What is a public innovation lab ?
A public innovation lab consists of a team set up within the services of
regional/local government to propose new methods for designing and implementing public policies.
The goal of the lab is to better account for the needs of users, to break down in-house barriers
and to facilitate working across all the public services departments. Innovation labs may take
various forms and assume a variety of functions: horizon scanning and foresight activities,
ethnographic approaches, rapid prototyping, experimentation, the leading of creative workshops,
the dissemination of practices and organization of training, etc.
What is La Transfo ?
The La Transfo Source Code forms part of
La 27e Région’s La
transfo program; it is designed to help regional/local public services create their
own innovation unit, focusing on innovation/transformation based on the experience of the users.
The experimental lab is supported by a group of public agents, the “ambassadors”, who represent
the diversity of professions of a public administration. This experimental program was conducted
from 2016 to 2020 in partnership with seven public authorities (the cities of Mulhouse, Paris,
Dunkirk and surrounding urban area, the Metropolis of Lille, Strasbourg, Metz and the Region of
Occitanie), and was co-funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. In each city/region, a
multi-disciplinary team of three or four persons, the “residents”, led two- to three-day work
sessions every month with the public agents for a 16- to 18-month period. The sessions were
focused on practical cases based on real issues encountered in the city/region; these served as
the test bench for the future laboratory and/or as its blueprint. Encounters among the various
public services, called Inter-Transfos, were organized throughout program duration, so that all
could participate in the program, exchange ideas and build and share knowledge together.
The entire initiative was openly documented and the work produced is open source content that is
What is the 27e Région ?
With an associative status, la 27e Région inspires and invents the services,
administrations and courses for public action of tomorrow. It is a lab set up to change public
policy and an independent association proposing a multi-disciplinary, deliberative and
experimental space to build desirable futures for public action. Via action-research projects
and knowledge sharing, the association promotes experimentation and a trial-and-error approach
to public action, tests new services, tools, methods and forms of organization with public
administrations and seeks alternatives to dominant ideologies governing the transformation of
public policy. To accomplish this, la 27e Région mobilizes concepts inspired by design, the
social sciences and alternative movements (do-it-yourself projects, an open source culture,
adult education actions) and is backed by a community of practitioners and public agents located
throughout France. It acts, at the same time, as the initiator, the leader and the facilitator
of the La Transfo program and has initiated creation of the “La Transfo Source Code” site. To
What is public policy design ?
Design is a creative means for devising products and services focused on users.
It’s a method, but also a way of thinking about and of understanding projects. Beyond the
“designers’, the concept of design concerns all those who apply an iterative, transforming
innovation logic focused on the user, and is accompanied by high expectations for understanding
and for the esthetics of what is produced. In this context, the design of public policies points
to a multi-disciplinary and collective approach and to a set of methods allowing for questioning
public policies anew, starting from the standpoint of its users/citizens. This is accomplished
by associating the users with trials and simulations and by developing prototypes of solutions
that could be deployed later on with better chances of success.
Who are the Transfo’s ambassadors and residents ?
In every procedure for setting up the experimental lab, a group of 20 volunteer
agents are mandated to follow the action from beginning to end: these are the “ambassadors”.
They participate in each work session, assist in developing the innovation lab and take part in
carrying out its practical applications (cases). A multi-disciplinary unit composed of three
experienced professionals is appointed by La 27e Région to conduct La Transfo within the
regional/local authority; these are the “residents”.
How to involve the public agents ?
How to incorporate a variety of disciplines ?
What do we refer as a “work session” and “practical case” ?
The protocol for conducting the experimental lab comprises two major components:
work sessions and practical cases. Sessions consist of 2- to 3- day work periods that either
take place in the municipality’s or region’s offices or on sites linked to the practical cases
being tested. Both the residents and the ambassador agents participate in these sessions.
Practical cases consist of specific projects developed by the program participants during the
How to pace program rollout ?
How to work on a case basis ?