The Solutions Lab (SLab) is a public sector social innovation lab inside the City of Vancouver, Canada that started in late 2016. SLab is inspired by, and contributes to, the current proliferation of innovation units inside governments around the globe. SLab brings people together in co-creative and experimental processes to seek transformative solutions to some of the most complex challenges facing Vancouver.
How we work
This graphic describes the key ingredients of our theory of change.
We focus our work in five policy domains: Reconciliation; Equity; Healthy City; Greenest City; and Climate Emergency.
Our contributions to change include: building innovation infrastructure; unlocking the potential of people; growing authentic and high-impact collaboration; shifting organizational culture; and telling our stories of change.
We have two main activities: lab processes that focus on complex challenges; and communities of practice that focus on building capacities, competencies, and connections.
The core competencies that we are building, informed by the theories that guide our understanding of how change happens, include:
Strategic + Systemic Design
Decolonization + Equity
Using this site
Why are we sharing our foundations and tools?
Anyone who has spent some time wandering the wonders of the web knows that there are already quite a few toolkits that are available to support public sector innovation work. The OECD Observatory for Public Sector Innovation is building a library of these. So why have we made another?
Well, we imagine that the main users for this site are the people that are part of the Solutions Lab community. We wanted a place to share the foundations and tools that they/you experience in your work with the SLab, so that you can use them again, and remix them for your purposes. Since we were doing that work anyway, we thought we would share this resource more publicly.
We’ve done two things with this set of foundations and tools that we thought might make it useful for others outside the SLab community.
The first is that the choice of foundations and tools included here is deeply informed by our theory of change. The transformation we are working toward has a clear directionality, described by the five policy areas that we support, and it is focused on building and practicing the six core competencies.
The second is that these foundations and tools are reliable workhorses. This is a carefully curated set of tried and tested tools that have helped us navigate complex innovation processes, and we have had good success with them all.
A note about sourcing
Many of these tools take inspiration from other people, and we’ve remixed and reimagined them based on our experiences. Some of them are brand new and made by people on our team. We’ve done our best to source our inspirations, but please let us know if we’ve missed someone and we’ll remedy those omissions.
Everything here has a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International License, meaning that you are welcome to use it in these ways:
Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material
Under the following terms:
Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
We’re happy to share editable versions of the design files if you’d like to remix them yourselves, please be in touch if you would like us to send something.
Meet the team
Solutions Lab Manager, City of Vancouver
Lindsay has worked on several incredible initiatives with the City of Vancouver since 2010, and started the Solutions Lab in 2016. She is also a Ph.D. candidate and Public Scholar at the University of British Columbia, and a homeschooling parent. The part of the CoP that she loves the most is co-creating a wholehearted community of creative intrapreneurs, working to change the stuck structures and mindsets that hold our most complex challenges in place. She loves reimagining what local government needs to become in this complex and rapidly changing time. Lindsay’s favourite tool is the Theorizing Public Sector Innovation flower, because it was so darn difficult to make! She also loves working with feedback loops - both in the CoP, using yarn to make loops on big and messy iceberg maps, and also when stuck in a feedback loop of stubborness with her kid.
Solutions Lab Learning Designer + Storyteller,
City of Vancouver
She joined the Solutions Lab as a Healthy City Scholar in 2017, helping to prototype the Community of Practice and has stuck around ever since to support the Lab and CoP’s ongoing evolution. She designs learning materials for labs and CoP sessions, and supports session planning, delivery, storytelling and evaluation. Committed to supporting community and planetary flourishing across various landscapes, contexts and scales, Lily is curious about the 'how' of social change — from the ways in which we come together to make decisions and address complex challenges, to the ways in which we learn, deepen our capacities, and communicate knowledge. She holds a Masters in Community and Regional Planning from University of British Columbia. Her favourite SLab tool is Scaling Social Innovation, because it helps to articulate how change is integral at multiple levels and dimensions.
2019-2020 CoP Facilitator
Professor, UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs
Moura was the founding Director pro tem of the School which houses the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs. Moura’s interests lie in rethinking, refining and rebuilding collaborative spaces at the intersections of academia, government, business and civil society. Her teaching and research focus is on strategic design, designed leadership and an emerging Policy Studio that helps students and multi-sectoral organizations learn to use design processes and tools. Moura has been Deputy Minister of the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, B.C. Commissioner of Pacific Coast Collaborative, Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems, and Associate VP, Academic Programs at UBC Okanagan. Her book, Designed Leadership, was published by Columbia University Press in July 2017.
The thing that Moura loves most about Slab CoP is the sense of community and support that has formed around the core participants, and the energy and enthusiasm for making change in the way of working at the City of Vancouver that they share. Her favourite tool is Assumption Dumption because it is “multivalent.” It is so useful in revealing biases and helping us to know what we don’t know, and it also can be used as an idea generating technique — reversing assumptions can be creative.
2020 Nebula CoP Facilitation Team Member
Planning Analyst, Planning, Policy & Environment - Vancouver Park Board
Brittany supports a variety of park planning projects, and brings a systems-lens and collaborative, playful, and generative approach to problem solving in her work. Brittany centers values of compassion, reciprocity, curiosity, and transformative learning. She loves that the CoP is a brave space to take a breath and actively tune-in to how our work, relationships, and daily practices may be perpetuating or shifting certain systems and values. The perspectives, tools and network of people that the CoP weaves together is a collective embrace of complexity to find new solutions to our most complex and urgent challenges. One of her favourite tools is Unicorns + Horses. It speaks to her as it’s a playful tool that can nudge ourselves out of status-quo thinking in the public sector and focuses on (re)imagining what is possible in a creative, tangible way.
2020 Nebula CoP Facilitation Team Member
Social Planning Analyst, City of Vancouver
Lanny is a proud mother of four kids, and she is passionate about community development. She is committed to working with non-profit sector partners and equity seeking communities when coordinating and implementing research and engagement projects that focus on complex social issues. She is a board member of the Students Commission of Canada where she advocates and supports initiatives that promote the participation rights of children and youth and the implementation of Article 12 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child in Canada and internationally. Lanny recently completed her master’s degree in community development, researching factors that build capacity and enable coordination in the non-profit sector. She loves SLab tools that deal with systems work.
2020 Nebula Facilitation Team Member
Sustainability Specialist, City of Vancouver
Leslie has been supporting the implementation of the Greenest City Action Plan since its adoption and is currently leading the City’s work on exploring how collaborative leadership can help us achieve collective action in service of the climate emergency. Her interest in personal development, design thinking and innovation tools has led her to the Solution’s Lab Community of Practice. Leslie is proud to be contributing to the creation of a space to foster social innovation, public sector change and collaboration. Her favourite tool is the iceberg model because it really helps to uncover the underlying beliefs and models that contribute to a single outcome, thereby allowing you to go deeper, to the root of the issue, and identify the parts of the system you may be able to influence.
2019 CoP Research Assistant + Facilitation Team Member
UBC School of Public Policy + Global Affairs
Sanmini is a graduate student at UBC, and supported the 2019 CoP through communications, observation of the CoP participants, data entry and assistance with daily administrative tasks. What she loved most about the CoP was its multidisciplinary perspective. It brought together diverse teams working on different issues while introducing concepts applicable to all. Her favourite techniques are Decolonization and Equity. Sanmini thinks that the use of these theories and discussions surrounding their implementation should occur more often, especially in spaces that can have a positive impact.