OEE Social Innovation UnLab

Call for Innovations Call for Innovations
This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)

The OEE established a Social Innovation "UnLab" (SIU) to test an embedded innovation model and amplify energy efficiency policy and service impacts in Canada. The SIU creates value for energy efficiency stakeholders in three ways:

  1. Building relationships and capacity for energy efficiency policy and service innovation;
  2. Generating evidence and collective learning by co-creating and testing insights and interventions;
  3. Amplifying impacts by scaling learning and implementing what works.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Energy efficiency is no longer a nice to have, it’s necessary. Significantly increasing energy efficiency in terms of fuels and vehicles, heating and cooling, and building and industrial energy use is paramount to Canada achieving its climate commitments under the Pan-Canadian Framework and realizing new energy futures.

Digitalization—from AI to the internet of things to new and emerging business models—holds incredible potential for energy savings. However, without smart policies to catalyze and shape the impacts of the digitalization of energy, we could lose out on their potential or, worse, end up with unintended consequences. Furthermore, in the era of individual step-counting apps, automated smart thermostats, and personally-tailored investment platforms—people have come to expect a higher level of customization in their service experiences. To innovate in this rapidly evolving landscape it will be critical to find ways to design, test and evaluate interventions directly with Canadians, organizations, and communities on an ongoing basis.

OEE’s Social Innovation “UnLab” (SIU) helps OEE navigate this shifting terrain and create value for stakeholders and users in three interrelated ways:

  1. Building relationships and capacities for energy efficiency policy and service innovation;
  2. Generating evidence and collective learning by co-creating and testing insights and interventions; and
  3. Scaling learning and impacts by implementing what works through service redesigns and new policy directions.

We work in a lab-like way and are inspired by public and social innovation labs, like MindLab (RIP), Alberta CoLab, and MaRS Solutions Lab. We characterize ourselves as an "unlab" in part because of the connotations that "lab" brings for fellow public servants. Some, for example, assume that it's the lab's responsibility alone to innovate. That's not our mindset and approach. We work in cubicles just like our colleagues. We turned the one office we have access to into an "unOffice". For us, it’s not just about stepping out of the lab and into government. It’s about turning the lab inside out and meeting colleagues, citizens and stakeholders where they’re at. It’s about weaving innovation into the fabric and culture of the OEE and beyond, together.

To demonstrate what that looks and feels like, we’re working with partners in and out of government to put innovation and experimentation in practice via a series of projects and a mixed methods approach, including service design, lean, behavioural insights, foresight, randomized control trials, and multi-sectoral partnerships.

In this context, the SIU is adapting and scaling our model to better align systematic learning and experimentation to strategic opportunities or challenges that require innovation. In our experience, the OEE is not going to transform a service or change a complex system via one experiment or pilot. It's more likely that we'll need a series of interventions, including those delivered by external stakeholders, over time and space to learn, build on, and implement what works.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

Innovation Reflections

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  • Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
  • Generating Ideas or Designing Solutions - finding and filtering ideas to respond to the problem or opportunity
  • Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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