On Wednesday 8 March, after one year of development, based on the production and curation of six years of action research, the Transformative Innovation Policy Resource Lab officially ‘opened its (digital) doors’ enabling policymakers, practitioners, business, NGOs, and researchers to use transformative tools and insights that can evoke systems change to propel the World to a green and just transition.
With over 300 registrations, the TIP RL was unveiled to a global delegation from 53 countries. These included representatives from national research, innovation and development agencies in Austria, China, Colombia, Finland, Ghana, Kenya, Indonesia, the Netherlands and South Africa, alongside international research institutes, NGOs, and intergovernmental organisations including the European Commission, OECD, UNDP and UNECE.
After a welcome and introduction from TIPC Programme Co-Director, Victoria Shaw, who led the resource lab development team in the conceptualisation and production of the Resource Lab, the audience heard from Imraan Patel, TIPC founding Board Member and Deputy Director-General at the South African Department for Science. Dr. Patel’s opening remarks stressed the immense opportunity the formation of the lab presents in supporting policy experimentation to spur transformations in systems of provision. He observed:
“These theoretical concepts are important and require direct engagement with practitioners working in the policy sector, along with materials that can be used with a wider audience… The idea was to produce a dynamic set of resources that can grow as we do more policy experimentation in the next phase of TIPC.’
The theoretical foundations of the Lab were outlined by Dr. Bipashyee Ghosh, TIPC Research Fellow from the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex Business School, who presented the TIP theory, structure and narratives that underpin the insights and tools.
Dr. Paloma Bernal Hernández, TIPC Research Fellow, then provided a “deep dive” into how resource collections were produced demonstrating the robust co-creation process at the centre. Dr. Bernal Hernández articulated how templates were created; how the tools were tested, redefined, and tested again in a variety of contexts across geographical spaces; how the challenges of translation were met; how tools were fine-tuned; then finalisated and displayed for use with clear accompanying instructions. The tool used to demonstrate the process was the ‘Principles of Transformative Innovation Radar’, a reflective tool that helps initiatives, projects and programmes be orientated towards transformative change and outcomes. Users score the initiative for the presence of each of the six TIP principles (directionality: societal goal: system-level impact; learning and reflexivity; conflict vs consensus and inclusiveness), creating a picture of where strengths and weaknesses may lie, giving scope for recommendations on deepening the transformative potential.
Many researchers and practitioners have been at the frontier of TIP action-research, using the new materials and tools to stretch their work towards transformative change. To illustrate how the real-world situations are ‘Bringing the Lab Alive’, Geraldine Bloomfield, TIPC Communications Manager, chaired a panel, in which users of the Lab reflected on how they applied the tools.
The ‘Bringing the Lab Alive’ panel was formed from the ‘TIP Network of Coaches’ and TIP researchers who have been intrinsic in co-creation, attending preview events and testing the tools with feedback for refinement. In the session, the panel illustrated tools from three of the Lab’s components – Systems and change, Experimentation and Evaluation to show how projects had experienced using them.
The panel comprised of: Patience Mguni, Assistant Professor, at the Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resource Management at the University of Copenhagen; Janaina Pamplona da Costa, Associate Professor and Head of Department at the Department of Science and Technology Policy at the University of Campinas in Brazil; and Professor Alejandra Boni, Deputy Director of INGENIO, from the University of Valencia in Spain. The panellists discussed how TIP resources were helping work in Catalonia on local knowledge regions; in South Africa on water sensitive cities; in Brazil on health policy responses to Covid-19; in Colombia on regional science, technology and innovation systems; and in Sweden on transforming the food system.
Highlighting the interest and uptake of the Lab, Victoria Shaw, Programme Director for TIPC said:
“The response to the platform shows how many governments…are grappling with the question of how to make projects, programmes and policies more transformative. The next steps for us are to strengthen the network of coaches and knowledge community, and to design a participatory learning programme that embeds this work deeper in policy practice.”
Part of the embedding and accelerating the transformative aims of TIP Resource Lab is in the creation of the Knowledge Community which surrounds it. Building shared knowledge, capability and skills through awareness, collaboration and connectivity is key. TIPC Co-programme Director, Christina Miariti, who leads this element, presented the KC function on the Resource Lab, detailing the categorisation across systems and themes to help policymakers and practitioners link up and further understand transformative work. She urged projects, programmes and portfolios to join the TIP KC to strengthen and consolidate the transformative movement.
Professor Johan Schot, Founder and Academic Director of TIPC concluded the opening event. He has always stressed the importance of producing a TIP Lab to enact the TIP theory. Professor Schot said:
“Working on system change for addressing the Sustainable Development Goals is hard and difficult. Practitioners need insights and tools. We have curated and adapted the TIP Resource Lab to provide these tools to action transformative systemic change.
The insights and learnings, that led to the development of these system change tools, are based on our real-time experimentations within our member countries globally. It is a major accomplishment of the TIPC work over the last six years to have created, and tested, the TIP methodology. The Lab can now provide pathways of action to prompt a green and just transition. The TIP RL, and associated Knowledge Community (TIP KC), bring together the experience gained in the transformative change arena.
The pertinence of such action-research tools and insights continues to grow for governments, policymakers and partitioners as the challenges posed by the SDGs, climate change and inequality, keep deepening. The TIP RL is a springboard for development, for both the Global North and Global South, to a sustainable future.”
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