Please note: some of the content here is also summarised at the start of the ‘How to convene around the SDGs’ section. That section then covers a range of practical tools and techniques (that might also be useful to people setting up a lab).
Welcome to this 45-minute Section on How To Set Up A Lab. As you work through it, we hope you find it useful – but please remember that you can adapt all of these tools and approaches to your own situation.

The aim of this resource is to pass on what we’ve learned. There are never one-size-fits-all solutions that work equally for everyone. So please take what works for you, and apply it in your own way.

In setting up the SDG Lab, we learned that there are essentially six key steps needed to start a lab or initiative (although we didn’t know that at the start of our journey!)

The content of this Section is organised around those six steps. They are presented in sequential order.

Steps 1-3 involve conceptual groundwork to help you define your goals + objectives.

1. Getting Started

Do some conceptual groundwork, to ensure you define your objectives properly. This provides a solid foundation for everything else you want to do.

2. Gathering your Community

Map your network. This helps you see who’s missing. Then you can fill the gaps, and start building fruitful collaborations to mobilize your network.

3. Confirming your focus

Validate your core focus and then distil it into a key proposition.

Steps 4-6 are more tangible and practical.

4. Practical Steps

Once you’ve checked your assumptions, started to grow a community and have your ‘elevator pitch’, you’re ready to take more tangible, practical steps.

5. Taking Action

An SDG Lab brings diverse people together (integrate), gets them to work together (collaborate) and finds new approaches (innovate). These elements are necessary considerations to advance and implement the key elements of the 2030 Agenda in your project.

6. Practicalities

There are a wide range of practical approaches you can take to be impactful, manage risks and protect your operational space on an ongoing basis.
Steps 1-3 involve conceptual groundwork to help you define your goals and objectives. They are ‘circular’, rather than linear. (Which means that when you’ve been through them for the first time, you might ‘circle back’ and do them again, tightening-things up based on what you’ve learned).
Steps 4-6 are more tangible and practical. It might be tempting to skip ahead and start with these, but if you do, you might find that your work is built on flawed assumptions. Going through Steps 1-3 first means that you will be more prepared to advance your initiative, and this approach can help you avoid some of our mistakes!

Your Blueprint

The best learning experiences are active ones with tangible outputs. So to support you in making a real plan to set up your own Lab, we have provided a Blueprint Template.
Download your blueprint

It is completely optional, but if you do want to use it, please follow these suggestions:

  1. Download a copy before you start working through this Section.
  2. As you work through Steps 1-6 in Setting Up A Lab, use the Blueprint to record your personal notes and action points.
  3. At the end of our coverage of each Step, there will be specific prompts for you, to help you complete the relevant part of the Blueprint.
  4. Ay the end of this Section, you will have a basic Blueprint for setting up a Lab of your own that you can then use as a basis for action.
  5. Remember to update it every time you get relevant inputs that update/refine your understanding. It should be a living document. As your Lab grows, it could become an historical record to guide you.

Inclusive and accessible

Before you start, it’s very important to make sure that what you’re building is inclusive and accessible to all from the very beginning - as it’s much harder to change a culture once you’ve already built a team.

Diversity and inclusion are key elements of the 2030 Agenda, and without reflecting on this before you begin, you could (unintentionally) end up building an initiative that doesn’t serve the SDGs.

Watch this short video for further details on how to ensure your approach is inclusive and accessible. You will hear from Chichi Umesi, representative of the Federal Government of Nigeria and former SDG Lab Advisor, who will share her insights on this important topic.

Download Video Transcript