Social Lab 4 Civil Society

Social Lab 4 – Denmark

We all need water

In the future water supply will be intrinsically linked to climate change. And this requires cooperation between partners which may not necessarily have a tradition for collaborating. Which is why we in the Danish part of this social lab focus on stakeholders who supply and consume water in cities.

Collaboration across sectors

In the Danish social lab we are interested in understanding how utility companies, municipalities, non-profit housing companies, recreational actors, R&D companies developing water technologies and academia can cooperate when status quo on water management has to change.

Denmark is a country known worldwide for its supreme drinking water quality. Here, the stakeholders involved in water supply and local planning have already for more than a decade had a strong focus on cross-sectoral collaboration as a means to address the challenges involved in climate adaptation. So, there is much to learn from interacting with the people in Denmark currently working to establish and run such partnerships.

At the center of the learning, which this social lab seeks to facilitate, is our focus on an ongoing and expanding case of cross-sectoral collaboration currently taking place in the city of Roskilde. Here, the local non-profit water supply is looking for innovative ways of recycling water at a council estate and to find new ways of leading surface water away for use in other areas instead of wasting it by leading it into the sewers.

Using innovation for meeting societal challenges

The work in the Danish social lab is closely connected with the everyday life for the end users – i.e. the inhabitants of the council housing. But it also invariably connects with broader plans at the municipal level for development of the local area, not only for water use and water management but also for recreational activities, greening of the physical environment, and local economic development. It thus becomes relevant and necessary to involve a broad range of stakeholders. All of this hubbub is supported by CORO Lab, a boundary-crossing organization established precisely to support collaboration among local actors working to couple innovation with societal challenges.

Navigating in complexity

To widen the learning cycle of the social lab, organizations involved in the planning, delivery and use of water from different local communities across Denmark are involved in the lab as well. Meeting regularly to exchange experiences and support one another in navigating the complexity of collaboration and co-creation, these practitioners give us an invaluable link to the real-world practices that we seek to learn from and support.

Focusing on the end user

Across all of these cases, we pay special attention to the roles played by civil society actors – organized or not – outside of the ‘usual suspects’ of organizations. By focusing on the end user, the citizen and the initiatives coming from civil society we want to understand how these newcomers can be fruitfully integrated into the overlapping and complex processes of innovation and local (re-)planning in the face of climate change adaptation. A great many of the challenges we face in the future are very complex and can only be solved by inviting a patchwork of stakeholders into the problem-solving process. The goal is to understand both the do’s and the don’ts of multi-perspective planning and cross-sectoral collaboration by those who are keen to leave behind the silo mentality of yesteryear.

If you want to learn more about the project please feel free to contact Kathrine Colin Hagan at The Danish Board of Technology

Partners and stakeholders include:

Partners and stakeholders include:

Boligselskabet Sjælland – non-profit housing company

FORS A/S (utility company)

Roskilde Municipality

Roskilde Kongrescenter Bauhaus Arena

CORO Co-lab Roskilde

Lemvig Municipality

Lemvig Vand og Spildevand A/S (utility company)

Hedensted Municipality

Hedensted Spildevand A/S (utility company)

VIA University College

VandCenterSyd (utility company)

Vejle Municipality


Social Lab 4 – Colombia

Kanalitojo – Puerto Carreño – Vichada

There are people in the world that do not have acces to electric energy, for example the indigenous population in Vichada, Colombia.

Therefore, the Ideas para el Cambio program from Colciencias promotes collaboration between industry, academia and civil society in order to provide electric energy to the Kanalitojo community located in Puerto Carreño, Vichada.

In the social lab, the actors of the project:

  • Raise their voices before politicians in order to maintain the project despite changes in leadership.
  • Look for new actors committed to the project, especially from the civil society and researchers.

Using innovation

With access to electric energy, the community has been able to change habits such as the way by which it processes cassava. The community increase its request for technology to facilitate the daily work of peasants who cooks cassava.

In terms of social innovation, the project fosters a shared space, which the community did not have before. Collaborative ideas are discussed and new projects are proposed to Colciencias. Learning by doing is positively incorporated in the community. Research will also be undertaken to deepen the understanding of the social practices.

Navigating in complexity

Previous paradigms preventing industry to work directly with the community are overcome. However, industry requests permanent leadership from the public sector. While this discussion takes place, the active participation from the community fills the gap and gets empowered.

ACAC is monitoring the process and listens permanently to concerns or complaints from the different actors involved in the project.

Future actions

  • Promoting energy savings
  • Further involvement of new local leaders to the project.
  • Improving technology transfer to the community.
  • Create stronger links between the actors representing the four helices and perhaps incorporate actors from the fifth helix (environment)
  • Promoting sustainable development practices within the community.


If you want to learn more about the project please feel free to contact Francisco Gonzalez at Asociación Colombiana para el Avance de la Ciencia