Early Steps on the Journey of the Sustainability Transition Lab

We knew we had become part of a “social innovation lab wave” when the response to our Call for Expressions of Interest in the Sustainability Transition Lab last June attracted almost two dozen ideas from across Canada for projects and partnerships.

Talking to so many groups over the summer as we worked with our Advisory Council to identify the best possible candidates for our first project, we were humbled and inspired. Ultimately, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with Evergreen CityWorks to develop a Sustainability Transition Lab project focused on the wicked problem of affordable and sustainable housing in the Greater Toronto Area.

Over the course of the fall, the GTA Housing Action Lab took shape. The “pre-lab” phase has itself been a collaborative learning process, and we will have much to share about the process of building a highly functional, deeply collaborative approach to every element of a project of this scope – from process design and partnership-building, to budgeting and resource allocation. Our two organizations have forged a strong relationship, rooted in an ethic of always asking ourselves, “What can we effectively do with the resources we have to move towards the breakthrough results that we aspire to and that the system requires?” The Housing Action Lab is now on its way, and over 40 organizations in the Toronto area are set to become involved. We look forward to sharing the results as the project unfolds.

Meanwhile, we have also continued to develop other collaborative projects with partners, on topics including energy transition, sustainability literacy, and the next phase of the Towards a Gold-standard Benchmark for Sustainable Business. In November 2013, we convened many of these partners and other contributors to the Sustainability Transition Lab program in Toronto to learn together and further develop three different projects. The summary report from this meeting provides a useful overview both of the Sustainability Transition Lab in general, and of the specific projects. The journey is underway – we look forward to engaging with you as we continue.

Want to engage further in the conversation about sustainability-driven collaboration? The Natural Step Canada is excited to host the 2nd annual Accelerate: Collaborating for Sustainability Conference on June 5-6, 2014, in Toronto. Join us to deepen learning about collaboration from experts and practitioners, experience collaboration by creating connections with other change agents, and seed new collaborative initiatives. Learn more and register today!