How labs cultivate change through innovation and collaboration

The struggle to solve local and global issues often appears to pitch large corporations and governments against activists, artists, workers and ordinary citizens. But what happens when these entities consciously join forces and share resources to create social change?

It’s happening more than you might think—in a growing phenomenon known as social labs. And Labcraft offers an intimate picture of this new and evolving landscape—where seemingly disparate stakeholders network and align as learning communities who collaborate for positive change.

Social innovation labs do what we expect laboratories to do—invent and experiment. But their “test tubes” are real-world challenges. And as they explore new connections, new ideas, and new initiatives, they often generate new perspectives and promising solutions.

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The Making Of Labcraft


A fittingly collaborative effort in itself, Labcraft was written in a four-day “Book Sprint” by representatives from seven innovation labs from around the world. These practitioners share their stories, experiences and perspectives, and consider their commonalities and differences. They offer humble observations about their struggles and successes, and detail how they navigate their unique dilemmas and paradoxes.

From workspaces and funding to impact measurement and power dynamics, Labcraft explores what it takes to cultivate a nimble and responsive environment—and gives a face to the poignant potential of these creative new collaborations.

Change makers everywhere will be uplifted and inspired by this hopeful, fascinating window into emerging frontiers for building a better world.


Across the world we’re seeing an explosion of interest in social and public innovation labs, in all shapes and sizes.  Running them well is much more a craft than a science, which is why it’s so good to see serious practitioners here sharing experience and ideas,  so as to help others achieve more hits and fewer misses.

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive, Nesta, UK

An insightful and delightful voyage through and wonderful mix of stories and practical insights that help anyone on this quest of new thinking for a better world.

Louise Marra, Executive Director, Auckland Policy Office, New Zealand Government

A timely, accessible yet sophisticated contribution written by practitioners for practitioners. Packed with stories and accounts of first-hand experience, this short volume brings to life the work of labs and will be a great resource for all those interested in this new exciting way of promoting social innovation.

Davide Nicolini, Professor of Organization Studies, Warwick Business School, formerly Tavistock Institute, UK

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Watch the video to learn how this book was co-created by 12 people in 4 days.

In search of new strategies to promote knowledge production and learning by and between Innovation Labs, Natural Innovation teamed up with Hivos and the Warwick Business School to write a book through a Book Sprint, a rapid and collaborative writing methodology designed and facilitated by Adam Hyde.



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This is an important piece of reading for anyone interested in driving system level change and learning from the experts in the growing global lab movement.  Uniquely written by fellow travellers holding direct experience designing and developing labs, you will take away a set of clearly written stories which illustrate how system change theory can be brought to life.

Charmian Love, CEO, Volans, UK

This is a very topical book. Under significant reform pressure, our institutions have responded by trying to extend existing logics. But more and more they are waking to the realization that a better tomorrow will emerge by developing new logics. Labs are a critical discourse in enabling this transformation to flourish.

Marco Steinberg, Founder, Snowcone & Haystack, Finland

Never has a craft held such promise. With gentle audacity this book changes everything we thought we knew about change. A candid, brave, tantalising insight into what deserves to be the defining skill-set of our age. The world looks different now. So too do our prospects for change.

Jonathan Robison, author, entrepreneur and co-founder of Impact Hub, UK

Changemakers of the world unite…and buy this book! Labcraft brings engaging stories and thoughtful insights from the front lines  of social change. Drawing on experiences of pioneering labs in Europe, North America, Asia and Latin America, this book empowers social innovators to fix their aspirations on systems changing solutions to tough societal challenges.

Tim Draimin, Executive Director, Social Innovation Generation (SiG), Canada

A ‘lab report’ about labs, Labcraft is an optimistic account and invitation to explore the world of social labs, loaded with inspiring stories collectively written by a group of lab practitioners from around the world.

Eduardo Staszowski - Director Parsons DESIS Lab at The New School, New York

Social Labs are an important frontier in global efforts to make progress on complex social, political, economic, and environmental challenges. As such they are the subject of much trial, error, confusion, and learning. This book makes a valuable contribution to this exciting new field.

Adam Kahane, Chairman, Reos North America and author of 'Solving Though Problems'

Practical, sensible and yet unwaveringly inspiring. This great little collaborative book delivers a much needed comparative outlook and reminds us of lessons learnt along the way. A must read for anyone who wants the nitty-gritty and the fun if social innovation.

Catherine Fieschi, Director, Counterpoint, United Kingdom

Labcraft is an extremely timely contribution to the movement of social innovation labs. Both reflective and practical, this important book is a must-read for anyone wishing to engage in the art and craft of generating societal change. Highly recommended.

Christian Bason, Director, MindLab, Denmark

Social Innovation Labs are spreading around the world, often seen as high-potential vehicles for systems change. But running such labs is not easy. As the authors of this book show, it is a craft. Being lab practitioners, they provide honest insights into their practice, useful for everyone wanting to create a better world.

Joeri van den Steenhoven, Director, MaRS Solutions Lab, Canada

An inspiring dive into Labs’ world. A fresh, coherent and illuminating effort to share the essence of these surprising experimental places for social innovation.

Sebastian Gatica, Director, CoLab UC, Chile