Local Innovation as the Key to Global Transformation

The Local Labs are a co-creative three-day event specially developed to empower participants to bring about tangible change in their communities. In the first entry in a new series of blogs by the team behind the programme, Mathis Dippon discusses why local action is the key to bringing about change on a global scale.

The gap between knowing and doing

Climate change, COVID-19, globalisation, populism and social polarisation: Everywhere you turn, the crises of our times are being discussed at great volume and even greater length. Yet what really counts is to go the next step and start taking action. One thing is very clear: We need to fundamentally transform the way we live, the way we work, and the way our economy functions. The most pressing question for anyone who wants to make a difference is how to make the transition from insight to action. How can we bridge the gap between knowing and doing?

Reducing complexity, increasing focus

In the highly complex, globalised world, making a change has to begin with clarity. This means finding an approachable, tangible way to take action. And this is where local innovation comes in. By focussing on the local level, we can limit the field of action, thereby reducing the level of complexity. This allows us to concentrate on particular, concrete scenarios, addressing specific challenges and actively shaping our day-to-day coexistence.

Even once the scope has been narrowed by focussing on our own local communities, getting started can be a challenge. The need for an inclusive environment that encourages active participation prompted us to launch the Local Labs. The programme provides a structured process framework which adapts a selection of design thinking methods to suit local needs, turning them into powerful tools for town halls around the world. Participants come away with a sense of the difference they can make by getting involved. It allows them to shape their local environment directly, building relationships with the community and strengthening their sense of belonging.

Local engagement, global impact

Local action isn’t just about having an immediate impact on our own communities – it is also a central pillar of global transformation. All the challenges addressed in a Local Lab fall within the scope of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a blueprint assembled to help local actors from around the world to come together to fight the biggest threats currently facing our planet. 

Whereas a top-down, “one-size-fits-all” approach risks leaving individual communities behind, an internationally coordinated local approach gives us the best of both worlds. Local Labs participants become part of the international ACT NOW network, which connects and empowers local changemakers. They can also draw inspiration from our extensive collection of international best practices. By sharing ideas and adapting solutions to fit our individual communities, we can make focused changes with global reach.

Starting close to home is key to restoring people’s faith in politics – and developing lasting solutions.

In our next blog, my colleague Marie will be taking a closer look at the methods behind Local Labs and giving you a taste of what to expect at the Local Labs on 12 – 14 November.  It’s easy enough to talk about better processes. What counts is putting them into practice.