Exploring the practice of Labs for sustainable transformation: The challenge of ‘creating impact’

Kristiaan P.W. Kok*, Marjoleine G. van der Meij, Petra Wagner, Tomris Cesuroglu, Jacqueline E.W. Broerse, Barbara J. Regeer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Scholars have argued that transdisciplinary experimentation processes in Labs which include societal stakeholders in research and innovation might help to create meaningful societal impact. At the same time, there is ample room to explore the practice of ‘doing’ Labs in relation to the transformative impacts that Labs aim to create. We present a case study of the FIT4FOOD2030 project (2017–2020) aimed at contributing to food system transformation in the EU through setting up 25 multi-stakeholder Labs. We aimed to gain insight into how transdisciplinary Labs with transformative ambitions try to create impact, and which challenges that brings along. For “capacitating change”, Labs built agency by focusing on creating (1) new relations through network mobilization, network consolidation and network coordination; (2) new knowledge through knowledge sharing and social learning; and (3) new competences for Lab coordinators and engaged stakeholders. For “creating change” Labs focused on (1) transforming networks – the Lab as catalyst; (2) transforming practices – the Lab as concretizer; (3) transforming structures – the Lab as construction site; (4) transforming cultures - the Lab as critical mass. We observed complex (reciprocal) relations between processes of capacitating and creating change. Finally, we present intrinsic challenges in the practice of ‘doing’ Labs regarding the evaluation of single-Lab impacts, and the political dynamics of transformative Labs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number135994
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume388
Early online date11 Jan 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the European project FIT4FOOD2030, which received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 774088 . The funders played no role in the writing process or in the decision to submit the article for publication.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the European project FIT4FOOD2030, which received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 774088. The funders played no role in the writing process or in the decision to submit the article for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors

Keywords

  • Co-innovation processes
  • Societal transformation
  • Sustainability transitions
  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Transformative capacities
  • Transformative labs

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