Nearly 200 people from 13 teams in 13 different municipalities within the MENA region and Europe: The Local Labs on 12-14 November was the first time that the ACT NOW Sprint had been implemented on such a large scale. Never before had local change been so international.
The ongoing COVID-19 situation ruled out meeting up in person. That’s why the Labs were planned as a decentralised event. Rather than travelling to a single location, the teams worked individually in their home regions, each led by an on-site Sprint Mentor. Meanwhile, the ACT NOW team oversaw the proceedings from our office in Vienna, joining the local changemakers via a series of live streams featuring practical information about the sessions as well as pre-recorded messages from our Sparkling Input speakers, renowned experts in the field of local innovation.
Being decentralised means relying on technology. To ensure it all went smoothly, by Friday afternoon, half of the office in Vienna had been transformed into a makeshift TV studio, enabling us to join the teams in HD. Social media helped ensure the teams kept in touch via photos and videos posted to the hashtag #actnowlocal.
The Projects Take Shape
The weekend began with the teams identifying the challenge they wanted to tackle. One participant told us: “Listening to young people and to the perspectives of those affected by policy in their own words has been instrumental in having an expanded and down-to-earth definition of the local challenge. Participation is key for effective innovation.” As we continued talking to the local teams over the course of the weekend, the strengths of the ACT NOW Sprint process were confirmed. The participants had brought with them an abundance of energy, creativity, and motivation. The Sprint provided them with the necessary structure to quickly translate that energy into concrete results.
For many of us on the ACT NOW team, one of the real highlights of the weekend came on Saturday with the Local Change Expert sessions. In a series of breakout rooms, the teams discussed their projects with six highly experienced practitioners at the vanguard of local innovation. By giving them an outside perspective and practical advice on how to carry out their projects, the experts helped define the next steps for the teams. It was thrilling to see the teams’ plans begin to take concrete form.
On Sunday, the Labs came to a close as the teams completed their project roadmaps and submission videos. Yet the Local Labs were only the beginning of the process. Participants who continue developing their projects will get the chance to showcase them at the ACT NOW Mayors’ Conference in Stuttgart in spring 2022. Meanwhile, we will continue to assist the teams along the way through regular check-in calls and best practice exchange. Preparations for the conference are already underway; we hope to see the teams there.
It only remains to once again say a big thank you to all the participants and contributors. Your hard work and dedication helped us to show what the ACT NOW Sprint is capable of on a large scale. In our next blog, we will be taking a look at some of the projects which emerged from the weekend.