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Social Innovation Labs

Author: SiG
Published Date: 22 April 2015

SiG sees the young field of social innovation, design or change labs (and the associated tool kits and processes) as an extremely promising platform for generating new solutions to complex social and environmental challenges.There are various prototypes and models active around the world and under development across Canada. They are a simplified one-stop resource centre highlighting links to key tools — documents, web sites, emerging insights — to support a community of practice interested in advancing this field.

Change Lab/Design Lab for Social Innovation
Frances Westley, Sean Geobey, Kirsten Robinson
January, 2012

In this paper the authors propose the creation of a Social Innovation Change Lab, what such a permanent process would entail and what it would aim to achieve. They discuss the multiple theoretical origins of Change or Design Labs, as the confluence of group dynamics and group psychology, complexity theory, design, and computer modelling and visual language.

Change Labs provide a physical and intellectual space designed to encourage and facilitate cooperation and the co-creation of meaningful and innovative solutions to complex problems. We discuss the previous and current use of Change or Design Labs, and the possibilities contained in recent and ongoing advancement of visualizing and modelling technologies, with an eye to how a social innovation-oriented Change Lab would fit a genuine need to develop novel solutions to complex problems.

Download the paper here.


Design for Social Innovation 

Today social innovation is generating a constellation of small initiatives. Nevertheless, if favourable conditions are created, these small, local social inventions and their working prototypes can spread. They can be scaled-up, consolidated, replicated and integrated with larger programs to generate large-scale sustainable changes. To do that, new design competencies are needed. Indeed, social innovation processes require visions, strategies and co-design tools to move from ideas to mature solutions and viable programs. That is, they ask for new design capabilities that, as a whole, can be defined as design for social innovation.

DESIS is coordinated by Ezio Manzini and is an international network of schools of design and other design-related organisations specifically active in the field of design for social innovation and sustainability. DESIS is increasingly looking at the role of design in the lab process. We have listed 3 of their latest publications here.

DESIS Brochure
Making things happen – Social Innovation and Design, by Ezio Manzini (April 2012)

Design Schools as agents of (sustainable) change, by Ezio Manzini (May 2011)


Building Community Connectivity

The Four Rooms: creating a learning ecology for systemic transformation

The Living Wholeness Institute

What does it mean to truly transform our systems – ourselves included – so that they are deeply sustainable, at all levels?

Our damage to the planet and to our humanity has led to unprecedented depletion of both our biosphere and ethnosphere. Yet, as we witness many of our human systems and institutions topple under revolution or struggle to stay relevant, we also see an explosion of innovation in sciences, technologies, social entrepreneurship and the emergence of new organizing patterns. People and communities are becoming conscious of the need for systemic change – not tinkering part of the system but transforming whole. We are realizing that we have to regain the responsibility for many aspects of our lives which we have outsourced to “experts.” So we are marshalling resources and are innovating to create new realities that are based on new forms of leadership and power sourced from within ourselves.

Download the full report here

To see the full list of resources on Social Innovation Labs, click here.