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When innovation for coordination becomes collaboration for innovation – Part 2


The ACTION LAB as a space for innovation to inspire changes in coordination

With the goal of providing incentives to change our coordination frameworks among different actors and institutions and taking advantage of the opportunity of advances in the development of climate policy in Colombia, CDKN Colombia, in association with the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, organized the ACTION LAB.

The principal idea of the ACTION LAB centered on the creation of a method that remedies the factors that traditionally have been barriers to cooperation and that also generate a degree of transformation among people. To do so, the ACTION LAB was conceived and designed as a process with three distinct phases. It included an inspiring exercise in which innovation, individual creativity, and know-how among actors from around the country could develop new ideas and schemes of coordination. Furthermore, it was conceived as a place where innovation comes from within and which empowers individuals’ knowledge and skills, a place of learning to inspire new ways to work and a network for action and coordination.

For participants to fully benefit from this learning process, the ACTION LAB was made up of four phases. A first phase consisted of a “selection” process based on professional and personal criteria to identify potential climate leaders to head activities and complimentary topics in different regions and sectors of the country. Next was a “preparation phase” that was structured around short virtual activities that served as icebreakers among participants, intended to stimulate people’s curiosity and to set the framework for the meeting.  Third, was the gathering “in person” which took place over the course of three days outside of Bogota. The objective was to generate ideas and prototypes of climate coordination and to strengthen innovative leadership through a series of inspiring activities. Finally, the phase of “prototype development” tested the capacity to coordinate participants through the method created in the previous phase and to put the idea of the prototype to work in a viable and tangible project in which coordination among actors was the centerpiece.

In summary, the ACTION LAB led to an understanding about coordination for innovation and for the creation of new schemes to cooperate, including new ways of relating to one another and of joining forces. It was a practical and hands-on, inspiring experience that provided answers to the challenges of creating coordinated efforts among people and institutions.

Lessons and added value of ACTION LAB Colombia

ACTION LAB Colombia provided a unique space to awaken the innovative spirit of the diverse participants, giving value not only to their own reflections but also to the co-creation or the ability to orchestrate changes in the way we generate solutions to climate change. It began with the discovery of mutual interests and understanding in order to develop teamwork. Later, participants were led to “perceive together” from the heart, through collective experiences; to create empathy by allowing feeling from a new perspective. It also provided the space for introspection in order for participants to get down to their essence by addressing core questions: what do I want to do as an individual? What is my own small contribution? How can I achieve this in teamwork? There was also an opportunity to generate the confidence to look at the future, to propose intelligent ideas and to co-create prototypes. Finally, participants could co-evolve by scaling prototypes. There was space for inspiration and for new ways to conceive and to radically change the way to incite climate actions in Colombia. And it generated the chance to create alliances between people who work in a variety of institutions, creating a bridge of creativity to construct innovative prototypes for coordinated climate actions.

The ACTION LAB also demonstrated that inspirational talks could play an important role in motivation, innovation and in stimulating imagination. Three great innovators participated in the event: Jorge Reynolds, the inventor of the pacemaker, Juan Pablo Ruiz, the Colombian who has climbed the summit of Mt. Everest twice, making mountaineering a motivation for leadership, and Gustavo Wilches, who has changed the way we use networks for sustainable development. They showed us that inspiration can generate transformations.

The ACTION LAB exercise showed that coordination is one of the critical elements to develop and implement in policies and strategies in order to urge measures in climate compatible development policies. The Action LAB revealed that, not only do the levels of coordination tend to be low, but many ideas about climate remain embedded in institutions and organization without leading to profound changes. When these ideas are brought to light and visualized by different actors they can become injected with new ideas, resulting in truly original coordinated actions that have the potential to be scaled. In this sense, the ACTION LAB was a platform for participants to create a community of leaders. They identified new friends who will contribute to reinforcing efforts and to generating confidence to take advantage of a consolidated network of contacts for coordinated action in diverse regions of the country.

The ACTION LAB shows the importance of investing time in learning how to coordinate actions. Coordination is one of the keys to success in processes and in achieving solid results. Coordination requires time. While many decision-makers tend to see time as an enemy, investing time and resources (human and financial) in coordination can become the main generator of innovative results and can achieve better methods. The ACTION LAB proved that dedication of time to learning how to coordinate and to identify actors who are key in the field of climate and who can complement the actions of others, to create the basis for and exchange of knowledge and techniques, is a way to “earn time”.

Equally, the methodology proposed by the ACTION LAB of “learning by doing” generated awareness among participants that coordination requires practice and that they have the creative capacities to co-create amazing climate actions that break from the traditional schemes. It was inspiring for participants to break down their own mental barriers and give way to their creative forces. It was inspiring for public entities, who perceived the force of many climate leaders who are willing to collaborate to generate solutions to the climate challenges facing the country. It also fostered a sense of leadership among people who felt empowered and inspired and who saw that traditional patterns of collaboration can be transformed. They gained a sense of being able to return to their own environments with new ways of thinking and of relating to each other in order to achieve greater motivation to promote new methods.

Finally, one of the most valuable lessons of the ACTION LAB has been to conceive of it as a laboratory to develop coordination prototypes. Adopting the focus of the prototype has stimulated the creativity of participants. On the one hand, it made people aware that there is no single recipe or no toolbox to prompt coordination. On the other, coordination is subject to trial and error and will only improve through time as it is practiced. More importantly, it demonstrated that Colombia can become a great laboratory of climate actions where innovative ideas are sown and new ways of scaling creative solutions can be put forth.

What to take away from the ACTION LAB Colombia

Beyond the lessons imparted by ACTION LAB Colombia, there was an inspirational, transformational character that impacted participants. This leads the CDKN to consider the model to be transformative and replicable. The 70 leaders who converged in the magic of co-creation constitute an incredible potential to form innovative networks that surpass traditional boundaries and generate needed solutions to face the climate challenge

The success of the ACTION LAB has been, on one hand, to secure that transformative role of CDKN and to strengthen the alliance between CDKN and the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia, who supported the laboratory financially. On the other hand, it has been to bring together different institutions and organizations who work on climate topics and who can substantially contribute to the development and implementation of climate policy in the country. It has furthermore, another success was to reconcile -through practice, confidence building and good will- certain organizations overcame traditional barriers. Finally, it has been the seed of inspiration for 70 climate leaders who have shown interest in replicating and sharing the transformative experience in their local environments, to promote a country that can achieve climate compatible development.

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