Estimated reading time 3 min

Lab log #23: What can you read to learn more about innovation portfolios and applying them?

Innovation portfolios help foster long-term collaborations towards systems change in complex contexts by bringing together multiple stakeholder groups to learn by doing about what helps transformation happen. It is difficult to find materials on the approach so we’ve collected a package of texts that help understand them better.



Following the Innovation Portfolio Sensemaking and Management -workshop that we organized in January 2020 we invited those interested in the topic to participate in collect materials on the approach. The full list of texts can be found here: http://bit.ly/portfolioapproaches.

The list we’ve collected is pretty long so here is a selection of ten texts we believe are a good starting point to learn more about the approach.

  1. Portfolio Management itself is not a new approach and it has been used to make investment decisions regarding what to develop. K4D’s Kelbesa Megersan Designing and managing innovation portfolios literary review summarizes different models that can guide the design of innovation portfolios.
  2. OECD’s Observatory for Public Sector Innovation has developed a model of innovation facets that can be used in the public sector for the design of innovation portfolios.
  3. A defining character of complex phenomena is the uncertainty that is related to them. Because of this it’s not enough to plan how to tackle them. EIT Climate-KIC’s Dominic Hofstetter’s Innovating in Complexity: From Single-Point Solutions to Directional Systems Innovation blog post explores complexity theory and why tackling them requires different approaches than the ones we’re used to.
  4. How does EIT Climate-KIC orchestrate systems change? Their Work with us to achieve net zero, in time report elaborates their Deep Demonstrations approach that they use to bring together climate challenge owners in order to promote collaboration between them.
  5. CHÔRA Foundation’s For Impact: Generate Snowballs, Don’t Select Snowflakes! White Paper challenges the notion that perhaps the traditional innovation funnel used to develop solutions is not suitable for complex challenges. The paper proposes what they call layering as a better alternative to create and spread learning across a network of stakeholders when dealing with complex challenges.
  6. UNDP has developed a protocol that they use to enable sensemaking and accelerating change. Diastika Rahwidiati ja Giulio Quaggiotto’s How can we accelerate the effects of portfolios of development projects? blog post elaborates on the protocol and its development.
  7. CHÔRA Foundation’s Gina Belle ja UNDP’s Giulio Quaggiotto wrote the Portfolio approaches to tackle complex challenges blog post which explores the possible key components of a portfolio practice.
  8. What does developing a portfolio of experiments look like in practice? UNDP’s Alex Oprunenco writes about their work in developing them in his The System Shift: Frames, Energies and Experiments blog post.
  9. The Swedish Mind//shift regional network geared towards promoting Mental Health for the 21st Century has developed a portfolio of possible experiments. The visualization of the portfolio provides a great example of how systems change requires efforts in multiple levels and perspectives.
  10. Barnardo’s is a UK-based children’s charity. Melanie Rayment’s Building capacity for systems change blog post explored different dimensions over which systems change can be promoted and the different roles that a charity can take in facilitating the change.

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