SDG Labs

Ideas and innovations for breakthroughs to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

An initiative of Future Earth, The University of Tokyo and Stockholm Resilience Centre

Future Earth and the Stockholm Resilience Centre are launching a call for Sustainable Development Goal Labs (SDG Labs) in advance of the Resilience 2017 conference and International Conference on Sustainability Science, which will be held back to back in Stockholm 21-26 August. We are looking for brilliant ideas with potential to make major breakthroughs on the SDGs. The outcomes of the SDG Labs will be presented on 24 August during the joint “Ideas and Innovation” policy day for policymakers, business, researchers and media.

The SDG Labs are multi-stakeholder processes to catalyse transformation in institutions, systems and sectors of society, for example the global food system, international governance, inequality and poverty, or ecosystem services. The purpose of the SDG labs is to generate prototype solutions to complex problems. We want to encourage innovative ways to overcome lock-ins and plant seeds of change with potential for transformative impact. By “prototype solutions” we mean innovations that can fundamentally change the systems that created the problem in the first place. This may be social, ecological or technological innovations, or, more likely, a combination of the three.

We plan to provide up to $5k seed funding for 5-7 labs, but if you can run a lab with less or no funding, or if you already have funding for a similar activity - great. We will run more labs.

The labs can take place anywhere in the world but must be held before 21 August 2017. The outcomes of the labs will be presented at a special science-policy session of the two conferences in Stockholm on 24 August 2017. Ultimately, our vision is for the labs to feed into the UN’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in 2018 which is framed as “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”. The HLPF will specifically focus around the following themes:

  • SDG 6 Clean water and sanitation
  • SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 15 Life on Land

SDG Labs aligned with these themes will be prioritized, but we are open to all ideas. Given the nature of transformation, and idea generation, we have a flexible approach to SDG Lab design. As a rough guideline, think about a 1 or 2 day activity/workshop/hackathon designed to produce new thinking or prototypes. We would expect, though, that an SDG Lab would engage relevant expertise from, for example academia, policy, private sector, media, technology and innovation to address a specific issue related to the themes above.

To get you thinking, a lab on moving the world to a low-meat diet would be exciting, relevant and essential to achieving SDGs. Or, an initiative to develop new algorithms to measure SDG indicators from satellite data, or other “big data”. Or, how about exploring how the textile industry can meet the SDGs. Or, what are the new financial instruments or economic models that could support transformation.

The 10 selected SDG Labs

Of the 331 lab proposals about half scored highly on our grading system and we shortlisted 60 to eventually arrive at a final list. We will contact the winning entries directly. In addition to these SDG Labs, a further 11 proposals scored highly but did not require any additional funding. We will endorse these proposals too. See full list below.

  1. The Arctic Institute: The Future of Rural Energy: Macro Problems and Micro Solutions
  2. Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Bayero University Kano, Nigeria: MR CITY LAB (Millennials and Resilience: City, Innovation and Transformation of Youths Laboratory)
  3. PEARL Institute for Research on Socio-Economic Inequality, University of Luxembourg: Young Entrepreneurs to Advance Local Economies and Community Health in Africa
  4. Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University: Visualizing and Connecting Seeds of a Good Anthropocence
  5. Shoebill Solutions: Lusaka 2021- What if we all lived downstream?
  6. Altekio, S.Coop.Mad / Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Autonomous University of Madrid Collaborative: Thinking for a Greener City
  7. National Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa, in partnership with DPME, DST, ODI, HSRC, UNISA, MISTRA and UNEP Regional Office in South Africa: Implementing the South African National Development Plan’s sustainability transition through the domestication of the SDGs
  8. United Nations university -international institute for global health: Enhancing Planetary Health to meet the SDGs: Integrating Indigenous and Local Knowledge in human health decision-making and planning in Vanuatu
  9. Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR): Mainstreaming resilience into climate change adaptation and disaster risk planning.
  10. Univ. Massachusetts Boston, Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation, Biomimicry Roraima: Guyana: Forging a Transition to a 'Green Growth' Economy

Many submissions already had funding in place but wanted to become part of a larger network of innovation and ideas supporting the SDGs. The following projects received high ratings and required no additional funding. We are pleased to endorse these projects too.


The additional endorsed SDG Labs

  1. InfoDesignLab: The value of Design. Visualised.
  2. New Jersey Institute of Technology / Future Earth Knowledge-Action Group on Sustainable Consumption and Production: Transformation Beyond Consumerism
  3. Seoul National University (Seoul, Republic of Korea): Rural Systems Visioneering
  4. Innovation Centre Arts&Society, Hanze Univeristy of Applied Sciences: Arts&Crafts Panarchy Power
  5. Future Earth: New Interfaces for sustainable financial flow.
  6. The University of Queensland: Collaborative design of an interdisciplinary collaboration platform to advance sustainability.
  7. Stockholm Resilience Centre: Back to a local food system
  8. Rambøll Oslo: Urban Eco Labs
  9. University of Malaya, Malaysia: Water Warriors
  10. Centre for Sustainability Studies, LUCSUS, Lund University: BeerSustLab
  11. Future Earth Media Lab and Stockholm Resilience Centre: Immersive science for the SDGs


In August 2017, Stockholm will host two major conferences back to back: the Resilience 2017 conference (21-24), organised by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and International Conference on Sustainability Science (24-26 Aug), sponsored by Future Earth. These conferences will be linked together with a science-policy-practice day on 24 August. This day will be a dialogue for pathways for sustainable and resilient societies. The SDG Labs with be complemented by SDG sessions organised by Future Earth’s Knowledge Action Networks.

The SDG Labs outcomes will form a central part of the policy day. The SDG Lab concept has emerged from the Transformation Labs (T-Labs) pioneered by the Stockholm Resilience Centre for the Transformation Conference series.

The T-Labs are an example of “change labs”. “Change labs” have primarily been used in North America and Western Europe, but the idea is spreading, for example, South Africa’s RLabs.

For more details on the background and a “how to” guide to run these labs see the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience “Social Innovation Lab Guide”.

We are keen to experiment with different approaches. We expect that the ways in which the SDG-Labs are designed and facilitated will need to differ based on the specific outcomes envisaged by applicants. We hope, however, that the key considerations above, and a focus on the role of innovation in contribution to transformations to sustainability, will be central to work in all hubs.

Any questions, email to