France Stratégie launches its Lab' project

France Stratégie launches the Lab', a public innovation laboratory: "a framework for dialogue to examine public problems in a different way, with renewed methods, in a space of conviviality".
Ahe public innovation laboratory is a concept that is gaining momentum. A "neutral experimentation zone", an incubator for collective intelligence, a space for "reflexive" - some would say "disruptive" - co-construction, the Lab responds to the need to design public policies "differently", based in particular on the needs of users and the expectations of citizens. There are currently about sixty such Labs in Europe, including those of Pôle emploi and the Brittany region in France. With what results and lessons for an institution like France Stratégie?
A Lab for what?
There's no secret: to innovate, you have to get out of your routine. In other words, this is what the DITP (Interministerial Directorate for Public Transformation, formerly SGMAP) in the preamble to its manifesto for public innovation The classic methods of administrations often prove their limits by their bureaucratic and "top down" nature. Public innovation ... calls for the deconstruction of these habits". In its manifesto, the DITP lists seven principles for developing innovation in the culture of the French administration: starting from the needs of users and citizens, co-producing: involving stakeholders in concrete solutions, decompartmentalizing structures and methods, taking action, testing: this is the agile method, and giving oneself "the right to make mistakes", a concept popularized in the wake of the "right to make mistakes" concept, which was introduced in the 1980s. learning organization. The Lab is a place that, in its design, meets these requirements.
"Labs are there to put doubt into administrative machines that go straight to the solution", sums up Stéphane Vincent, co-founder and general delegate of the association The 27th Regiona public transformation laboratory created in 2008 with the Regions of France. Even before providing innovative responses in terms of public measures, a Lab "helps to think differently about problems" and to reformulate questions. Benoît Vallauri, head of the TiLab, Brittany's regional public innovation laboratory, even talks about "hacking procedures"! Whatever the method of animation used, the aim is to "break the meeting posture", to encourage speech and even "crazy ideas".
Post-it notes and legos
Obviously it is not enough to create a place - however conducive it may be to the emergence of collective intelligence - for alchemy to occur. Creativity is stimulated. How is it stimulated? By using specific rules, animation methods and operating procedures.
In the Labs we find "a particular mix of skills and disciplines", notes Stéphane Vincent: ethnographers, sociologists, usage specialists, graphic facilitators, experts in creative design and "service design": a method that makes it possible to study the user's "paths", to imagine realistic scenarios, because they are based on field observations, and to experiment with them through prototypes tested in real conditions. "Exploration, immersion in public problems, user tests, simulation of public devices, creation of concepts and construction of prospective scenarios" thus form the basis of the operating methods in the Lab.
Another ingredient of the alchemy: original techniques for producing ideas combining "post-it and mind-mapping", the ASE (Accelerated Solution Environment) method inspired, among others, by Montessori pedagogy, see Serious Play - lego, most often used as a means to (literally) build an idea. An original approach that will make Christophe Mirmand, Prefect of Brittany, say during a meeting in the Palais des Congrès in Paris.he inauguration of the TiLab It's quite odd to sit on footstools and work with post-it notes. But it induces creativity, and that's the desired effect".
Creativity is also largely due to the quality of the facilitators. "We guarantee the values of the Lab," explains Benoît Vallauri, "benevolence, empathy, contribution, collaboration, conviviality" are fundamental rules that participants are reminded of at the beginning of each workshop. The rule is to "bounce off other people's ideas", not to counter or gently ignore them. This is the strength of the collective. In order to co-construct, we must listen to others and take hold of what is being debated, whatever our initial prejudices may be.
A proven method
To get an idea of the efficiency of the Labs, we can go and look at the precursors. The  MindLab is the oldest public innovation lab in the world. Founded in Denmark in 2002, it worked for sixteen years until its recent replacement by a task force dedicated to the digital reform of the public service. This is sufficient hindsight to take stock. At cruising speed, MindLab has handled ten to fifteen projects per year, the most famous of which - called "Burden Hunters" - has become a textbook case, because it has allowed for a radical change in the relationship between administrations and private companies. MindLab has also conducted major foresight exercises and accompanied research programs. Above all, it has brought about a profound change in the organizational structure of Danish administrations by "teaching hundreds of public officials to think like innovators. An experience, and results in terms of efficiency, which have been widely inspiring internationally. Notably the Nesta British or the Laboratorio para Mexico City.
Closer to us, the LAB Pôle emploi created in 2014 with the aim of "working transversally, quickly, involving users and reducing costs", already boasts many successes, notably the emergence of the Emploi Store and digital services dedicated to mobility. Pôle emploi has seen things in a big way: ten agents work for the LAB, including a pair of facilitators specially trained in idea generation techniques, and their co-design workshops can bring together up to fifty players - from jobseekers to start-ups, via the Pôle emploi advisor, the HR director or the expert.
Is such an adventure conceivable at France Stratégie? Yes, says Véronique Fouque. The General Secretary and Director of Development of France Stratégie is convinced: "The 2017-2027 Foresight Exercise has shown that the pooling of our various skills and expertise is extremely value-creating", and the Lab' is a way of "capitalizing on the diversity of the profiles of the experts present at France Stratégie" and of banking on cross-functionality. Moreover, although the institution is not in direct contact with the user, it does have to "understand the expectations, values and potential fears of citizens with regard to public policies" in order to be able to think differently. Here again, the Lab' is the right way to "bring" the citizen into the debates and involve him or her in the elaboration of diagnoses, prospective scenarios or even expert recommendations. "We are thinking in particular about organizing citizens' workshops," says the development director. Finally, as in any organization, the renewal of practices is a necessity. Because it facilitates creativity, the Lab' is the bearer of this change. "Having a place for open discussion beyond hierarchical codes is a necessity when you have the DNA of a think tank," Véronique Fouque observes. France Stratégie's Lab' is also intended to be "an in-house project". There is no question here of setting up a team dedicated to running the workshops, but rather of equipping each agent who wishes to invest in the skills of a facilitator.
A series of arguments sufficient to get the project on track. A "core team" has been trained in the methods of creating a Lab with the MOOCs of the DITP. Volunteer agents undertook a "learning expedition" at the Interdisciplinary Research Centre and a first synthesis of the identity of the Lab' is already circulating. All that remains is to "embark" the whole institution in the project.
Source: France Stratégie /Céline Mareuge
Header imageThe core team of the Lab' de France Stratégie during a brainstorming session on the Lab' service offer.

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