It’s vital not to rush into things. Trying to do too much too soon, and communicating before you’re ready, can damage your reputation before you’ve really begun. Creating trust and credibility takes time. Identifying the people you need for your network takes time. Building collaborations takes time. And producing results takes time as well.

So you’ll benefit massively by taking time at the beginning to lay solid foundations for the creation of your lab, by following the proper steps.

Testing your assumptions about the value you offer and what you want to achieve is crucial.

Start by asking yourself some basic questions:

  • Why do you want to start a lab?
  • Do you need to start one? 
  • Do you have the resources to start a lab (network, trust, time, skills etc)?
  • Which SDGs do you want or need to address? How are they connected? 

Then consider the wider context:

  • Where do you sit in the SDG ecosystem? What credibility does that give you? What are you missing?
  • Who are the different actors, relevant for you? Do you know them – or are you assuming you do?
  • What tools would give you the ability to reach out and bring in the right community? Do you have these tools?
  • If you don't have the tools you require, who are the partners you need to bring to the table?

Example: An academic institution is a great convener because they have a neutral reputation. But they might require another partner that has more resources to move things ahead, like a foundation or a government.

Convening is another word for bringing people together. [Source: Oxford Dictionary].

In the context of sustainable development, convening power is ‘the ability to catalyze collective action by relevant actors to address global and regional development challenges’. [Source: World Bank].

Then focus more specifically:

  • What specific niche are you going to fill? What achievements do you want to prioritise?
  • How can you best establish credibility?
  • How can you best support SDG implementation through greater Integration, Collaboration, and Innovation?
This learning journey will aim to unpack the three paradigms/ ways of achieving the 2030 Agenda.

The three paradigms are Integration, Collaboration, and Innovation. We’ll dive-in in greater detail later on, but on a basic level:
Integration is joining forces with diverse sectors of expertise, combining resources and avoiding overlap to accomplish much more together than you could individually.
Collaboration is about finding mutual interests and aligning incentives so all actors feel they have gained additional value.
Innovation isn’t just about products or services, but also processes. Even changing small things like how you conduct meetings can have a huge impact on your initiative. Being smart about how you implement the basics of innovation (i.e. productive meetings and streamlined processes) will give you extra space and time to focus on more impactful innovation.
As you unpack your assumptions and begin exploring how to start a Lab, it’s important to understand the Mindset of the 2030 Agenda in terms of the three paradigms of Integration, Collaboration and Innovation. Because we'll never find new, sustainable solutions if we only look at challenges in an obvious, compartmentalised way.

Now go to the ‘Getting Started’ section of your Blueprint document and add some notes. As you do, consider these prompts:

Note specifically how the SDGs are integrated in your community or area of focus. In other words, what are the key linked areas you may need to map, in order to achieve your core aims?

For example, if you’re focused on climate action, what are the key drivers or elements to understand. What haven’t you thought about (i.e. What is the impact of climate on migration? What is the impact of gender on poverty eradication etc)?

Please consult these links and additional resources to learn more:

  • We were inspired by the MindLab. While it’s no longer in existence, this article highlights some of its lessons and key takeaways
  • Here's a useful UN website to learn more about the integrated nature of the SDGs
We’re always interested in benefitting from the experiences of others. If you have any case studies or other learnings you would like to pass on to us, please send them to SDG Lab Geneva.