From Control to Co-production: Eight Steps to Monitor, Evaluate, and Adapt Participatory Experiments


  • Niko Schäpke
  • Richard Beecroft


Transdisciplinarity, Real-world labs, Evaluation, Interventions, Sustainability Transformation


Co-creative and action-oriented sustainability research, including real-world labs, (urban) living labs, and transformation labs, arose from the desire to contribute to societal transformations. Mentioned labs use experiments to test ideas for a more sustainable life and to promote changes toward sustainability on the ground. As social and scientific actors implement participatory experiments together, social engagement is central to their success. It is important to keep an eye on the impact of an experiment while going along. Monitoring and evaluation allow adjustments at an early stage of experiments. In addition, data can be collected for final evaluation of whether a participatory experiment was successful and why and if it can be transferred or duplicated. Overall, an important societal and scientific learning opportunity is created. While highly promising, such monitoring and evaluation is a challenging task. It depends on continuous interaction with stakeholders for data collection and reflection. Attentive monitoring and adaption might strengthen stakeholder engagement and vice versa. They could even be integrated into the overall co-creation of participatory experiments and labs. Yet, this fruitful interaction has to be worked for, requiring delicate decisions and practical know-how.

This contribution is oriented towards supporting practical applications. It outlines eight steps of how to design, plan and implement the monitoring of a participatory experiment: 1) agree on the objective; 2) determine the experiment and monitoring scope; 3) determine the parameters and indicators of measurement; 4) determine the timing, type and medium of data collection; 5) collect and store data; 6) analyze and evaluate the data; 7) present and communicate the results; 8) adapt the experiment. Steps have a cyclical, iterative nature. Both an ideal-type monitoring scheme and a plan are presented to guide application. A productive interrelation of monitoring and facilitating engagement is discussed and illustrated based on a practical example.

Author Biographies

Niko Schäpke

Niko Schäpke, Dr., is an Assistant Professor at the Chair of Environmental Governance, University of Freiburg. He is an interdisciplinary social scientist with a background spanning sustainability studies, ecological economics, and political sciences. Niko is focusing on the governance of sustainability transformations, transdisciplinarity and human agency. This includes conceptual work on principles of transformation-oriented research, comparative work on multiple participatory labs, and experiential studies in relation to inner transformations and relational approaches.

Richard Beecroft

Richard Beecroft, Dr., is Managing Director of the KIT-Center Humans and Technology and Member of the Karlsruhe Transformation Center for Sustainability and Cultural Change. With a background in engineering, educational philosophy and sustainability studies, Richard is interested in the interplay between transformation processes and learning. Specific research interests include transformative learning, Real-world Lab research, bridging transdisciplinary methodology and didactics, and urban transition.




How to Cite

Schäpke, N., & Beecroft, R. (2022). From Control to Co-production: Eight Steps to Monitor, Evaluate, and Adapt Participatory Experiments . Social Innovations Journal, 15(5). Retrieved from



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