A call for stronger theorization of public sector innovation labs

Time for some shoegaze. Image courtesy of Amanda Mitchell.

Opening

  • You wonder about how innovation labs can have more durable and meaningful impact.
  • You like wrestling with different ways that labs and innovation efforts theorize their work.
  • You enjoy reading stories from other innovation labs to learn what they are doing, and why.

Briefly — What is Vancouver’s Solutions Lab?

  • Focusing on transformative, systemic change in the core policy areas of environment and the social determinants of health;
  • Using a mix of frameworks and tools to guide our work, drawing most heavily from systems practice, social innovation, and experimental governance;
  • Working co-creatively across City departments and with community stakeholders; and
  • Cultivating leadership throughout our organization and community.

What is a Theory of Change?

  • Vision, direction, or north star — describes values, ambition and directionality.
  • Context statement — how you see the world that you are operating in.
  • How change happens — what theories guide your understanding about how change happens. This is the piece that is most often missing.
  • Our contribution to change — this connects your description of how change happens to the strategic choices you make about what you do.
  • Activities — this is a high level description of what you do.
  • Measures + Outcomes — how do you make sense- and meaning of the results of your work.

Why is a Theory of Change Important?

SLab 0.0 + 1.0 Theorization

Figure 1: Solutions Lab 2.0 Theory of Change
Figure 2: How change happens in SLab

Theorizing Public Sector Innovation — Where Might Our Field Need to Go

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Lindsay Cole is the founder and manager of the City of Vancouver’s Solutions Lab, and an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia.

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Lindsay Cole (she/her)

Lindsay Cole (she/her)

Lindsay Cole is the founder and manager of the City of Vancouver’s Solutions Lab, and an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia.

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