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This website was created by the OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI), part of the OECD Public Governance Directorate (GOV).

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Hundreds of organizations want to create innovation laboratories but do not know how to do it. ILabthon is an event created to foster this creation with the support of the best specialists in the public sector. The event helped to create more than 130 laboratory projects across all regions in Brazil and 3 others countries in a single weekend, boosting the Brazilian public sector's innovation ecosystem.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

ILabthon was the first marathon in the world to create innovation laboratories in the public sector, held from January 20 to 31, 2021. It was led by the Conexão Inovação Pública RJ network with the support of more than 60 partners, including 27 public sector innovation laboratories.

The initiative was fully online and free. It used a “hands-on” format with gamification methods to encourage participating teams to collectively build a “minimum viable product” of an innovation laboratory with five fundamental dimensions: Strategy, Services, Structure, Learning and Communication.

In addition to creating something real and having to do their own time management, participants made numerous new connections, both with members of other teams - there were 1327 participants in total - and with the mentors and invited speakers - 132 in total. Participants therefore benefited from a support network for the continuation of projects even after the marathon.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

ILabthon was the world's first marathon-style immersion event for the construction of an innovation laboratory project within the public sector by the participating teams. The format of the event was a competition between teams with support from specialized mentoring and final evaluation of projects by a judging panel.

What is the current status of your innovation?

Currently, there are several innovation laboratories in the public sector that have emerged after the event, both in Brazil and in the other participating countries. These laboratories have different levels of maturity and incentives for their organizations. Based on the evaluation of the event by the participants and organizers, a learning book was built to carry out the next edition of the marathon and further improve the performance and organization of the event.

The Conexão Inovação Pública group is actively working on other initiatives to enhance the Brazilian public sector's innovation ecosystem, such as the Labutantes Award for existing innovation labs in the public sector.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

The project was built by a multidisciplinary team, from different public and private sector organizations and different government departments participating in the Conexão Inovação Pública RJ. 128 mentors and 61 supporters and sponsors contributed with wide dissemination and prizes to the winning teams (including via training, consultancy, and learning materials to support the continuation of the lab's journey).

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Participants and beneficiaries of ILabthon included:
- public agency employees who knew little bit about public sector innovation
- common citizens who wanted to develop solutions to solve public problems
- employees of public or mixed economy companies who wanted to generate value inside and outside their own organization
- public employers from different agencies working in the same area
- different actors of the innovation ecosystem that work with open innovation.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

ILabthon results:
259 teams from 22 Federation Units of Brazil and 4 countries (1,327 people)
134 projects delivered on time

Court hearing
14,100 views on Youtube
31,513 likes / reactions on Instagram
1,711 likes / reactions on LinkedIn

Participation in preparatory events with open access
Edition I: 1,813 views
Edition II: 744 views
Edition III: 765 views
Edition IV: 992 views

Participation in lectures during the event with open access
Aperture: 2,444 views
Closing: 2,814 views

274 participants rated the probability of recommending the next iLabthon to someone else (±score of 8.95/10).
49 mentors rated the probability of recommending the next iLabthon to someone else (±score of 9.5/10).
Several laboratories continued the projects after the event. These laboratories have different levels of maturity and ability to take the initiative forward needing other support actions.

Challenges and Failures

Many participants were unfamiliar with the Discord app. In addition, the strong adherence of mentors to the event on the last day of registration signalled the need for more support on the platform. A meeting of the organizing group was held to establish the creation of another server on Discord. The teams were divided into 2 groups and communication was organized for both participating teams and registered mentors. The marathon later took place with the 2 servers operating simultaneously.

Conditions for Success

The project was built by a multidisciplinary team, from different organizations in the public and private sector, from different government spheres. All organizers and mentors did volunteer work.

We seek to learn from lessons collected in other online marathons held by the group. This was only possible due to the mental model of opening to error and learning from failures, called growth mindset.

We attribute part of the success to the 4 heating events held before the main event, which gave visibility to the already existing innovation laboratories. This factor contributed to the success of the project, as it inspired the participating teams by showing examples of real cases of transformation in public management.

No less important was the large and successful recruitment of mentors through mobilization on social networks and registration and referral forms. All of this was essential to reach the mark of 128 mentors (as) in the team.


To the best of the authors' knowledge, the iLabthon model has not yet been replicated by other organizations. Some of the lessons learned and improvements in the model will be applied in the Regulathon, a regulatory marathon promoted by Conexão Inovação Pública RJ

The entire event model, regulation and methodology are licensed with an open license (Creative Commons) and are available free of charge to anyone who wants to replicate it in other public institutions or government agencies worldwide.

Lessons Learned

After the event, the organizing committee collected feedback from all the actors involved in iLabthon (organizers, participants, mentors) with answers to the question: What was your greatest lesson learned about innovation labs with this event?

The most cited answers were:
- the huge diversity of scenarios and possibilities for the development of innovation laboratories and
- the fact that most participating projects focused on improving the quality of life for the population.

Participants reported that collaboration, cooperation, teamwork and persistence are key ingredients for creating an innovation laboratory in the public sector.

Anything Else?

The organizing team gathered public employees and agents from institutions and innovation laboratories of the Brazilian federal government (ANAC, ANS, Fiocruz, UFRJ), from state governments (Nidus LAB - State of Santa Catarina, LIC - Government of the State of Ceará, Íris Lab Gov - Government of the State of Ceará, Inova PGE-RJ - Government of the State of Rio de Janeiro) and the private sector (WeGov and professionals working in the private sector).

Further documentation:
Explanatory document:
Project Concept Note:
ILabthon partners:
ILabthon iLab Projects Database:
Lessons learned:

Supporting Videos


  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

Innovation provided by:


Date Published:

2 September 2021

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