Social labs as an inclusive methodology to implement and study social change: the case of responsible research and innovation

Timmermans, Jos; Blok, V.; Braun, Robert; Wesselink, R.; Nielsen, Rasmus Øjvind


The embedding and promotion of social change is faced with aparadoxical challenge. In order to mainstream an approach to socialchange such as responsible research and innovation (RRI) and makeit into a practical reality rather than an abstract ideal, we need tohave conceptual clarity and empirical evidence. But, in order to beable to gather empirical evidence, we have to presuppose that theapproach already exists in practice. This paper proposes a social labmethodology that is suited to deal with this circularity. Themethodology combines the defining features of social labs emergingfrom the literature such as agility and real-world focus withestablished theories and approaches such as action research andexperiential learning. Thereby it enables the parallel investigationand propagation of RRI. The framework thus constructed provides atheoretical embedding of sociallabs and overcomes some of theknown limitations of the constitutive approaches.