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When the German Red Cross visited Openlab


– the tale of a challenge-driven innovation community

Openlab is a lot of things. It might confuse you sometimes, but there is a very clear red thread through it all: create conditions that make the Stockholm region a global centre for societal innovations improving quality of life. When the German Red Cross decided to come to Openlab for a workshop they where in for a day full of inspiration, new learnings and new relationships. 

Photo: Birgit Walsh

It all started with the Master students

The story of Openlab begins with its master students. In 2012 Openlab was founded by 7 partners; The City of Stockholm, Region Stockholm, the Stockholm County Administrative Board, KTH, Stockholm University, Södertörn University and the Karolinska Institute. They made out to be the perfect corners stones of a true tripple helix; academia, industry and public sector. As four of the members where Universities it was close to heart to start with education, and the master’s course ’Challenges for Emerging Cities’ was born. The course is an interdisciplinary project course based on challenge driven innovation. The students learn, and apply, Design Thinking in order to develop solutions and innovations to a given societal challenge, on behalf of an external public sector client. They work in teams with students from different universities, disciplines and backgrounds.

In June our spring class presented the results of 20 weeks of creative problem solving. Kassandra Becker, Political Advisor Social Innovations & Digitisation at the German Red Cross visited the final presentations and was impressed. By the students, and by Openlab. And the conversation started. 

Innovation frontrunners

Needs, behaviours, driving forces. Innovation. Design thinking is about solving problems based on insights about the user, to learn by doing and to explore your creative self-confidence. Design Thinking as a method and mindset is becoming an industry standard for creative problem solving all over the world, and in all different industries and sectors. 

Combine the method with the fact that Sweden is one of the pioneers of digital transformation in Europe, and you can create added value for Swedens economy and society, especially in health care, social service delivery and public administration. Hence, through comprehensive government programmes and structures, social innovation is actively promoted and supported.

When the German Red Cross delegation planned an official study trip focusing on trends in society and innovation, Openlab was one of the keynote speakers and workshop leaders. Openlab is that perfect tripple helix, and we could offer The German Red Cross an insight to working with innovation in the city of Stockholm. 

Design thinking with Openlab

On October 24th Openlab welcomed, among many others from the delegation, Gerda Hasselfeldt, the president of the German Red Cross, Kathleen Wabrowetz, Policy Officer Welfare in Europe and international and Kassandra Becker Political Advisor Social Innovations & Digitisation. 

Design thinking process
Photo: Birgit Walsh

They where in for an energy giving and knowledge intense workshop, where they got an insight into Openlab’s operations and to hands on try out the design thinking method. Openlab offers two very popular courses based on Design Thinking for professionals in any field of work: an introduction course and a more in depth course called ‘Creating insight for innovation’. The process is lead by our competent coaches.

Marie Rogg and Margaret Hertz, Innovation Managers at Openlab headed the session with the German Red Cross. Answering questions like ”What challenges have you been working on that are connected to social inclusion work?”, ”What are the stake holders you mainly work with?”, ”what are factors of success for multi-disciplinary groups?”, ”How do you get from working on a challenge and coming up with creative possible solutions to actually implement them into the different contexts?” and of course ”Why is design thinking more than just using post-its and how does it add value to a project?”

Openlab Community Members

In a tripple helix the industri is just as important as the government or the academia. Openlab is also a community for businesses, entreprenours and startups. Thru dialogue, interdisciplinary networking within the community, events and education, we have the opportunity to bring a new kind of clarity for innovations moving forward. At Openlab we have co-working space with members from a variety of different business areas. Three members was invited to present and discuss with The German Red Cross: Gastronaut, Idea Nation and Future Place Leadership. The value of this session was truly mutual for the participants, and one of the things that makes Openlab great: to be an interdisciplinary, perspective-changing, challenging meeting hub. 

Community Members Idea Nation, Future Place Leadership and Gastronaut.
Photo: Birgit Walsh

“I feel proud!”

“I feel proud!” “Proud to tell the story about Openlab and the impact we do. Proud to hear our members talk about themselves, and the inspiring relationship they have with us. And of course to over and over again be reminded of just how great Design thinking works as a method for innovation, for almost any target group. All while learning about an organizations challenges, wishes and own impact on society. Well that is a great day at work!” – said Marie Rogg, Innovation manager when summerizing the day. 

Innovation Managers Marie Rogg and Margaret Hertz

Starting with a course for master students 2012, Openlab are now proud to offer both proposals for solutions to complex social issues through interdisciplinary cooperation with our partners, as well as education for professionals, education for Master students, a Community for start-ups, entrepreneurs, small – and medium sized companies and much, much more. 

If you wish to be a part of our Community find out more here.
If you wish to enroll for one of our Design thinking courses lear more here.



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