Today the City and University of Guelph signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish and lead a civic lab—an innovative and collaborative approach to community problem solving.
Civic labs are designed with slightly different structures, but all bring together thinkers and doers from many sectors with a focused goal of finding practical solutions to specific community wide challenges. Aptly named, these labs offer participants the opportunity to experiment and test new ideas and models of thinking; conduct research and outreach; and measure success.
The MOU will allow the City and University to research and develop a creative space to explore new ways of thinking and address complex problem solving using methods that would work well in Guelph.
“Around the world, governments are rethinking traditional models of providing services to their communities, striving to do more with less,” said Mayor Karen Farbridge. “Guelph’s lab will offer a new means of harnessing community knowledge in a collaborative way to make positive and fiscally sustainable change.”
The civic lab to open in Guelph, named The Guelph Lab, will be more than just a physical space for connecting people and ideas. It will focus on examining issues, identifying potential changes to existing systems such as those that are health— or environment—related, and creating tangible work plans to put into practice.
Under the lab’s collaborative model, project teams will be assembled to ensure the right people with the right skills are working on each project, including subject matter experts from the City and University.
“We are very excited about the potential this project holds,” commented Linda Hawkins, Director of the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship (ICES) at the University. “We are constantly and consistently forging new paths for learning and research. The Guelph Lab reflects commitment to convening for social innovation in our community, and offering students and faculty places where they can contribute meaningfully.”
“This partnership to develop The Guelph Lab supports the City’s four open government principles—participation, innovation, transparency and accountability—and the City’s Corporate Strategic Plan Framework,” said Ann Pappert, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer. “Participation and collaboration, in all forms, are fundamental to our open government—this effort will allow us to move forward in new ways.”
Scheduled to open later this year, the Guelph Lab will initially focus on new ways to support open government and citizen participation.
About Guelph’s Open Government
Guelph is setting a new standard of openness in municipal government and aims to be the first in Canada to develop an open government action plan at the municipal level.
At the City of Guelph, open government means becoming a more transparent and accountable government; making the best use of technology; and empowering its staff, Council and the community to actively participate in solutions that improve municipal services and life in Guelph.