Laboratories of Design: A Catalog of Policy Innovation Labs in Europe
249 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2020
Date Written: September 1, 2020
To address both persistent and emerging social and environmental problems, governments around the world have been seeking innovative ways to generate policy solutions in collaboration with citizens. One prominent trend during recent decades is the proliferation of Policy Innovation Labs (PILs), in which the search for policy solutions is embedded within scientific laboratory-like structures. Spread across the public, private, and non-profit sectors, and often funded by local, regional, or national governments, PILs utilize experimental methods, testing, and measurement to generate innovative, evidence-based policy solutions to complex public issues.
This catalog lists PILs in Europe. For each lab, a one-page profile specifies its vision, policy innovation approaches, methodologies, major projects, parent entity, funding sources, and its alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) call to action. For each lab we identify governmental, municipal, multi-sectorial, academic, non-profit, or private sector affiliation.
The goals of compiling this catalog and making it available to citizens, scholars, NGOs, and public officials are to call attention to the growing spirit of citizen engagement in developing innovative policy solutions for their own communities and to facilitate collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas between organizations. Despite their increasing importance in public policy making, PILs are as yet understudied. This catalog will provide an opportunity for scholars to explore the function and value of community-oriented policy innovation as well as the effects of approaching policy making around disruptive social problems in a “scientific” way.
Methodology: This catalog of policy innovation labs was compiled based on published reports, as well as a Google search for each individual country using the terms “policy lab” and “innovation lab,” first in English, then in the native language. Sometimes the labs themselves came up in the search results; for others, an article or a blog that mentioned them appeared. Next, each lab was searched specifically by name or by using an identified link. Each lab website that was identified was searched for other labs that were mentioned. Some labs were identified more than once, and a few that were found to be defunct or lacking a website were excluded. Innovation labs that referred only to technical or technological innovations were omitted. Only labs that relate to policy and to so-called “public innovation” were included in this catalog. Eligible PILs could be run and/or sponsored by local, regional, or national governments, universities, non-profit organizations, or the private sector. This resulted in a total of 212 European PILs.
Notably, while the global proliferation of policy innovation labs is acknowledged by formal, global organizations, there are no clear-cut criteria to determine which organizations are considered PILs. Therefore, this catalog follows the precedent set by previous catalogs and identifies PILs as organizations that generate policy recommendations for social problems and public issues by employing a user-oriented design approach and utilizing experimental methods.
Information about every lab was collected form its website, with minimal editing for coherence. For some labs, information was presented in English on its website; for others, information in the native language was translated into English using machine translation followed by human editing. Data for the catalog was collected between December 2019 and July 2020. PILs are opening and closing with increasing frequency so this catalog serves as a snapshot in time, featuring PILs that are currently active as of the time of compilation.
Alignment with the UNDP’s 17 Sustainable Development goals was determined based on each lab’s policy areas of focus. These goals are “No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Reduced Inequality, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water, Life on Land, Peace and Justice Strong Institutions, Partnerships to achieve the Goal.” The first to specify European PILs’ compatibility with SDG, this catalog follows in the footsteps of PIL catalogs created for the European Union, Canada and the United States, adding to a valuable and growing body of knowledge about human- and design-centred entrepreneurial approaches to policy making.
This report is part of a larger BSF sponsored project examining PILs in OECD countries.
Keywords: Policy Innovation Labs
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