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Lab log #20: What are innovation ecosystems and what to they have to do with wicked problems?

Wicked problems like climate change have to be tackled #together. But when some problems might be within the reach of individual organisations, others that require societal or global collaboration also call for different ways of working together. Innovation ecosystems seek create the foundations for tackling societal or global problems.



The international States of Change Learning Festival oriented around public innovation was organized in June 2020 for the first time. The festivals purpose is to be a plaform for new, emerging ideas. As part of the festival Sitra Lab organized a session around Innovation Ecosystems for Transformation on Wednesday 3.6.2020. The goal of the session was to explore innovation ecosystems as potential means of organizing around societal or global challenges.

The session brought together around 75 people from all over the world to share their thoughts and efforts related to the theme. Sitra Lab’s Mikael Seppälä spoke about innovation portfolios and their role as an enabler for innovation ecosystems. Different type of problems call for different types of organizations. The broader the problem, the broader should be the ecosystem that could tackle the problem.

schemes describing how to organize connections: technical, adaptive and complex

Chief Innovation Officer Iina Oilinki from the Helsinki Metropolitan Smart & Clean Foundation spoke about the collaboration model they’ve developed to help orchestrate their innovation ecosystem. In her presentation she discussed their work related to the Closed Plastic Circle ecosystem where public, private and people collaborate to build the foundations to recycle and reuse plastic in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Closed Plastic Circle ecosystem described as a circle diagram

Even though we can see the first global examples of innovation ecosystems in tackling wicked problems, time will tell whether we will see an increasing amount of these. As the discussion in the session showed us, there are still many unanswered questions related to these that we are trying to solve globally.

Watch the session recording:

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Orchestrating Innovation Ecosystems (and Portfolios) for Transformation from Sitra the Finnish Innovation Fund

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Iina Oilinki: Building Systemic Change Projects from Sitra the Finnish Innovation Fund


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