Accepted paper:

Encounters and disencounters: design, innovation and the 'public' in public sector innovation labs in Ibero-America


Maria Ferreira (Aalto University)
Andrea Botero (University of Oulu)

Paper short abstract:

This paper inquiries in to some of the complex relationships that are articulated when mixing, overlapping and transferring concepts like innovation, participation, design and public policy; to the peculiar adaptations of the idea of Public sector innovation labs in Latin America.

Paper long abstract:

As is the trend in many parts of the world, governments in Latin America are experimenting with alternative governance initiatives through public sector innovation labs. Such new experimental 'institutional forms' act in local, regional or national level, seeking to foster experimentation and innovation by promoting flexibilization of the public sector and reaching citizens through participation. However, there is not clear definition of what kind of 'institutional forms' these innovation Labs are neither what public sector innovation is (T├Ánurist et al 2017). Even though their working groups are multidisciplinar, these labs explicitly employ designers, and seek to introduce 'design thinking' and other practices typical of design oriented disciplines; to solve problems they define as 'social' or 'public'. Because of this, there is also increasing controversy as to whether they should be based on evidence or designerly approaches (Kimbell Bailey 2017). This paper tries inquire in to some of these complex relationships, as they are visible when the idea of Public sector innovation labs is been adapted in Latin America. Mixing, overlapping, transferring and importing concepts like innovation, participation, design and public policy take peculiar forms in this new context. The research is based on literature review, content analysis and semi- structured interviews of 2 cases of public sector innovation labs that act in a Municipal/local level in Latin America: 'Laboratorio para la ciudad' in Mexico (started by the mayor of Mexico) and MvdLab in Uruguay (initiated by the project 'Civic innovation' promoted by the Ibero-America General Secretariat).

panel F09
Democracies of controlled experimentation? The emerging landscape of social laboratories