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PARTICIPATION: A Methodological Handbook for Social Labs


Social labs are collaborative spaces where diverse stakeholders work together to address complex social challenges. They are based on the principles of experimentation, learning and adaptation and aim to generate systemic change through innovative solutions. Social labs are increasingly recognized as a promising approach to fostering participatory democracy and social innovation in Europe and beyond.

However, there is a lack of common understanding and guidance on how to design, implement and evaluate social labs in different contexts and domains. This is why the PARTICIPATION project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, has developed a methodological handbook for social labs. The handbook is the result of a three-year research process that involved 15 partners from 13 countries and engaged more than 1000 participants in 30 social labs across Europe.

The handbook provides a comprehensive and practical framework for planning, conducting, and assessing social labs. It covers the following aspects:

  • The conceptual foundations of social labs, including their definition, characteristics, types, and benefits.
  • The design principles of social labs, such as diversity, inclusion, co-creation, experimentation, reflexivity, and sustainability.
  • The methodological steps of social labs, from problem framing and stakeholder mapping to solution prototyping and impact evaluation.
  • The tools and techniques of social labs, such as facilitation methods, creative methods, digital methods, and evaluation methods.
  • The challenges and opportunities of social labs, such as ethical issues, power dynamics, scaling up, and policy influence.

The handbook is intended for anyone who is interested in or involved in social labs, such as researchers, practitioners, policymakers, funders, or citizens. It offers a flexible and adaptable approach that can be tailored to different contexts and needs. It also showcases examples and best practices from the 30 social labs that were implemented within the PARTICIPATION project.

The handbook is available online at this link. It is also accompanied by a set of online resources, such as videos, podcasts, webinars, and case studies. The PARTICIPATION project invites feedback and contributions from the social lab’s community to further improve and enrich the handbook.

The PARTICIPATION project hopes that the handbook will inspire and support more social labs initiatives across Europe and beyond. By doing so, it aims to contribute to a more democratic, innovative, and sustainable society.

The guidebook is available online via this link.


Social Labs: A Shared Participatory Methodology for Fieldwork






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