Community Sustainability Lab

Program Overview 

The Community Sustainability Lab (CSL) is a living lab solution to community sustainability issues. The Lab was created by the evolvGREEN partners (Sustainable Waterloo Region, Wilfred Laurier, University of Waterloo, and the Accelerator Centre) to provide Waterloo Region community members with the opportunity to raise and address issues that are barriers to sustainability. 

The Community Sustainability Lab aims to: 

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

What do we mean by “sustainability?”

A common definition of sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Here at evolvGREEN, we support our community in finding the intersection between environmental, social, and economic well-being. Sustainable communities view environmental health, social equity, and economic development as equally important. The Community Sustainability Lab aims to address pressing sustainability issues in the community to find solutions that will drive the clean economy, reduce environmental impact, and improve health and well-being. 

Have you identified an intractable sustainability problem that you cannot solve on your own? Do you need access to expertise, new partnerships, and innovative thinking? The CSL’s large network of experts in many areas of sustainability may be able to help! 

How it works

Any individual, business, or organization may fill out and submit an Issue Intake Form to the Community Sustainability Lab. The CSL team will review all submissions and select one issue with the greatest potential for solution implementation to address in a Lab session. 

Once an issue is selected, the CSL team will convene an appropriate and diverse group of subject matter experts for that particular issue. The issue raiser, expert panel, and any other relevant participants will be invited to 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. 

Why did we create this? 

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 have identified in the community. The Community Sustainability Lab 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 the Waterloo Region 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. 

Intake form 

If you have an issue that you would like the Community Sustainability Lab to address, please let us know! Fill out and submit an Issue Intake Form here. 

Expert Nomination

Are you passionate about sustainability, or know someone who is? Then apply to be included on the Community Sustainability Lab’s expert roster! Participating in CSL sessions is an opportunity to be part of solutions to pressing sustainability issues within the Region of Waterloo. Lab sessions will also provide participants with valuable opportunities to forge new partnerships, increase their sustainability profile, and potentially create new business or research opportunities in the pursuit of sustainability solutions.  

What to expect

The CSL will be convened four times per year. Depending on the issues selected and their required expertise, it will vary how often any one individual on the expert roster is invited to participate in CSL sessions. CSL will ensure, however, that any one individual on the roster is invited to a maximum of two sessions per year, in non-consecutive sessions. 

For each convened Lab session, it is anticipated that participants would require a maximum of 10 hours to prepare for and participate in ideation workshops. In any 12 month period, individuals participating on the CSL expert roster could therefore expect to be invited to a maximum of two sessions and commit up to a maximum of 20 hours.  

Nomination forms

If you know someone who would be a great fit for the CSL Expert Roster, please nominate them using the “Nominating Others” form or encourage them to apply using the “Self Nomination Form.”