The Living Lab at uOttawa

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

hand holding a test tube of green magic

Welcome to our first ever Living Lab report. There are a couple of things I would like to highlight about the report and maybe one or two things I would like to say about where I see the program going.

The Living Lab is not a novel concept. It is a program that is slowly being embraced by several universities around North America. The basic principle of the program is as follows
  1. Problems are identified in the community and on campus
  2. Students study the problems and propose solutions as part of their course work
  3. The University studies the proposals and implements the ideas that have the best chance of succeeding
This is an incredibility simplistic view of what is in fact a very complicated open-innovation ecosystem. You can read this very technical Wikipedia entry if you want to dig deeper. What it boils down to is this... we have problems on campus and instead of burying them, we open them up for everyone to help solve. The only catch with us is that we focus on sustainability issues almost exclusively.

The origins of this program on campus date back to a course offered by Eric Crighton over four years ago. Our office worked with Eric to create better recycling stations on campus. It was a success. As tghe years have gone by, more and more courses have participated in the program. To date we have had students create sustainability policies, an environmental bill of rights, recycling videos, sustainability plans for natural resources, a biodiversity garden, etc...

This year, the Office of Campus Sustainability worked with the CSL program to find solutions to many issues on campus. This has been our most prolific year to date. We worked with 573 students to create 470 products. This amounted to about 17,270 hours of volunteer time donated.

A big thanks to all the profs, students, and community partners that worked with us this year. I sincerely hope that we can keep up this pace and perhaps delve into more community initiatives. I would like to see the Living Lab help the University solve its operational problems and create more opportunities to improve the sustainability of the campus. Perhaps more studies on how to increase the green space on campus, how we can grow our own food, how we can reduce our energy consumption.

Of course, if you have any suggestions about how to improve the program or make the report better, we want your feedback. You can check out an advanced copy of the report here.

~ jON - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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