The Lab Connections event in October 2016 was meant to familiarise policymakers with policy labs and policy lab approaches by hands-on work on EU challenges. Ten challenges from eight different policy areas were re-framed and explored in parallel lab sessions involving policy labs, Commission services, public authorities from different Member States and academics. Ideas for actions were generated for each challenge, and for some of them we started moving towards implementation by exploring the necessary steps and  activities that could act as kick-starters.

Where are we now?

Work is continuing on seven of the originally nine challenges. So far it has mainly consisted of refining the focus, enlarging the group of challenge owners and ensuring stronger internal buy-in within different Commission services, and planning the activities. Below you’ll see what we have been doing up to now.

Challenge: Connecting digital, physical, natural and social solutions for cities


Lab session on-the-go with iCapital Alumni cities in Amsterdam - November 2016

Lab session on-the-go with iCapital Alumni cities in Amsterdam – November 2016

This challenge was brought forward by the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD). The ambition is to move away from a compartmentalised policymaking focused on sectors to instead focus on solving problems and developing innovations generated by engaged citizens. The main idea is the creation of 3rd space for Commission and external stakeholders to meet and engage in joint efforts to support systemic, or holistic, urban innovation.  A 3rd space can be seen as a neutral meeting place where you can participate as an individual contributor rather than a representative of an institutional position.

Mapping the actors and topics to identify federating themes for a 3rd space lab session

Mapping the actors and topics to identify federating themes for a 3rd space lab session

The next step will be the organisation of an urban policy lab session involving Commission colleagues from different services working on urban issues and key urban stakeholders, including people from city administrations and local 3rd spaces. The objective would be to test the concept and understand what it would take to make it fly. Marleen Stikker from the Waag Society is our external partner in this activity.

Challenge: Culture and creative sectors in youth employment

This challenge was originally brought forward by the Directorate-General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) but now also has the Directorate-General for Employment (DG  EMPL) on-board.

The shared interest is the intersection of education and skills, culture and creativity, entrepreneurship and the needs and opportunities of the platform economy. Specifically it is about understanding the role Creative Hubs could play in preparing youth for a platform economy.

The idea is to work with young as co-researchers to understand their expectations and needs when it comes to a gig-type labour market.


But before launching this work there is still some work needed to refine the challenge and understand what outcomes would be most relevant for all parties involved.  This will happen in a framing and planning session on February 9th. Cat Drew, former UK Policy Lab now Uscreates, is our external partner in this project.

Challenge: Improve practice and policy for youth employment in Maghreb countries

The Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) presented this challenge in Lab Connections but has since been joined by DG Education and Culture, DG Employment and the European External Action Service (EEAS).

The specific objective of this action is to provide concrete proposals in support of youth employment for future bilateral cooperation programmes with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

A space for conversations between involved actors, not least the Ministries for education and for employment will be created in the form of a policy dialogue workshop. Our ambition is to have young people feeding this dialogue and we hope to engage them via local actors in the countries concerned.

Outcomes of the session to frame and focus the challenge (January 2017)

Outcomes of the session to frame and focus the “Improve practice and policy for youth employment” challenge (January 2017)

The topic touch upon many issues: employability, entrepreneurship, interaction between universities and the private sector, better complementarity between the public, the informal and the private sectors), forms of inequalities (geographic, gender, …), etc., and ultimately inclusiveness of young in society.

The policy dialogue is preliminary scheduled for mid-May and we would like to target young people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET).

Challenge: Fighting Roma segregation in mainstream education

This challenge was brought forward by the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST), but DG Education and Culture and the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban policy (DG REGIO) have since joined.

Mapping actors and actions, setting the focus and agreeing on the timeline (December 2016)

Mapping actors and actions, setting the focus and agreeing on the timeline for the “Fighting Roma segregation in mainstream education” challenge (December 2016)

The basic idea is to design and test a support intervention in a local community as a prototype for future similar types of interventions. This would involve supporting local organisations that can take on the role of catalysts for change through their interaction with local actors, including schools and children.

We are working with Stéphane Vincent from the 27e Région on this challenge and we are currently looking for internal and external stakeholders to join us in this project. Afterwards, we will identify possible target communities, partner organisations on the ground etc.

Challenge: Assist European start-ups

The original challenge brought by the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) was reframed during Lab Connections to focus on the scale-up rather than start-up phase of small businesses. Issues that came up were how to move resources from start-up to scale-up support; understanding and mapping eco-system(especially exploring how national eco-systems could connect) and new forms of stake­holder engagement.


First development of ideas for action to deal with the challenge

Some of these ideas are now in the pipeline to be implemented and focus is shifting to removing roadblocks for scale-up in a systematic way. A special attention is given to areas where scale-up companies can make significant contributions to addressing major societal challenges.

A framing and planning lab session will be held in early March to further refine the action. Anna Brussa from Inno_Lab just joined as partner and will work with us on this challenge.

Challenge: A citizen charter for digital public services

This challenge was brought forward by the Directorate-General for Communication Networks, Content and Technology (DG CNECT).

The objective is to develop a charter for the digital rights of citizens by extracting principles from already existing charters and steering documents, etc. These preliminary principles are then to be tested on citizens and matched against real life cases.

Distribution of task and timeline setting (December 2016)

Distribution of task and timeline setting (December 2016)

The next step will be a workshop to decide upon and refine the methodology to be used for the citizen engagement. We are partnering with Françoise Waintrop from SGMAP and João Farinha from Lab_X for this challenge.

Challenge: A EU-wide Once-Only Principle (OOP)

This challenge too was brought forward by the DG for Communication Networks, Content and Technology. The objective is to support the implementation across the EU of the OOP: citizens and organisations should not have to provide the same data more than once to public authorities, even in the case of change of country.

The idea that came up in Lab Connections was to look at how citizens can be carriers of their own data through the design of an “e-wallet” or “personal data key”.


First development of ideas around the challenge

Currently we are investigation whether this approach could feed into an EU funded research project on the Once-Only Principle or whether to test the idea of the e-wallet as one specific case for the e-Citizen Charter.

Are you interested to learn more about this project or any of the challenges? Then do not hesitate to get in touch!

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