In 2017, the Impact Hub Geneva & Lausanne in cooperation with Engagement Migros initiated the Sustainable Living Lab, a 3-year experiment building an open innovation platform whose aim was to facilitate cross-sector collaboration to develop, prototype and test both methods and solutions for Sustainable Living in Romandie.
This journey was fascinating, full of challenges, surprises and rewards. We learned what systemic change really means. We discovered that both technical and social innovation are necessary for the transition to sustainable lifestyles. We understood that the narrative around sustainable lifestyles needed to be positive and attractive. And most importantly we realised that our focal point of attention in attempting to address the Sustainable Development Goals shall not be the outcomes, but the process. You want to create a healthy society? Focus on the how, not the what. Focusing on the transformation process is significantly more powerful than on the desired outcomes.
The collaboration with Engagement Migros enabled the Impact Hub Geneva & Lausanne to develop and test several innovation and change methodologies: Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Theory-U, Participatory Leadership to name a few. It also allowed us to create events and host spaces – from hour-long workshops to 6-month long programmes – where these methodologies could come alive and foster cross-sector collaboration: an essential, though underutilised, response to the multiple and interrelated crises we face today. Some of the events, workshops and programmes we ran include:
- Food Save Challenge, a startup incubation programme for solutions to food waste in Romandie
- Beyond Waste Circular Resources Lab, a social innovation lab to explore ecosystem awareness and facilitate the co-creation of solutions for circular economy transformation in Canton de Vaud
- Intrapreneurship Academy, a professional development programme for employees of organisations evolving towards a more entrepreneurial, agile and purposeful culture
- Climathon, 24-hour civic innovation sprints to find climate solutions with the support of institutional partners
- Regenerative Economy Dialogues, a workshop series to explore the root causes of unsustainable production and consumption systems and identify leverage points to implement a regenerative economy in Romandie
We strived to approach the complex issues of responsible consumption and production (SDG12), sustainable cities & communities (SDG11) and good health & wellbeing (SDG3) in our own backyard, the wealthiest country in Europe. We did this from a variety of angles, from supporting early-stage business ideas to leveraging organisational development and catalysing collective leadership.
Since its inception, the underlying vision of the Sustainable Living Lab became much broader. Originally intending to support the development of sustainable living solutions through engaging stakeholders and partners, it evolved to be a testing ground for experimentation on applying an ecosystem approach to solving complex challenges.
What impact did we have?
If we talk in numbers, we partnered with over a dozen organisations, reaching more than 300 people through diverse kinds of collaborative actions. However, beyond the numbers, we believe that we contributed in a qualitative way to at least three trends:
1) social innovation for sustainability;
2) circular economy as a systemic approach to solve the SDGs;
3) opening up a space for dialogue and opportunities for collaboration between business, academia, government and civil society.
These trends are drivers of the transition towards a sustainable society in which technological innovation must be leveraged to permit smarter use of resources. However, maintaining humanity and social wellbeing as primary objectives must be the priority. How to succeed in this mindset shift and system change? Accepting that it means transforming ourselves first, embracing the same values we hold dear in our homes as in our workplaces.
Be courageous Be collaborative Be caring Be compassionate Be you.