How we got here: from labs working solo to a learning network.

The birth of public innovation labs

Social and public innovation labs — or simply “labs” — come in many different shapes and forms. Usually they are a team, or an organizational unit, that is tasked with innovation aiming to improve how a government works to deliver greater public value.

Various events, conferences and meetups: Lab retreat after the LabWorks conference at Nesta (London, 2015); informal meeting with GovLab, Nesta, La 27e Région and MindLab (Copenhagen, 2015); Design for Europe symposium by La 27e Région (Paris, 2015); Estado Futuro conference by Laboratorio de Gobierno (Santiago, 2016); States of Change faculty meeting at Nesta (London, 2016); Edge of Government pavilion by MBRCGI at the World Government Summit (Dubai, 2017)
UNDP’s Innovation Journey (2012–2016)

The rise of innovation networks

Several people running labs, or their governing agencies, realised at a certain moment that they needed to connect with a wider ecosystem to mobilise talent, build capacity and create impact at scale. Over the past five years or so, we have seen various national and international networks of public innovators emerge.

The National Meeting of Chile’s Innovadores Publicos (Santiago, December 2017)
Istanbul Innovation Days 2017

Planting the seeds for UNDP’s Accelerator Lab Network….

This absence of concerted effort was addressed during the Istanbul Innovation Days in 2017: How can labs operate at a much larger scale, creating more impact? At this conference, UNDP, Nesta and a cohort of innovation practitioners critically reflected on the practice of public and development labs and their impact.

“…build a movement that needs new political capital and a very different set of alliances — as well as possibly new skills and competencies — to address the step change in the type of challenges governments are facing that underline a class of issues underpinning the Sustainable Development Goals.

Although this was easier said than done, the seed for building a movement — a collective where the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts — was planted.



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UNDP Accelerator Labs

UNDP Accelerator Labs

Building the world’s largest learning network around development challenges. 91 Labs in 115 countries.