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You can also see World Cafe or Open Space Technology for a different way to approach the problem of large meetings. When conflict can be a related issue you can consider Non Violent Communication. The question of Awareness Raising for Transition is also quite important as the participant must be completely aware of what is this tool for and the results that are intended to be reached. In this way participants arrive with a clear idea in mind.

Lab of ideas

The Lab of ideas allows to transition groups to gather innovative ideas, representative of the community. At the same time the key actors of the community are involved, both from the public and private sphere. New ideas within the community refresh the creative environment of the group and/or initiative.

Description of the problem

How to generate innovative ideas, within a certain community? The importance of a process of ideas creation and future implementation is crucial for a socially active thriving community and transition initiative.

Analysis

Generally speaking, the groups that lead transition initiatives sometimes run out of ideas or the ideas do not reflect community interests. Lab of ideas represents a way to fill this void by including different actors by means of an innovative methodology of social change. The role of the different actors is to raise necessities and/or interests FOR the community. The organizer group (which is also the transition initiative group) is in charge of organizing, manage and facilitate the process. The Lab of ideas consists of:
  • First stage: Organize the Call for the event
  • Second stage: Introduction of all participants with a small facilitation
  • Third stage: creation of small work groups (5 people in each sounds optimal) and definition of roles:
    • Leader: in charge of take care of the process to reach the defined objective
    • Time guardian: responsible for keeping an eye to the time
    • Secretary: takes notes
    • Spokesman: the presenter of the results
    • Guides (from the organizing group) : they relate with people participating in activities and guide the whole process
Generally the process last 30 minutes in which the group has to fulfill a canvas, and after that the spokesman presents the results to all participants. Those kind of process’ are called “crossed pollination” since there are different people coming with different backgrounds, and it is assured that all participants give their contribution. It important the different expertise of the participants, because it is the way to have different point of view but also to define the objective during the process. From this process, many ideas can come out. The organizing group will then evaluate the ideas and classify them according to importance, impact and feasibility.

Requirements

  • Identify the key actors
  • Invite the most important actors (possibly with an in-person invitation)
  • A strong organizer team able to facilitate and guide the working groups.
  • Availability of a space for the meetings (with tables and chairs)
  • The Canvas and all the material needed (a blackboard can be useful)

Risks and precaution

  • The main precaution is probably to properly make the call of the activity. In this sense, it important to define who to invite. The most successful process’ come from a very diverse group of participants. Very different points of view (even opposite on certain issues) make the lab more fertile. With the CAVEAT of being able to facilitate properly the process. And this is why the organizing group has to master the facilitation tools. Keeping the mind open to all participants.
  • Make clear to the participants what they are called for.
  • The organizing group has also a role to guide the conversation during the working groups, mostly when conversations stagnate. The role is hence to give fluidity to the discussion as well as facilitate conflict moments.

Advantages

  • Very flexible: adaptable to many different context (communities, companies etc…)
  • New strong bonds can rise among neighbors and people in the community
  • New bonds mean also new allies for a certain objective
  • The group in charge of the organization and facilitation can benefit from this process by refreshing the creativity of its initiative but also by strengthening its commitment within the project
  •  It is an interesting way to involve municipal authorities in the process

Case study

Villa santa elena, Macul (Santiago de Chile) is an Eco-neighborhood funded in 2011. There was a need to bolster up the project, renovate it and be more aligned with the interests of the community. The Lab of ideas was put in place to involve all the neighbors, municipality and other organisms involved in the life of the community. The neighbor Villa Santa Elena consists of approximately 5000 people, 300 districts. The Eco-neighborhood spaces are intended as educational spaces and given to perform workshops aligned with the values of the community (i.e. the Lab of ideas). In 2018 the Lab of ideas was organized by the promoting group of the Eco-neighborhood, and 15 feasible ideas came out of that process. Hence the organizing group decided to organize a second session, with the idea of taking all the 15 ideas and start to draft the project for each of the 15 ideas (adapt the canvas to the particular business idea, generate long-term alliances and networks, etc.. ).

Tips for adaptation

The tool in itself is very flexible, it can be adapted to almost any context. Its adaptability lies in the dynamic of the process, which is always the same. One of the feature of the tool is that the Call must be clear, and done in-person , social network and online announcements are not enough to obtain a clear and useful participation with key actors clearly chosen. In certain cases it could be useful to call the event “Lab of Solutions” rather than “Lab of Ideas”: this could be more appealing to the invited actor. The solution-oriented process in many cases could help focus on certain aims.

Useful links

Facebook page: Ecobarrio Villa Santa Elena Macul Canvas

Solution

Meeting with key actors from the community (civil society, public and private sectors, municipalities administration) to create working groups on different topics. The conversation is oriented by means of tools such as the Canvas to generate ideas that can be developed.

Down links

Thanks to this kind of Lab of ideas, new structures and associations can sprout. In which case the Governance model can be crucial for the development of those, as well as Facilitation Tools such as Open Space TechnologyWorld CafeNon Violent Communication (NVC) etc... In case the tools works in appropriate ways, it could be useful to expand it and make it more visible and well-known. For this purpose you could check the following tool(s): ......