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

2. Promoters and collaborators
How to organize a Laboratory?


2.1. Setting up the laboratory

From the formation and launch of the laboratories, each laboratory, autonomously, will decide the periodicity and duration of the meetings depending on the availability of the participants and the needs of the environment, making an approximate calendar of key dates. On these dates, promoters and collaborators that make up the laboratory will develop the selected projects.

If the laboratory is part of a call for laboratories, the organizing institution or other external mentors or advisors will be able to contribute their expert knowledge, advising and guiding the laboratory when it needs and/or requests it. It is recommended, in this case, that the organizing institution periodically monitors the laboratories, through their promoters, to detect these needs. Likewise, in those processes in which there is coordination on the part of the organizing institution, it will provide, if possible, the digital space for the development of the activity of each laboratory.

In this way, provided or not by the organizing institutions, each laboratory must have its own digital space where its work can be developed, which should include:

A means of communication for quick communication: for example, an instant messaging program such as Telegram.

A mailing list with the e-mails of the participants, for the sending of documentation and contact with the organizing institution.

A shared calendar to set key dates for the process as a whole and for lab meetings.

A digital platform or software for virtual meetings via videoconferencing (see digital tools referenced in the corresponding section below).

A web and/or document hosting space in the cloud, where you can upload and share documentation and files that help the development of the process, as well as document all the work of the laboratory.

The digital tools chosen to work digitally will be chosen by the members of the laboratory themselves. In the tools section we propose some of them, but since the digital ecosystem is in continuous transformation, you can use the tool you prefer.


2.2. Development of the Laboratories

Laboratories are work teams, based on conversational methodologies and group dynamics, that work for a certain time to solve a specific problem through an innovative solution, built and co-designed collaboratively.

Throughout the working sessions, the participants in a laboratory exchange opinions and experiences around the challenges posed with the idea of building a prototype or proposal that provides a solution to the challenge. The laboratories have full autonomy, as has been said, for the periodicity of these working meetings.

It is proposed to hold a minimum of three sessions distributed over three weeks, but each laboratory sets its own rhythms and dates, self-managing its time, as well as the way in which its members meet. It is also recommended that group meetings (in principle, private, although they can also be held publicly) be complemented by a public dialogue on a group communication platform, such as forums, or social networks.


2.2.1. Documenting what happens in laboratories

To document is to keep a record that is as reliable and representative as possible of the events that occur between our eyes, which can be an art, as well as a challenge. It's critical to document the entire process, not just the final part of the results. It's the best way to find out what's going on in the lab and how the proposal process is going. Documenting is the best way to generate learning for one's own group and for others, who without having participated in it, can obtain valuable lessons.

The process must be documented with everything that may be of interest to an outsider who does not know what is happening in the laboratory. Use the formats you want, not only text, but also images, photographs, videos, drawings, etc.

All this information must be hosted on the laboratory's website dedicated to this purpose, so that it is publicly available.


2.2.2. Work sessions

For the development of projects in the laboratories, a minimum duration of three work sessions is recommended. In our design we were inspired by a work model inspired by Design Thinking, as noted below.

1. Contact. The presentation of the members is carried out and the topics to be worked on are introduced, including a part for the detection of needs and identification of the main variables that are part of the challenge or problem, detection of the main agents involved in it.

a) Presentation phase of the laboratory members: name, group, interests, reasons for attendance.

b) Empathy phase: describe the needs and/or problems that could be solved by responding to the challenge; define the map of potential interested people. Methodologies and dynamics proposed for this phase: Empathy map, qualitative interview, stakeholder map.

c) Problem definition phase: clarify, specify and agree on the problem to be addressed. Proposed methodology: critical reading checklist.​


2. Design of the proposal (prototype), which involves debating, reflecting and raising the different aspects that the problem or challenge covered encompasses.

a) Ideating phase: after a brief summary of the previous session, ideas are proposed that can provide solutions to the challenge posed, through a brainstorming or brainstorming dynamic; A group proposal is selected: it may be one that has been proposed, a mixture of several ideas or a new one generated from the others.

b) Prototyping phase: defining, in a canva model, for example, the following fields:

I. Needs that it resolves.

II. Visual representation through diagrams, mental maps, images or drawings. Use your imagination!

III. Broad description of the proposal.

IV. Necessary resources (human, material, financial, technological), making an estimate of the financial cost.

V. Institutions responsible for promoting the project.

SAW. Other actors involved and in what sense.

VII. Implementation schedule.

VIII. Expected impact: what results do we expect?

IX. What have we learned?

X. Is it replicable in other sites or areas? That is, could it be applied in other places?

XI. Forms of dissemination of the project/proposal.

XII. Lines for the continuity of the laboratory.

3. Conclusions: writing the proposal and preparing the public presentation of results.

At the end of each session, remember to document the entire process and decide when and where the next work meeting will be held.


2.3. Methodologies for the dynamization and realization of Laboratories


2.3.1. Design Thinking Approach


"Design Thinking is the search for a magical balance between business and art, structure and chaos, intuition and logic, concept and execution, playfulness and formality, and control and freedom."

Idris Mootee - Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation

This working model is inspired by Design Thinking, which is a problem-solving methodology applicable to any field that requires a creative approach. The methodology allows teamwork to develop innovations in an open and collaborative way. It seeks to stimulate cooperation and creativity by breaking with preconceived ideas in order to generate innovative options to address problems or improve situations. The main objective is to generate solutions for any type of problem detected, using creativity in an innovative way, in the way designers usually work. It is a user-centric and action-oriented methodology. In this way, innovative solutions to specific problems are created in a very short time.

Design Thinking applies many ideas from the scientific process itself, insisting on certain values:

Human-Centered Design: The Value of Empathy.


Experimentation and prototyping: This is an integral part of the innovation process. It is prototyped to learn and think.




Show it, don't say it: generate experiences, tell stories, be visual (Visual Thinking).


It works iteratively: cycle after cycle we arrive at a better solution.

Design Thinking is structured in five phases to which we can return at any point in the process.

  1. Empathize with the other: The aim is to discover the needs and elements that are most important to the person for whom it is designed. In this first phase you have to approach the other, understand their needs, preferences and gather information. We must not only look at the information that is common to the entire group, but we must pay special attention to those clues that, due to their unusual, surprising, creative or interesting nature, can provide ideas to propose an effective and innovative design. It can be done in various ways, through observation, participation or observation and listening. In this phase it is basically about learning from what you are designing for and understanding it. It is important to not carry preconceived ideas or anticipate solutions. If the designer is also a potential beneficiary of the challenge he faces, he must distance himself in this phase from his own interests and perceptions. To do this, a first step to take is to determine for whom we are designing a solution. Starting from the challenge, we must reflect and specify which specific group we are addressing. If the challenge or problem we address is intended for a very broad audience, it is possible that the solutions we arrive at will not be as effective.

  2. Define the problem: We seek to clarify and specify the problem that we are going to address so that it is significant and we can design viable solutions. Defining the problem is essential for the design process to be successful. After empathizing with the target audience of the problem to be solved, it is necessary to redefine that initial challenge or define as such the specific problem for which we are going to find solutions. We must determine what needs our user has, going deeper based on all the information collected; what perceptions or intuitions we can extract from contact with the user; and what ideas could be extracted after the empathy phase.

  3. Ideate possible solutions: Generate ideas, from the most daring to the most modest, so that we can generate innovative and effective solutions.

  4. Prototype tangible models with solutions: A solution is designed and carried out in a tangible way. It is not about presenting the idea of the project orally, but with an artifact, digital or physical depending on the type of proposal that is formulated. Prototyping helps us think like creators and communicate with our client or user. Furthermore, it is a cheaper method to optimize a product or a process through progressive approaches to a satisfactory solution through a failure and error procedure. I recommend reading this article about prototyping culture.

  5. Evaluate the prototypes: The evaluation does not result in a grade but rather in learning. It is about showing and confronting the user to learn from them and generate an increasingly better prototype.

You can expand this information in a series of articles published byEsteban Romero.

Guía - Colaboradores
Guía - Colaboradores 2.2.1
Guía - Colaboradores 2.2
Guía - Colaboradores 2.1
Guía - Colaboradores 2.2.2
Guía - Colaboradores 2.3
Guía - Colaboradores 2.3.1
bottom of page