New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network

Labs for System Change

This past May I was invited to attend an international conference on public/social innovation labs at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. LABS FOR SYSTEM CHANGE was a conference with over 45 of the world’s leading lab practitioners and thinkers to share, develop and capture knowledge of global lab practices. The conference provided a platform for those interested in public + social innovation labs and lab practitioners to gain a better understanding of what constitutes a good lab and learn new approaches. This event is followed earlier lab conferences that happened last year at Mindlab (Copenhagen, Denmark) and Kennisland (Amsterdam, The Netherlands). The event included attendees from the Federal government and the Provincial government of Nova Scotia.

So what is a “public and social innovation lab”?

A public and social innovation lab brings together governments, foundations, corporations, non-governmental organizations, academia and the greater community to help unravel complex problems from the citizen’s perspective. We collaborate with users and stakeholders to develop, prototype and scale new solutions, and create opportunities to learn how to change the systems that help us thrive in the 21st century.

“The Lab process starts as a series of questions to articulate the problem in terms of human need, opportunities and desired outcomes, such as healthier lifestyles. After defining the problem, a typical process begins with data gathering and ethnographic research to understand the user space. Also known as fieldwork, members of the Lab will put themselves in situ to observe and describe users in their natural environments, capturing relational qualities sometimes missed in interviews and consultations”(9, Labs: Designing The Future).

Below you will find the summation of the conversations from the Labs for Systems Change Conference, including our collective notes, video clips, and downloadable slides. We hope this is only the beginning of our continued conversations!

•       Videos + Downloadable slides of all the talks + panel discussions (in 11 short videos) can be found on our website’s ‘News’ section.

•       Our Hackpad notes from most of the table discussion can be found here.

•       We have created a special page on our website with all information from the event, including Bios, a growing reading list can be found here.

•       Epilogger + Storify (by government innovator Meghan Hellstern)  stories (thank you for an amazing social media engagement!) and a graphic capture from a livestream participant (Scott MacAfee).

•       MaRS Solutions Lab blog on the event on key insights from the day.

•       Video: reflection by Centre for Knowledge Societies’ Namrata Mehta + Aditiya Dev Sood on the conferences (Toronto + Vancouver).

•       Blog post (en français) by La 27e Region – part one + part two.

•       Blog posts (日本語+ some English) by Re-public’s Hiroshi Tamura.

•        first blog

•       second blog

Check out this Reading List published by the MaRS Solutions Lab.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved contact and be sure to check out the GovMaker Conference on November 24th and 25th with keynote speakers Beth Noveck and Paul Macmillan. We hope to see you there!

Copyright 2013
A Ginger Design