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Sara Schulman:

" Lab2 was an event that brought together 40 folks from social innovation labs, hubs, and centers in 15 countries, along with a handful of academics, funders, and government insiders. Organized by Kennisland, Hivos and the Social Innovation Exchange, we aimed to cut the bullshit, get underneath the rhetoric, and talk about what we do and how we could do better.

Stéphane Vincent and Anna Lorchard openly talked about La 27e Region's efforts to build social innovation laboratories within France's regional government. Their hunch is that systemic change won't come from any one new product or service, but from shifting the culture of public administration. Their method is a two-year capacity-building project, run in four regions simultaneously, to transfer user-centered design methods to public servants and generate political momentum for organizing work differently. Unsurprisingly, not everything has worked—two of the four regions are struggling to embed the thinking and practice. And Stéphane and Anna wondered aloud whether user-centered design methods are a fad that will soon be eclipsed by the next best thing.

Mariko Takeuchi from the Human Centered Design Innovation Lab in Cambodia also questioned how to embed user-centered thinking and practice within bureaucratic organizations – specifically, international aid agencies that too often distribute and account for funding in ways antithetical to bottom-up work.

Mariko’s hunch is that awareness of and exposure to pro-poor design methodologies will prompt systemic change. Her methods are on-the-ground projects to demonstrate how much money you can both save and earn when you start with observing and talking to the rural poor. By spending time with families in villages, her team discovered that daughters working in big-city factories facilitated the take-up of new toilet technologies at home. This insight is changing how the toilets are priced and marketed.

Daudi Were from Ushahidi in Kenya shared the organization’s efforts to enable mass take-up of new information technologies. Back in 2008, during Kenya's election unrest, it developed a website to track election violence—in about 48 hours. Ushahidi’s hunch is that information, collected and visualized, can prompt a tipping point for citizen action. Its methods are new technologies, and supports for local coders and entrepreneurs. The team is constantly on the lookout for new strategies to bring together entrepreneurs, human rights activists, coders, and government staff." (