Analysing Living Labs as enablers of sustainability transitions: could regenerative development nurture their impact?
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Humanity is not on track to achieve either the human or the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and sustainability transitions, radical transformations towards a sustainable society, seem to be extremely necessary. Systemic integrated approaches such as Living Labs (LLs), the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and regenerative development (RD) are currently getting considerable attention as potential strategies enabling global sustainability transitions and each one might hold the potential to better inform the others to enable greater sustainable impact. This review aims at engaging conversations around such potential. Recent literature on the contribution of LLs within sustainability transitions is analysed, using the UN SDGs as the benchmark to define such contributions. Overall, all LLs analysed in this article contribute to SDG target 11.4 which concerns strengthening “efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage” and out of 169 SDGs targets, 46 were found to be addressed directly by LLs agendas. Despite LLs action acknowledging the interconnectedness of sustainability issues, some subjects proved to be more common than others within LLs projects. RD is defined and characterised, according to recent literature, and it is discussed whether aspects of this approach could prove to be useful to inform LLs contribution to meeting the SDGs and sustainability transitions. Interestingly, RD and LLs seem to share many common elements and such results may prove the compatibility of the two approaches to positively inform one another. LLs and RD are addressing the same challenge of redesigning the human impact on the planet, and RD takes the challenge to a deeper level: changing the impact of humanity on the planet cannot happen without also redesigning the presence of humanity on the planet. Perhaps, RD may prove to be helpful to LLs by providing insights on (how to) asking the right questions, making sure that LLs are also addressing symptoms, and not only causes, of unsustainable development whilst LLs may provide RD with the ideal physical environment in which put into practice its concepts.
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