top of page

Participant Guide

1. Social Innovation Labs


1.1. What is a Social Innovation Lab and why are they necessary? 


1.2. When is it relevant to organize a laboratory?


1.3. Cross-cutting values


1.4. Main concepts


2. Promoters and collaborators: How to organize a Laboratory?


2.1. Start-up of the Laboratory


2.2. Development of the Laboratories


2.2.1. Documenting what happens in the Laboratories


2.2.2. Working sessions

2.3. Methodology for the dynamization and realization of the Laboratories

2.3.1. Design Thinking Approach


2.3.2. Empathy Map


2.3.3. Qualitative interview


2.3.4. Stakeholder Map


2.3.5. What? How? Why?


2.3.6. Critical Reading Checklist


2.3.7. Brainstorming


2.4. Side events


2.5. Presentation and publication of results


2.6 Dissemination

3. Digital tools for the development of Laboratories

3.1. Collaborative work and team communication


3.2. Design


3.3. Video conferencing


3.4. Dissemination


4. Working Canvas Examples

1. Social Innovation Laboratories


1.1. What is a social innovation lab and why are they necessary?

A social innovation laboratory is an instrument for thinking in common with an approach of experimentation and prototyping, combining reflection and orientation to action, thinking openly about the next with awareness of the global, with the aim of generating responses to the complex challenges that affect the common good in our time, whether in neighborhoods, neighborhoods, or neighborhoods.  in public institutions, in companies, in organizations in general, in society as a whole.

Laboratories represent a response to the challenges we live in a social context with a series of characteristics:

Uncertainty: managing ignorance and multiple knowledges.

The need to strengthen democracy: participation and institutions.

Connections on multiple planes: physical and digital; Reconfiguration of the vertical and the horizontal.

Integration of multiple forms of intelligence to create stronger institutions: collective intelligence, expert intelligence, algorithmic intelligence, political intelligence.

Commitment to the local and the global.

Ethics of care.

Laboratories (or Labs, for short throughout the text) make up a complex panorama given that it is a sometimes fuzzy term that is used in a polysemic way. Thus, we can understand labs as:

Institution. For example: Medialab UGR, LAAAB or Medialab Prado.

Projects. For example, those resulting from a specific call for laboratories.

Attitude, methodology, philosophy.

In these first paragraphs, we are going to refer to the most conceptual approach to unravel a series of values that can serve to inform any of the three levels to which we are going to refer. These are some of the characteristics that make it possible to identify innovation labs:

Productive role. From the consumer to the prosumer from a citizen's perspective.

Culture of participation and care.

Diversity and accessibility.


Digital culture.


Open source projects.


Local action and global connection. Scalability.


A mixture of knowledge and intelligence. Each type of laboratory integrates different intelligences: social, political, expert, algorithmic.

Co-responsibility from different roles, degrees of commitment, and possibility of involvement. A way of managing uncertainty, of deliberating, of creating, of reaching consensus.

Experimentation and prototyping. Action-oriented.

Flexibility to develop in various areas: both institutional and non-institutional.

Way of learning: process and results go hand in hand.

Documentation of the process as part of the learning.


Cooperation versus competition.


1.2. When is it relevant to organize a laboratory?

The main reasons for convening an innovation laboratory of this type can be:

The detection of general or specific problems or challenges on which to work collaboratively.

The generation of proposals that contribute to improving the surrounding environment from an innovative and civic perspective.

The promotion of the participation of all social groups in matters that concern them, encouraging a culture of citizen participation as a fundamental pillar of a democratic culture.

The creation of a space for dialogue and an epistemological approach to address social problems, establishing alliances and connections between social actors around specific issues.

The activation and involvement of a specific community, making it aware of its potential and capabilities as a transforming agent of the environment.

Train the collective intelligence of an institution and its communities, either to show and activate the possibilities of this type of participatory tools, or to work on a specific theme or problem.


1.3. Cross-cutting values

Openness: the whole process is open to the participation of anyone interested in contributing. All generated content (such as this document, for example) will be published, as far as possible, under open Creative Commons licenses that allow its reuse under the principles of attribution and non-profit.

Transparency: publicity and dissemination of all the content generated throughout the process. To make visible the calls, phases and results obtained, as well as the work carried out during the development of the laboratories.

Open and continuous communication using strategies in both physical and digital media.

Clarity: all the content produced must be clear and understandable to anyone, and special attention must be paid to the help provided by visual media and, whenever possible, through easy-to-read methods. You have to try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn't know this type of methodologies or participatory tools. The aim is to facilitate their comprehensibility to the public and their free access, thus facilitating their scaling and transfer to other institutions.

Autonomy: it also implies that the laboratory is an autonomous unit of work, capable of making decisions. If there is an institution convening the process, its job is to guide and mediate, not direct.

Digital culture: the basis of the collaborative work described here is digital, that is, it takes advantage of the capabilities of digital tools to develop collaborative intelligence processes. However, despite living in a fully digital culture, this should not replace face-to-face interaction or the art of conversation. Ideally, whenever possible, hybrid models, digital and face-to-face, should be developed.

Equality: working from a gender perspective, with intersectional approaches that take into account the diversity of the people involved. It involves the vindication of groups that are socially disadvantaged in the public sphere, such as women and young people, promoting their empowerment, as well as accessibility and inclusion.

Ethics of care in the relationships that are promoted.

Horizontality, collaboration and co-creation from multilevel and multi-stakeholder approaches that recognize the plurality of existing knowledge while claiming the irreplaceable value of scientific knowledge.

Complexity of the processes and problems as well as the responses to these problems. In a complex world, the answers must also be complex.

Learning and documentation: laboratories must be instruments of lifelong learning, for which the documentation of processes and work is essential.

Deepening of democratic values and a school of citizenship.


1.4. Main concepts​



Laboratories, understood as projects, are constituted through work teams, based on conversational methodologies and group dynamics, which work for a certain time to solve a specific problem through an innovative solution, built and designed collaboratively.

The laboratories are configured as meeting spaces between people with different profiles and concerns who participate, talk and collectively co-create a proposal or prototype that provides a total or partial solution to a problem or challenge posed through a description of it and a question as a starting point. Thanks to the tools currently developed, these spaces can be built digitally.


Public call to the public or to the specific groups to which it is addressed to present a laboratory proposal or to collaborate in one.

Promoter and facilitator

Presents (as promoter) a proposal or project for the creation of a social innovation laboratory, for which he/she is in charge and committed (as facilitator) to coordinate its creation, development and dissemination. It helps the work team that makes up the laboratory to understand the common objectives, contributing to create a plan to achieve them, using tools that allow the group to reach a consensus on pre-existing disagreements or that arise in the course of it. Its main functions include:

Coordinate laboratory meetings.

Monitor the dynamics necessary to achieve the group's objective.


Keep the group informed of the process, changes, and details of the meetings.


Be a liaison between the laboratory and the organizing institution (if any).


Facilitate the fulfilment of laboratory functions: assignment of roles and, especially, the process documentation function.

Ensure the fulfilment of the main objective of the laboratories: the creation of one or more proposals.


Participants in the collective process of the laboratories, sharing the knowledge accumulated by their professional and/or activist experience and agreeing with the rest of the people in their laboratory on the solution to the proposed challenge in the form of the creation of a proposal or prototype for the improvement of an institution or society as a whole. Among the participants, we point out the functions of facilitation of the laboratory and the function of documentation. He undertakes to attend the work meetings and to work on the development of the laboratory, assuming some of its functions.


Proposal of an innovative solution as a result of the work of a laboratory.


Guía - Laboratorios
Guía - Laboratoros 1.4
Guía - Laboratorios 1.3
Guía - Laboratorios 1.2
Guía - Laboratorios 1.1
bottom of page