How do you promote a user-centred culture within a regional administration? How do make different parts of an administration speak the same language? How do you involve citizens to co-create services? Well, you participate in the Transfo programme and set up your own design lab.

marseille lab gathering

Meeting the 27e Region and the PACA region innovation lab

On November 18-19 the 27e Region organised in collaboration with the JRC EU Policy Lab a meeting of French regional labs with representatives of the European Commission services from the Directorates-General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (CONNECT), Regional and Urban Policy (REGIO) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC). The meeting was held in Marseille and hosted by the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region’s own public innovation lab. Representatives from the public innovation labs of Champagne-Ardenne and Pays de la Loire also joined the meeting by phone.The meeting was an opportunity to learn about the TRANSFO programme (2011-2014) run by the 27e Région in four French regions, the regional labs that have been created as a direct result of the programme. It was also an opportunity to exchange about lab practices, the role of labs for regional development and the possible links between territorially anchored labs and the EU level. The EU eGovernment action plan and how it relates to regional authorities was also on the agenda.

The 27e Region and the Transfo programme

The 27e Région is a “lab for public transformation” working with public administrations to design more user-centred public policies and programmes. It uses an action-research approach, with methods and expertise from (creative) design and social sciences focusing on the experience of users, civil servants and citizens. The Transfo is an experimental program initiated in 2011 aiming at prototyping “design & innovation team” or “lab” within public administrations. An “interim lab” is set up by a cross-disciplinary team that trains a volunteer group of civil servants, elected officials and citizens in innovation skills. This extended innovation teal then focus on specific issues during ten periods of one week over two to three years. The goal is two-fold – to address urgent issues linked to the implementation of public policies and to build and test an innovation function (a lab) in vivo, including its methods, its governance, its role in the organization etc. The initial programme has covered the four regions of Bourgogne, Champagne-Ardenne, Pays de la Loire and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. In the three latter an innovation lab has been set up as a direct outcome of the programme.

Take-aways from the discussion

Fresh thinking – labs brings fresh a breath of fresh air to old structures and helps to motivate and give a sense to public servants.

Embedding labs – associating trained staff outside of the labs to its activities on a part time basis extends the reach of the labs and help to embed its activities in the wider organisation.

Speed – need to mobilise focused resources for short interventions. The momentum is easily lost in too long processes.

Do-tanks, not think-tanks – labs should focus on action and aim to move quickly to the implementation phase as otherwise upcoming urgencies may be prioritised.

Tailor-made interventions – interventions need to be designed with the stakeholders as off-the shelf standardised tools do not work well.

Labs are fragile – most labs are small and depend on political support that may shift with elections. Labs also need to adapt to political cycles – end of term means more focus on internal procedure, a new term allows focusing on the newly elected political agendas.

Strengthening EU-local level links

At the end of the session, the participants introduced some new ideas on how to strenghten EU – local level links, also acknowledging a potential role for the EU Policy lab. Connecting our projects with activities at regional dimension on themes of common interest could allow to match European policy issues with ground realities and experimentation. Furthermore, the EU Policy lab could collaborate in the organisation of joint thematic events focusing on how labs at different governance levels (regional, national, European) could be connected to take on a specific policy issue.

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