Overline: WORKSHOP
Headline: Toward Democratic Transformation: A Lab on Labs

The purpose of this workshop is to explore and experiment with lab methods and principles to promote democracy and sustainability. We will be guided by the question: What can labs contribute to democracy and sustainability in the German governmental system? The workshop aims to design early prototypes for such labs.

Current times are characterized by an increase in “wicked” problems that challenge established forms of democratic governability. The current climate crisis as well as the digitization are only two examples of this kind of problems that are not compatible with territorial political boundaries. They need timely actions from the local to the global level beyond the traditional divide in specific policy areas. In addition, in an increasingly complex world such problems call for particular expertise. How can we foster transformative change in a democratic manner when problems are increasingly complex?

In response to the challenges of globalization and complexity, different types of labs, such as innovation labs, living labs or transformation labs, have been created world-wide that bring together multiple stake holders to create innovative solutions. These labs have, however, hardly been acknowledged by the scholarship on democracy. The IASS research project Democratic (Re)configurations of Sustainability Transformations in cooperation with the Science Platform Sustainability 2030 endeavors to explore labs as democratic innovation. It sets out to understand how labs can contribute to transformations toward sustainable and democratic futures.

To this end, the IASS will host a lab on labs. In one and a half days, we will explore the design, methods, and configurations of labs for sustainability and democracy. Such labs are a highly versatile instrument that can take many forms. This lab will thus assemble international practitioners with experience in conducting labs, researchers of democracy and sustainability, and governmental actors. The lab will employ various techniques of deliberation and hands-on prototyping to understand and further develop labs as democratic innovation.

The lab will first engage in a mapping of international experiences with different types of labs. It will then explore their democratic dimensions and their contributions to sustainable futures. In the last step, it will relate these international experiences and democratic dimensions to the German context and ask how labs as democratic innovation can fit into the German governmental system.

We will engage collectively in a collaborative and creative a lab setting with a small and diverse group of people, comprising international lab experts, leading scholars of democratic innovations and sustainability research and decision-makers in the field of German sustainability politics. The IASS will document workshop results which are intended to inform political debates in Germany as well as a follow-up lab planned for 2020.

Venue: Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Berliner Str. 130, 14467 Potsdam

Organized by the IASS research group Democratic (Re)configurations of Sustainability Transformations in cooperation with the Science Platform Sustainability 2030