We live in a time of great uncertainty, complexity, and unprecedented systemic challenges. There is growing recognition that addressing complex sustainability challenges requires unprecedented collaboration and new ways of working across sectors and across scales. This is what a Sustainable Transition Lab is all about!
The Sustainability Transition Lab is an approach to tackling these complex social and environmental challenges.
It blends The Natural Step’s expertise in designing and facilitating transformational change towards sustainability with leading approaches to multi-stakeholder collaboration.
The process is intended to foster deep learning and bold action, unconventional partnerships and collaboration in a group of diverse stakeholders to tackle “wicked” sustainability challenges and create breakthrough solutions by learning to think, work, and innovate together differently.
We aim to demonstrate that new insights and opportunities will arise when we integrate the core concepts and our application approaches of the Natural Step’s Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development, FSSD, with approaches like Change Lab, Collective Impact, Design Thinking, and Theory U.
Sustainability Transition Labs differ considerably depending on the challenge, scope, scale, priorities and sector or industry your organisation operates in. However, there are certain generic elements and four core phases.
Getting perfectly prepared
We identify and scope the challenge, secure potential partners and resources, and design the phases and tasks.
A committed core team with a defined challenge.
Shared Value of Collaboration
We conduct in-depth interviews, map the existing initiatives and build a shared language within the core team.
Clarified key goals based on shared values.
Building Shared Priorities
We conduct experimental learning journeys, map the system, identify leverage points and backcast from a shared vision of success.
Identified and prioritised collaborative initiatives
We implement a portfolio of aligned activities, formalise partnerships, and develop shared measuring systems and prototype projects.
Breakthrough results which shift the system.
Based on the general structure explained above, The Natural Step’s project leaders and the core team specify a design to the particular organisations and conditions involved. The phased approach honours the need for the participating organisations to continuously assess the value of their participation. The group needs to make considered decisions on where they want to go together and what they want to define as success.
Concept, process design, execution of the labs, including moderation, framework organisation, work materials etc. Of course all services are guided by The Natural Step’s “Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development”, FSSD.
Municipalities, communities, cities, regions, public and private organisations, non-profit organisations and businesses.
Together with our International colleagues various successful Sustainable Transition Labs have been set up across the globe. Examples of active labs include:
- Circular Economy Lab (Canada), resulting amongst others in the co-hosting of the World Global Economy Forum in Canada next year (#WCEF2020);
- PVC and sustainability lab (Europe, various phases since the late 1990s, currently with VinylPlus);
- Food waste lab (Israel);
- Energy Futures lab (Canada, Alberta (province of the ‘tar sands’!));
- Sustainable chemicals management (Germany, Sweden, Portugal and China) various options are being considered, some together with our partner: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP);
- Circular lab (China and Germany), is in the Pre-Lab phase.
Previous examples of Labs include:
- Future Fit Business Benchmark (Canada, Sweden, Germany, New Zeeland);
- Social sustainability Lab (Sweden);
- Natural Capital Lab (Canada);
- Housing performance lab (The Netherlands);
- Is there meat in a sustainable society? (Sweden); Biodiversity lab.