Register for CityLab January/February 2017

CityLab will be starting again in January/February 2017. We’ve raised the numbers we can take on the course so now is your chance to sign up before it’s full.

Go register at University of Aberdeen (PD3002 or PD3502 ), or Robert Gordon University (BS2315 Business Project 1  or BS2316 Business Project 2 – speak to Jon Penally about options) to take part this term, or in the later term to start in January. The classes meet in Seventeen on Belmont street. We take twenty students from each institution each term.

Reflections on CityLab 2

Now that CL 2 finished today these are my initial thoughts about what worked well and where we should consider changes for number 3, which starts in January. On the one hand, my general impression is that the CL idea works. We had four then three teams come together who achieved a lot from the basic starting point that we give them. This is great to see happening. On the other hand, this group had a shorter time on their projects, than the first cohort. This means their presentations were of ‘less’ (is that the right word?) finished concepts. Nonetheless, the ideas were well presented, and relatively complete. The critique we offered of their pre-presentations last week helped them clarify their ideas for today’s crowd.

This uses the Starfish retrospective format to organise my thoughts.

CityLab ideation for CL2


We shouldn’t send the students to Elevator early in the term. A better option would be to have Elevator come to us early on for their ever useful mentoring, and to offer the pitching session near the end when it is more useful.

Do less

We should do fewer unstructured sessions until the end. Some of the first few weeks seemed to have too much time where the students talked too much without moving their idea forward. A better option would be to offer a session on meeting management and facilitation so that the students have more productive meetings.


We should keep the biscuit journey and the marshmallow challenge sessions, as well as our various outside speakers. The students all talk about these, and find them useful.

We should keep the same format of workshop plus team time each week. The students need guidance on how to do what they need to do, plus time to work on their ideas.

I need to keep the two week intro time for UoA students so that they have time to reflect on the coursework fir the class. Without this it seems a number found it hard to stay focused and to keep clear what they need to do for their coursework.

Do more 

We should build in more feedback for the student projects. This should come in a number of forms. First, we need to have student teams critiquing each other more regularly so that difficult questions are raised sooner. Second, we need to bring in outside opinion sooner so that students can hear more about all of the teams and hear others offer their difficult questions. Third, we should teach students methods to enable them to test their ideas from different perspectives so that they can both adapt their ideas from the new ideas generated, and also see where others will also want to know more about specific areas. Perhaps this could be a checklist as part of a ‘pitch deck’.

We should do more prototyping. We didn’t do enough of this. We should ensure that all teams do a paper one as a storyboard or customer journey, and that they also do a suitable  prototype outside of the session area so that they ‘get out of the building’ and gather feedback from strangers. Lastly, if possible they should use Make to develop other prototypes.

We should do more to bring in our colleagues to help with delivering the sessions. The students enjoy the variety of staff when we have them, so we should do more of this.


We should start having required readings each week for the students so that they better understand how to use the human centred design process for their project. These could either be from blogs, or book chapters.

We should consider having students keep weekly journal or blog entries so that they are more aware of how their perceptions and mindset are changing.

We should also find how we can set this up as a course for RGU students so that they too can gain credit for their time in a way that appears on their transcript.


This is going well. The students are liking the course so we need to see how we can round it off more fully to make it work for more students. We already know that each cohort pushes ideas out to the community, which are taken up, so having more students take part can only help the city.


Final presentations for second cohort of CityLab

On 23 November in the Anatomy Rooms in Aberdeen we held the final presentations of the three teams from this cohort of CityLab. We had ‘Ourspace’ that proposed a way to bring together people who want to use empty shops and waste ground with those who hold, and rent out those spaces. We also had ‘Living Spaces’ that proposed benches to shelter people from rain while also offering wifi and charging for people as a way to enhance our public spaces in the city. Lastly, ‘Aberdeen By Light’ wants to develop interactive lighting displays around the city in order to engage more people, while helping to support businesses too.

CityLab 2 teams at Anatomy Room presentations

The audience posed useful questions to the teams so that they could tease out issues around potential implementation of their ideas. The audience included local and regional stakeholders, who would be interested in helping to implement the students’ ideas. As always with CityLab, the goal is sustainable implementation and development of the ideas through handing them off to council staff, or interested partners.

At the final, as last time, the guests had ‘CityLab money’ to spend on the ideas. The winner was Ourspace this time. However, word on the ground is that each of the ideas has some chance of being implemented in the future. This is good.

It’ll be interesting to see what CityLab cohort 3 bring to the table in January.