What is a Societal Innovation Lab?

A societal innovation lab is a generic term that aims to describe a new form of network, partnership, platform, or social movement. Societal labs are containers that seek to bring together diverse actors and players from across a particular segment of society to collaboratively tackle complex challenges. Challenges that transcend the ability of any single actor to deal with them. 

A defining feature of these laboratories is that they are process based, their aim is not to work towards pre-defined goals, but through creative and collaborative processes generate emergent outcomes that potentially have a systemic impact. Inspiration for these processes are drawn from design thinking, organisational learning, conflict resolution, creative research, large-group interventions, enterprise incubation and many other sources.

Societal Innovation Labs are a emerging new institution, they are (semi) permanent spaces that generate and facilitate accelerated learning and innovation on a systemic level

About this blog

This blog aims to bring together together the knowledge that is emerging across a diverse community of practitioners that are engaged in developing projects that could be described as societal innovation labs. The goal is for this to be a platform for live, uncut ongoing research that can immediately enrich a community of practice and be enriched by it. A repository for case-studies, projects, research articles, field-notes and reflections. 

If you are a practitioner or researcher in this field, feel free send in questions, stories, case-studies, reflections and projects that you would like to share with the wider community. If you are interested in being a regular contributor or blogger please get in touch.


Hendrik Tiesinga
Hendrik is a doctoral researcher at the Innovation, Knowledge and Organisational Networks (IKON) unit of the Warwick Business School (UK) specialising in the topic of Societal Innovation Labs. He is currently based in Cairo for fieldwork. He is a co-founder of Natural Innovation, a partnership of developers, designers and facilitators of societal innovation labs. He can be contacted at hendrik (at) natural-innovation.net. Or follow him on:
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4 Responses

  1. Leif Edvinsson

    8 February, 2013 3:20 pm

    Very inspiring, which links well to protyping work I am involved into, since several years, see among others Aalto Camp for Societal Innovation. Next Camp on SocietalInnovation will be Aug 26-28, tother with Malmo University, Sweden and the Regional Board there. Perhaps co creatin?

    • hendrik

      10 February, 2013 5:01 pm

      Hi Leif, the Aalto Camp looks really interesting. I’m always open to co-creation, maybe you can email me a bit more information on hendrik (at)natural-innovation.net? I’ll also add the Aalto Camp to the website! Best Hendrik

  2. Hank Kune

    8 February, 2013 5:17 pm

    Excellent initiative to bundle knowledge about these kinds of Labs. Many people are active in this field but don’t have a place to pool and share knowledge. The Future Center Alliance is co-organizing its 5th International Summit and Dialogue about labs of many kinds this coming May in the Netherlands. See also http://www.fc-alliance.net/ for more information


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