May Event Series: Policy Action Lab

This event will explore how social and technological innovations can help achieve inclusive sustainable development. Participants, including students and researchers, will collaborate with policy and other societal stakeholders to address various concrete challenges. Together, participants will aim to map and analyse socio-technical systems at the heart of these real-life challenges, as well as how these might be realigned, disrupted, or replaced.

Participants will collectively identify, adapt or design strategies for accelerating inclusive and sustainable transitions. During this full-day event, attendees will receive training in how to design, evaluate and accelerate socio-technological transitions, as well as how to communicate scientific research to policy actors and other societal partners (participants will receive a certificate upon participation).


During the Policy Action Lab, we will work on four real-life challenges: (1) Circular Transitions; (2) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); (3) Missing Complementarities in Innovation; and (4) Dark Side of New Technologies. In relation to each challenge, we will form multiple teams working on different case studies. You are welcome to select one of the challenges to work on below. 

Circular Transitions

Our planet’s resources are used unsustainably. It is time to move away from the "take-make-dispose" model and, instead, extend product lifespan and relocate waste from the end of the supply chain to the beginning - in effect, using resources more efficiently by using them more than once. Specifically, how can different actors join forces to accelerate a transition to a circular economy in local contexts?

  • By 2050, plastics could account for 20% of oil consumption, 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, and there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean. How can we encourage citizens to play a (more) active role in the recycling and reuse of plastic waste in new products?

  • From 2025 (household) textiles must be collected separately in the European Union. How can we cleverly reuse, redesign or recycle this collected textile waste, so that it does not end up on a waste mountain but gets a second life?

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

While substantial progress has been made in increasing access to clean drinking water and sanitation, billions of people—mostly in rural areas—still lack these basic services. How can we support the development of inclusive strategies to improve sanitation, hygiene and adequate access to clean water?

  • What could be the strategic priorities for Ghana to achieve the goal of hand hygiene for all by 2030, through stakeholder consultation and engagement across different levels? How could these priorities be translated into action?

  • How can policymakers in Kenya prioritise and make the right decisions to protect drinking water sources (groundwater as well as surface water) especially in urban slums, threatened by increasing urbanisation, settlement issues, economic development and climate change?

  • What should be the focal points in Namibia’s national strategy to influence the sanitation coverage and eliminate open defecation in the country, which is very much determined by social-cultural beliefs and to a lesser extent by economic factors

Missing complementarities for innovation and technology adoption

Policies reinforce each other and, at times, changing just one policy might not have any effect or could even have a negative effect if other policies are not changed at the same time. Research on innovation systems considers such inter-linkages crucial and they are often described as complementary. Such missing complementarities are acute in the case of developing economies, making innovation policy far more challenging and complex. What are the missing complementarities for innovation and technology adoption in developing countries?

  • How to increase the adoption of Electric Vehicles in Kerala by 2050? Which are the complementary policies that should be in place to help the transition?
  • Adopting, imitating, and adapting existing technologies are all largely linked to labour force skills. More educated employees facilitate the process of technology adoption. What is the role of governments and the private sector in fostering skills development for technology adoption? How to develop a national strategy for skills development for technology and innovation in Brazil by 2030?

Dark Side of New Technologies

Our world is shaped by new technologies, which are often seen as simple drivers of economic growth. Yet with the rapid development of such powerful technologies, concerns have also arisen about their ‘dark side’ across many domains, including environment, health and society.

  • How can we tackle the environmental burden of battery waste from electric vehicles shifted from the Global North to the Global South with solution “packages” using a comprehensive innovation approach?

  • How can we develop environmentally responsible technological solutions by engaging with governments, industries and consumers and holding them responsible and aware of the potential problems and impact of their actions?

Policy Research Panel

The results of the Policy Action Lab will be discussed with different policy actors (challenge owners) during a Policy Research Panel on Wednesday 18 May (13:30 - 14:30). During an open debate, we will explore what role researchers can take in engaging with policy actors and other societal partners. What role can researchers fulfil in informing policy? And what are some of the dos and don’ts? 


Join us for the Policy Action Lab  and the follow-up Policy Research Panel by registering through the following link (here you can also to indicate which challenge(s) you would like to work on):

In order to register for any of the other events organised this week in light of the fifteen-year anniversary of UNU-MERIT please access the following link:

Venue: UNU-MERIT | Belvedere

Date: 13 May 2022

Time: 09:00 - 16:00  CEST