Please briefly describe the initiative, what issue or challenge it aims to address and specify its objectives. (300 words maximum)
LabX is a laboratory that aims to embed a culture of experimentation in the Portuguese Public Administration (PA), (re)designing its practices and processes around the citizens' needs and expectations.
Created in 2017, its immediate goal is to stop guessing what citizens want and find out what they really need. In the long run, the hope is to increase citizen’s trust in public services and enable more evidence-based policymaking.
With a multidisciplinary team that combines service designers, public servants and social scientists, LabX co-creates solutions with citizens, public officials and policymakers, engaging these stakeholders and grasping their specific contributions.
The laboratory stands as a «safe place» where it is possible to research, co-create, experiment and test solutions before implementing them, which results in innovative public services that improve citizen’s lives. It’s a place to submit assumptions to a reality check and review them, hopefully acting as an agent of change, an innovation facilitator and an instrument meant to enable the (re)design of public services.
Researching the real experiences of citizens, LabX defines the «right problem» without jumping into prearranged recipes. Through its participatory and experimental approach, LabX demonstrates that innovation is not only about technology or massive initiatives, and that simple solutions may have a big impact in societal terms. In order to do that, LabX promotes the work with experts, citizens, public officials and policymakers, engaging all these stakeholders in the experimentation process and enabling an environment that fosters collaboration, breaking silos within the public administration.
Please explain how the initiative is linked to the selected category. (100 words maximum)
The basis of the LabX methodology is to engage the different stakeholders, namely the citizens and the entrepreneurs, in all the phases of the development of a new public service. To do that, Labx uses several instruments (Storyboarding; Brainwriting; Personas; Team Canvas; Exploratory Visits, etc) that include them in the decision making process in a structured way, providing them access to information, promoting their participation and giving them a voice regarding the development of public services and institutions, which in turn enables transparency and accountability, paving the way to a more efficient monitoring.
a. Please specify which SDGs and target(s) the initiative supports and describe concretely how the initiative has contributed to their implementation. (200 words maximum)
By enabling effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels (SDG 16.6), LabX is specifically aligned with SDG 16, and it does it so by ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels (SDG 16.7).
LabX mission is all about transforming the PA into a space where daily practices are continuously questioned and innovation is considered and tested with a view to improving public service. It’s a place where these are designed for and with Citizens and Businesses, and where public servants from different entities have to work together breaking silos and acting as proactive agents of change and true experimenters.
To analyze, deconstruct and question traditional procedures, services and ways of doing things in the PA, and to do it with the structured participation of citizens and entrepreneurs is a major step to the development of more efficient, innovative, inclusive, transparent and accountable public institutions.
It is also worth noting that LabX works with projects and that some of those projects answer to other specific SDG. An example is the “Education for Citizenship” project, which had the goal of finding alternative approaches that promote civic participation in children and young people, in line with SDG4 and 5.
b. Please describe what makes the initiative sustainable in social, economic and environmental terms. (100 words maximum)
LabX experimental projects have those three dimensions into account. Just to give an example, the Public Expenditure / Electronic Invoice project, which integrated evaluation methodologies, measures the impact of introducing an E-Invoice within the framework of the state’s expenditure process.
The conclusions were that the time saved by using the E-Invoice, considering the average wages per category of a public servant, resulted in an annual monetary saving of 101,027,015€. Besides, it would avoid the cutting of 1384 trees/year, the same ones that would be used for the production of the saved consumables.
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant shortfall in governance, public administration or public service within the context of a given country or region. (200 words maximum)
LabX was born as a government project to respond to the need to have a team inside the Portuguese PA that promoted a change of the traditional mindset and status quo, and that allowed to experiment and take risks in a controlled and innovative environment.
In October 2016, the Minister of the Presidency and of Administrative Modernisation, Professor Maria Manuel Leitão Marques, said “in this Laboratory, it will be possible to experiment to improve. Any public service will have the opportunity to put under the microscope a potential innovative solution that you want to introduce in your organization. We can then be bolder because we are going to try out the proposals in a controlled environment. And we will limit the risk and cost of failure.”
This was the vision that gave rise to the project. Afterward, initial financial investment and concrete and ambitious targets were assigned, to be achieved within 36 months, namely two main ones:
• Empower the PA with methodologies that enhance innovation, creating a Network of Innovators;
• Develop 12 innovative projects, covering the phases of research, co-creation, and experimentation.
b. Please describe how your initiative addresses gender inequality in the country context. (100 words maximum)
Portugal has been strongly committed to this issue, and LabX is no exception, considering gender equality in its projects.
For instance, in terms of themes and language, there’s always that concern. In the Education for Citizenship project, for example, in order to engage children in the implementation of local projects, a card game “Agora Falo Eu!” (“Now I Speak!) was developed, and the theme of Gender Equality was taken into consideration in some of the cards.
Also, in terms of ensuring balanced participation (e.g. interviews, surveys, participation in workshops), LabX has a gender-weighted involvement in all its projects
c. Please describe who the target group(s) were, and explain how the initiative improved outcomes for these target groups. (200 words maximum)
LabX activities benefit especially:
• Citizens: by having a citizen’s centric approach and co-creation methodologies that address their real problems and needs, citizens are the primary beneficiaries. In the last 2 years, 6951 citizens were actively engaged – not to mention the citizens benefiting from the innovative services developed;
• Public servants: by stimulating their innovation capabilities and by empowering them with a new set of skills. Besides the 1.230 public servants being engaged in the experimental projects, LabX capacitated 311 public servants and creating the Network of Innovators.
• Public entities: since it helps to break silos and to foster networks, LabX contributes to greater efficiency and swiftness in the processes within the Public Administration. Given its focus on prototyping and testing before implementation, it allows the development of more efficient solutions and places them under evaluation procedures. LabX has engaged 46 public entities.
• Businesses: by creating bridges between public entities and businesses that can support LabX activities and capacity, as well as bringing expertise in the development of better public services. LabX has involved 56 entrepreneurs.
• Academia: To scale and bring expertise to the projects, LabX has actively collaborated with research centers, design factories, and design labs, among others.
a. Please describe how the initiative was implemented including key developments and steps, monitoring and evaluation activities, and the chronology. (300 words)
LabX was created in 2017 as an organic unit of the Administrative Modernization Agency (AMA), which is the public entity in charge of promoting the simplification and modernization of the public sector in Portugal, with an area of activity transversal to the all public administration.
The Laboratory is in itself a constantly evolving work. Various types of initiatives have been tried out, with different methodologies and different partners. After 2 years of activity, LabX trained more than 300 public servants, contacted 46 Public Administration organizations and completed 11 experimentation projects involving around 7000 citizens and 1200 public servants. Currently, in order to broaden the scope of the initiatives, LabX is stimulating a growing Network of Innovators with around 451 members, supporting the creation of laboratories at the local or sectoral level and easing the relationship with key partners for innovation, namely in the Academy and in the scientific and technological ecosystem.
Besides promoting the stakeholder’s participation, LabX has also been progressively more invested in several empowerment initiatives aimed at training public administration. LabX does not intend to have a monopoly on innovation within the Public Administration, quite the contrary, changes only become sustainable over time if they are internalized by public entities and their employees.
With this in mind, LabX work as a connector and activator of the PA innovation ecosystem, creating bridges between public entities and the national scientific system, the community of entrepreneurs, civil society organizations and, especially, the citizens, has been a growing priority. A transformative potential that is also the result of a sound communication strategy (media, social networks, etc) which enables a more efficient sharing of experiences and results.
b. Please clearly explain the obstacles encountered and how they were overcome. (100 words)
There are three main obstacles to highlight:
1. The risk of not understanding the PA context and challenges, which was overcome by integrating public servants on the team.
2. Public entities are organized in silos – which was surpassed by ensuring the participation of all stakeholders gathering support for the project and ensuring that all needs and expectations are captured.
3. The PA often perceives innovation teams as a niche or an exception. To break this misconception and empower public servants, LabX has been carried out dissemination and capacitation initiatives to public servants on its methodology and tools.
a. Please explain in what ways the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region. (100 words maximum)
The inclusion of all the relevant stakeholders in the development of new services and solutions in the Portuguese public administration is not completely new, but to do it in such a structured and integrated way is a novelty.
With a team of people from different backgrounds and experiences, from inside the public administration, and from outside, LabX has been able to engage different stakeholders and to promote their methodologies in several entities, at the same time that it facilitates collaboration and enables an innovative mind-set.
b. Please describe, if relevant, how the initiative drew inspiration from successful initiative in other regions, countries and localities. (100 words maximum)
Before creating the LabX, insights from other similar initiatives from other countries were considered (e.g. MindLab, La 27e Région, Design Council UK). NESTA was the chosen partner to help design the new team and mentor them in their first year. LabX is now part of State of Change, the world’s best public innovation practitioners.
The close contact with the work been developed by the OCDE Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, OPSI, and the participation in several of their meetings and activities, also facilitated the exchange of best practices and the sharing of information with innovation experts from different countries.
a. Has the initiative been transferred and/or adapted to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions) to your organization’s knowledge? If yes, please explain where and how. (200 words maximum)
Several public entities have shown interest in pushing forward the innovation through the embedment of innovations teams, units or even labs. To address that, LabX created the Network of Associated Laboratories, which set up a belt of multipliers, i.e. teams or units that, guided by the LabX methodology, implement experimental projects, train other public servants and promote an Open Administration. Its goal is to amplify, replicate and scale the experimental approaches of LabX to the whole PA. The Coimbra City Council has just started one of these initiatives and in the pipeline, there are more 2 City Councils with similar projects
As LabX does not intend to have a monopoly on innovation within the PA, it has developed a series of initiatives meant to disseminate its methodology. First, the Pro’LabX, awareness sessions (4 hours) aimed at disseminating the methodological approach of LabX and awakening innovative public servants. Then, immersive training sessions, which are collaborative sessions (17 hours, including fieldwork) focused on the specific challenges of a given experimental project. Thirdly, the mentoring sessions, which take place over a 6-month period, ensure that the teams involved in the experimental projects have a customized follow-up in order to achieve their goals.
b. If not yet transferred/adapted to other contexts, please describe the potential for transferability. (200 words maximum)
It was transferred and adapted to other contexts.
a. What specific resources (i.e. financial, human or others) were used to implement the initiative? (100 words maximum)
To be able to be innovative and have an out of the box approach, LabX has a multidisciplinary team with each of its 6 collaborators bringing something new and different to the table.
A sound political support is also of major importance in an initiative such as this that obliges a high degree of coordination between different entities. Besides the political support, the fact that LabX is a unit from the AMA, which has projects throughout all the public administration, enables their cross-section action and guarantees that LabX has all the needed operational support (human resources, legal department, etc).
b. Please explain what makes the initiative sustainable over time, in financial and institutional terms. (100 words maximum)
LabX is not intended to be a profitable financial solution since its work is about empowering the citizens and improving public services and public entities.
Part of the LabX initial funding was assured by the European Union, and the rest came from the state budget, which will continue to be secure due to the political support that has proved to be consensual throughout all the political spectrum.
The fact that it’s part of AMA and the established partnerships with companies, academia, entrepreneurs and civil society assure its institutional stability and support on human and financial resources.
a. Was the initiative formally evaluated either internally or externally?
b. Please describe how it was evaluated and by whom? (100 words maximum)
The LabX team is very focused on analyzing the results of their projects and publishing it in a very transparent way, which is part of their efforts to spread their methodology across the PA. In light of this, LabX just published its Progress Report regarding their two years of work.
It was a self-assessment done by the LabX team but also based on testimonies, evaluation forms and other feedback mechanisms applied to the public entities and/or servants involved in each of the projects, as well as on technical reports made by the research centers that have partnered with LabX’s projects.
c. Please describe the indicators and tools used. (100 words maximum)
Being based on the combination of testimonies, evaluation forms and other feedback mechanisms, the study has a strong qualitative component, but it also looks at numbers, not only integrating the technical reports by research centers from Academia (e.g. rigorous examination of prototypes and user experience, among others) but also on LabX own recollection tools (customer journey maps, interviews, surveys, etc.). Besides, it analyzes the LabX different projects, their products, main results and main challenges.
d. What were the main findings of the evaluation (e.g. adequacy of resources mobilized for the initiative, quality of implementation and challenges faced, main outcomes, sustainability of the initiative, impacts) and how this information is being used to inform the initiative’s implementation. (200 words maximum)
In its two years work, LabX:
• Trained 311 public servants;
• Worked with 46 Public Entities;
• Completed 11 projects engaging around 7000 citizens and 1200 public servants;
• Trained 311 public servants;
• Did four mentoring initiatives to teams from PA;
• Completed 16 Pro’LabX Sessions;
• Managed a Network of Innovators with 451 members;
• Published 5 editions of the LabXpresso newsletter;
• Participated in 27 national and 15 international events promoting innovation;
Besides the analysis of the general numbers, the Report presents the main results of each of the LabX initiatives. Depending on the project, some of the results are focused on a better understanding of the users' needs and motivations by using participatory tools, others on the part of breaking silos between different institutions, others on the transfer of innovation skills, and so on.
The process of doing the report was in itself an important self-assessment exercise on LabX results, relevance, and efficiency. It also enables to think about alternatives and changes to be introduced in its strategy based on that knowledge. Besides, it was a useful initiative in terms of identifying and understanding some of the main challenges faced by the team on their daily work and think about ways to address it.
Please describe how the initiative strives to work in an integrated manner within its institutional landscape – for example, how does the initiative work horizontally and/or vertically across different levels of government? (200 words maximum)
LabX is an AMA organic unit, which makes it easier to work with public entities across all government. All the collaboration proposals coming from the public entities are aligned between the AMA Board of Directors, the LabX and the Secretary of State for Innovation and Administrative Modernization. Once approved, the proposals are transformed into a legal protocol defining the roles and conditions of collaboration in order to have a solid and structured commitment from both parts.
In these collaborations, LabX, who does not want to operate as a consultant or to own the innovation in PA, works to empower the public servants involved on the project, namely through immersive training in experimentation. The goal is to disseminate a culture of experimentation.
Besides, LabX also develops partnerships with research centers and stakeholders from the national scientific ecosystem, with the community of entrepreneurs, and with civil society organizations. Using its own limitations, such as the small size of the team, as an opportunity to find alternatives, LabX emphasizes its role as a mediator and a builder of relationships between the innovation ecosystem partners.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe which stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative and how this engagement took place. (200 words maximum)
LabX methodology in each project is extremely focused on:
• The co-creation and experimentation of possible solutions, using participatory methods that engage citizens and companies, studying and analyzing the end user’s real needs and expectations, and making sure that the services respond to those necessities;
• Using research instruments that ensure that no one is left behind, through the use of different tools (interviews, surveys, etc) adapted to the context and the specificities of each project, which can be seen in the several tools LabX has and that are included on the Toolkit they developed.
• The collaboration between different public entities and other stakeholders of the innovation ecosystem, such as research centers from academia, that have a strong know-how and methodological approach;
• Transforming and empowering public administration and public servants.
It is important to highlight that LabX doesn’t implement the projects, that’s the responsibility of the entity in charge of the service. LabX enables a co-creative environment, providing the tools and the evidences to ensure that the service responds to the citizens' needs in an efficient way.
Please describe the key lessons learned, and how your organization plans to improve the initiative. (200 words maximum)
LabX key lessons learned are:
• Use knowledge to inform decisions and sustain arguments: investing in research to circumscribe the right problem; collaborating with scientific research centers and design labs; using data already collected and available from the services; collecting original data from the field.
• Breaking down barriers to participation and ensuring the participation of all stakeholders. This is not only a quick way to gather support for the project, but also a way to ensure the inclusion of the different needs and expectations from the start.
• Importance of working in collaboration: LabX is building the “Network of Innovators”, where public servants from different institutional backgrounds have the opportunity to challenge the other colleagues, share opinions, or contribute and debate their ideas and projects.
• Disseminating an experimental mind-set: although pilots are common in PA, the research, co-creation, and experiment are not common practice. LabX disseminates its methodology in empowerment sessions, mentoring and fostering experimental projects.
• It’s important to demonstrate value and measure impact: by not only demonstrating the results achieved, but more importantly, to promote an evaluation culture within the PA, LabX wishes to keep the focus on the societal contributions of the Government, improving its efficiency and the citizens’ lives.