project held during the six months before the official start of the LL in ROBUST. This project involved the five municipalities of the Lucca Plain. CIRCULARIFOOD aimed to involve citizens and local stakeholders in the definition of the Food Plan for the Plain of Lucca.

The Envisioning phase started by understanding the best way to bridge CIRCULARIFOOD with the planned LL activities, in coordination with research and practice partners. This required observing and participating in the final stages of the CIRCULARIFOOD project.

The Intermunicipal Food Council – the first of its kind in Italy – was launched with a public celebration on 23 January 2019 in Capannori. The final document describing the Food Strategy was released on that occasion, and included guiding principles, as well as a set of strategic interest areas and goals for the Food Council:

  • Facilitating access to local food for all citizens;
  • Fostering knowledge on local food production and consumption;
  • Supporting knowledge and education on food and lifestyles;
  • Improving local food assistance;
  • Setting up common rules;
  • Fostering sustainable agriculture.

The five municipalities pledged to adopt the Food Plan 2019-2023 and dedicate resources and competences for its implementation. Most notably, one of the first acts will be to establish a dedicated Food Policy Office for the Lucca Plain. A Food Council will encompass a political component (the Assembly of Mayors) and a public component open to civil society, called Agorà, to recall principles of democracy and participation (participation criteria are open in this starting phase).

Notably, the Food Plan for Lucca has been among the cases presented in January 2019 at the second meeting of the Italian Network for Local Food Policies, where practitioners and researchers shared their knowledge and experience regarding food policy initiatives unfolding in Italy. (The summary report from that meeting can be downloaded here, in Italian.)


The flexible nature of the LL has revealed two interconnected areas of work that have clearly emerged during the Envisioning phase, and on which ROBUST research and practice teams have agreed upon:

1. Governance of the Inter-municipal Food Policy Plan.

The LL aims to observe and support the governance the development of the Food Policy Plan in the months to come, as a result of the interactions between the stakeholders involved (see below). Activities will include mapping and monitoring projects and initiatives of interest undertaken in the Lucca Plain. These will not necessarily come under the Food Policy Council’s aegis but could potentially share the same principles and thus be included within the Food Policy Plan framework.

The aim is to create and develop synergies with other resources available in the territory. For instance, there is an active community working on sustainable food, agriculture, and food waste topics involving Slow Food, local schools and families. The LL will engage with this community and follow their initiatives, while also carrying out initiatives of awareness raising and information on sustainable agri-food systems, organising spaces for the debate and exchange of experiences that are aimed at putting forth concrete proposals to the Municipalities.

2. Integrating rural-urban connections in land use planning processes.

The LL will also experiment with the ways that food acts as a key to conservation, valorisation and integration of rural-peri urban-urban spaces and functions. In the coming months, land use planners will be involved in the planning process to implement the operational land use plan for the Municipality of Lucca (Piano Operativo), the structural plan for municipalities in the area of the Lucca Plain (Piano Strutturale) and the update of the Territorial Coordination Plan (PTC).

The timely overlapping of these different planning activities will provide planners with the opportunity to realise a more comprehensive and integrated land use planning process. The food policy role – and therefore of the LL – will be crucial for providing support and influencing the planning process by working with public officials, technicians and planners involved in these activities.

In addition, the LL will involve the students of Architectural Engineering and Environmental Science at the University of Pisa. They will develop (by late May-early June) a master plan for the Plain of Lucca, whereby the main strengths, weaknesses and possible intervention strategies and actions will be identified. The students will present their results of the analysis and provide concrete proposals and/or recommendations to local planners at a planned event.  

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Wed 16 Jan

Live Case 1: Experimenting with the Lucca Food Pla(i)n

Urban sprawl has been on the rise in the Plain of Lucca in the last decades. The same holds true for the abandonment of agricultural land and the loss of local entrepreneurial fabric linked to agriculture. Among the environmental, social and economic outcomes of such trends, the provision of ecosystem services is likely to be seriously undermined and deserves our attention - especially in the face of climate change.

But how do we give prominence to peri-urban areas? How do we communicate the importance of synergies and interdependencies between rural and urban? What would the Plain of Lucca look like if such rural-urban linkages were highlighted?

The Lucca Living Lab aims to identify a governance model that allows such interconnections to be explored and highlighted. Local food becomes the keystone in making rural-urban synergies prominent.   

The idea underpinning our Living Lab is to make the local food system take on a central role in ensuring the adequate conservation and enhancement of rural territory in the Lucca Plain. With this purpose, the Lucca Living Lab will act upon:

  • sustainable food systems, for the design and operationalisation of a food system model which will foster the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the territory;
  • cultural connections, that is, on the values and meanings attached to local food, as well as knowledge and traditions related to local food, rural architecture and landscapes, to foster the demand for good local food and sustainable tourism;
  • ecosystem services, towards innovative solutions for the maintenance of cultivated land and for the reproduction of multiple functions which both rural and urban areas and their dwellers will reap the benefits from.

Our Living Lab will build upon – and depart from – the results of the previous (almost complete) project CirculariFood: the Food Plan and Food Policy Council. The Food Plan will include, in addition to a Charter of Principles, a set of actions that adhering municipalities will be called on to implement. The Food Policy Council is the “control room” from which the Food Plan is run.

The shape the Food Policy Council will take is open to experimentation within the Living Lab. The level of experimentation will likely depend on different stakeholders’ involvement and the Living Lab’s forthcoming initiatives. The Lucca Living Lab will therefore provide the Plain of Lucca with plenty of opportunities to:

  • guide the experimentation of the Food Policy Plan and Food Policy Council, testing the future governance arrangements and emerging solutions in real-time;
  • set up a space where lots of different actors who are unaccustomed to working together can cooperate; and
  • create an arena of knowledge exchange and collective reflection upon ROBUST central themes.

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News about Rural-Urban Europe and the ROBUST project is published regularly in the INFORMED CITIES newsletter.

ROBUST is a European research project involving 24 partners from 11 countries. ROBUST receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727988.

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