evolvGREEN | Community Sustainability Lab

The Background

There are many wonderful examples across Canada of campus or city living labs that address sustainability issues, often through university-municipal partnerships and student led research projects. There are fewer opportunities for members of the broader community to bring forward sustainability issues that they may be facing. The Community Sustainability Lab (CSL) would aim to address this gap for members of the broader Waterloo region community.

We believe that bringing the right people together and providing them with dedicated space and time to think outside of the box, with the assistance of carefully facilitated collaborative work sessions, can catalyze innovative solutions to difficult problems. We believe in the power of conversation, connection, and collaboration to get things done!

Our mission is to enable all members of our community to convert their sustainability interest into action, by providing a forum for any individual or organization to raise and address issues that are holding them back

The Idea

The CSL Lab aims to address pressing sustainability issues that community members are facing in order to find solutions that will drive the clean economy, reduce environmental impact, and improve health and well-being.

The CSL would leverage a large network of experts in many various of sustainability to partner with community members that are facing an intractable sustainability problem or barriers to sustainability. Providing access to expertise, new partnerships, and innovative thinking. The CSL will be a living lab solution to address issues that are barriers to sustainability.

The Community Sustainability Lab aims to:

  • Provide a forum for Waterloo Region community members to raise sustainability issues that they face
  • Provide a formalized process to identify and solve community based sustainability issues
  • Engage a diverse set of experts in the issue area in a facilitated solution creation process
  • Match the resulting idea(s) or solution(s) to an appropriate organization or team for further development

The Team

The CSL would be overseen by the evolvGREEN partners, who would also work with a diverse group of subject matter experts for that particular issue. CSL Expert Roster would be comprised of experts from various paradigms, who are passionate about sustainability and social change.

The Outcome

Although still in the early phases, the CSL program would be designed in a way that allows any individual, business, or organization to fill out and submit an Issue Intake. The CSL team would then review and select one issue per quarter to address in a Lab session.

Once an issue is selected, an appropriate and diverse group of subject matter experts for that particular issue is convened and the issue raiser, expert panel, and any other relevant participants, can participate in a series of facilitated workshops that will allow for in-depth exploration of the issue and the brainstorming and selection of solutions. Depending on the issue, there could be a wide range of potential solutions, such as new research projects, new businesses or products, new municipal policies – the list goes on!

At the end of the ideation workshop sessions, participants will be encouraged to form solution implementation teams for any ideas that they could imagine working on beyond the CSL workshops. Solution owners will be connected directly to each other to work on implementing the solution(s) envisioned in the Lab workshops. The CSL team will provide regular follow-ups to solution teams to offer further support and document progress and successes.