World of Labs
Governments across the world are creating innovation teams and labs to help them find new ways of tackling the complex challenges of the 21st century. If you want to get a sense of the scale of this global trend then check out this searchable global map of innovation labs worldwide.
There are about 100 in total represented here - colour-coded for the level of government (blue for local, green for regional, red national and yellow international). In this map I've concentrated on labs inside government excluding the dozens of public and social innovation labs (#psilabs) like Nesta, MaRS Solutions Lab or The GovLab that work alongside the public sector though they themselves are outside it. I've probably left lots of government i-teams and labs out of this list - so please suggest more and I'll add them in.
Public innovation labs can claim to be a global movement not just in sheer numbers of teams and labs worldwide but also because of the momentum behind the creation of new ones, at a current rate of least one a month. Though some of the most celebrated examples e.g. Denmark's MindLab are well into their second decade about a third of the labs set out here have been born in the last two years.
The early wave of scenario-based creative "future centres" (like the Netherlands-based De Werf) was soon followed by the kind of design-based lab that continues to dominate much of the thinking and practice in the field. But lately this has been complemented by a new wave of teams using other tools (data and technology or behavioural economics) as well as the more hybrid approach often adopted by innovation delivery teams at a municipal level, particularly in the US. At a global level the shift to a lab-based approach in development policy has been particularly marked.
Despite the difference in focus, discipline and method, labs have at their core a shared belief in our capacity to prototype the future. Similar in purpose but diverse in practice, members of this growing movement have a lot to learn from their peers.
That's why this July we've decided to organise the biggest gathering yet of public innovation labs and teams. If you work in one, or want to set one up then this is an event you really should not miss.
UPDATE: Who's Coming to LabWorks?
Government innovation teams and labs set to join us so far include from New Zealand: Auckland Co-Design Lab, from France, the i-Lab of the Department de Loire Atlantique; the MBR Centre for Government Innovation in UAE; in the UK, the Northern Ireland Executive Innovation Lab, the UK Policy Lab, BIT and the UKTI Ideas Lab; in Austria, CityLab Graz; GobLab from Chile; from Singapore PS21; from Canada the Alberta Co-Lab and the innovation lab in the City of Guelph; from the Netherlands, Future Centre De Werf; from the USA, i-teams from Jersey City, Memphis, Syracuse and Boston, the Center for Economic Opportunity in New York as well as at the Federal level, the Office of Personnel Management and the Dept of Labour; from Georgia the Innovative Service Lab; MindLab from Denmark; from Israel the Innovation Lab of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the i-teams of the Cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; the Seoul Innovation Bureau from South Korea; the UNDP's Kolba Lab in Armenia; and in Brazil, the Centre for Research and Innovation in the Supreme Audit Office and the i-Lab in the City of Sao Paulo; from Mexico, Mexico Abierto and Laboratorio para la Ciudad; ANSPE from Colombia; Pemandu from Malaysia; the Centre for Public Service Innovation in South Africa and among supranational bodies - the UNDP Global Public Service Excellence Centre, the OECD's Observatory for Public Sector Innovation and the EU's Foresight and Behavioural Insights Unit;
That's close to 40% of all the known Government innovation labs in the world at present, and I know yet more are planning to come to what promises to be a landmark event for government innovators worldwide.